The spiritual nature of Indian classical music

I was looking for some references to back up the statement I made in a previous post about Indian classical music. I found them in a set of book+20 CDs titled Alaap, a discovery of Indian music, published by Times Music, brought about by Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in  Social Sciences.

It gives a few original quotes in Sanskrit translated into English (unfortunately with no indication of their source) along with a story involving the musician Tansen and the emperor Akbar.

We adore that Brahman,
Manifest as Sound (Nada),
That Limitless One without a second,
Who is consciousness,
Who has brought forth the universe
Out of his own Self for all beings.

There is no song without the Nada
Nor music without it;
Without Nada there is no dance.
Indeed the whole universe itself is Nada.

Here is this excellent story which illustrates the spiritual nature of music in Indian tradition and how ‘the true musician seeks to find this Being in himself and to express this Truth which underlies all creation’.

Akbar watching as Tansen receives a lesson from Swami Haridas.

Akbar watching as Tansen receives a lesson from Swami Haridas. Wikipedia

The name of Tansen is synonymous with Indian music. He was the state musician in the court of  the mighty Moghol emperor Akbar. One day, after listening to Tansen, Akbar was so thrilled that he asked him: “Tansen, tell me who was your teacher?” “Swami Haridas, my lord” replied Tansen. Akbar asked again, “Is he as great a musician as you are?” Tansen said very humbly: “Please never compare me to my master. He is not a musician but music itself.” Akbar was intruigued, “Then I would like to hear him sing.” Tansen answered, “But he will never agree to come to the court to sing.” “Then we will go to him”, said Akbar. Tansen was still diffident, “My teacher sings of his own will and he won’t be happy if he is compelled to sing before the emperor”. But Akbar was determined, “Then I will come with you, disguised as your servant.”

So, Tansen and Akbar travelled far where the sage lived in a hut, his temple of music. The sage received Tansen, his former pupil, and his servant Akbar, with love and affection. He listened to their request but remained silent. Three days passed. Then one day, just before sunrise, Swami Haridas began to sing. Akbar and Tansen were spellbound. It seemed as if the sound had no beginning and no end, as if the trees, the stones, and all the living creatures had turned into music and forgotten themselves. After some time, when the spell was broken Akbar and Tansen found that they were alone in the hut. Swami Haridas was nowhere to been seen. “Where is he?” asked Akbar. “He has left this place forever, fearing that we may come again and trouble him, “replied Tansen sadly. They turned to the palace, silent and withdrawn.

Several days passed but Akbar never forgot the effect the song had had on him. One day he asked Tansen whether he knew the raga and the song that Swami Haridas had sung. “Yes, I learnt it from him”, replied Tansen. At Akbar’s request, Tansen sat down and sang the raga as only he could. But Akbar’s heart was not satisfied, “Tansen, you sang beautifully. But still, why is it not the same as when Swami Haridas sang”. Tansen answered softly and humbly, “My lord, I sing for you, the emperor among men. But my master sings only for the lord and creator of the entire universe. Herein lies the difference.

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One response to “The spiritual nature of Indian classical music

  1. TH
    The dialogue brought tears into my eyes, I am in bliss. GOD BLESS YOU

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