Indian music serves as the best accompaniment to classical dances and dramas of India. Dance combines in itself action, song, mime and rhythm. A classical dance, like Indian classical music is dominated by the tala concept. Hence, the importance of music in dancing is great.
Indian music is based on melody. It is built on raga and tala concepts. In spirit it is individualistic. The content of the phrases is largely devotional. There are two major systems of classical music, the Hindustani system and the Carnatak system. The differences between them are more in practice than their theoretical foundation. The most famous are Bharata’s Natya Shastra and Sarangdeva’s Sangeet. Both systems have shown great assimilative power. They have also mutually influenced each other. The Hindustani system is prevalent over the whole of north and east of India while the upper half of Deccan has been more exposed to Persian influence.
The most famous Indian musical instrument is the Veena. It is celebrated in the epics and other ancient books. It has been described as the companion of Saraswati, the goddess of learning. It consists of a flat-board mounted on two large gourds and seven strings. The instrument is played by a deflection of the strings, which are played by the right hand and the notes made with the left. Among the other string instruments is the Sitar with its feminine grace. It is believed to have been devised by the poet Amir Khusro in the 14th century. The Sarod (played with a mizrab of plectrum) has its deep and vibrant notes.
The flute is the most common wind instrument associated with Lord Krishna. The Nagaswaram in the South and the Shehnai in the North are played on auspicious occasions like marriages and festivals. The Nagaswaram is indispensable for temple processions in South India. A great variety of horns and bugles are used in folk and tribal music. The Western type brass instruments are in vogue only in military and police bands.
Amir Khusro, Swami Haridas, Tansen, Baiju Bawra, Sadarang, Adarang and Mohamad Shah Rangeele have been the more famous composers in the North Indian System. The Southern composers of fame include Purandardasa, Thyagaraj, Muthuswami, Dikshitar, Shastri, Swami Tirunal, Annamacharya and Kshetrajna.
The musical history of India is quite glorious. In spite of some Western influences, the Indian music will be ever shining because of the qualities of its content and structure. The present film and rap music is influencing the youth more and more. But the classical musical themes continue to enjoy popularity among the masses.