The state of music in the Ramayana

15 Sep

My friend Shri DSampath posted a delightful blog weaving the Ramayana tale with colourful strands of lines of great charm set   in catchy tunes, chosen from popular Hindi movie songs. It was enterprising and highly entertaining too. Naturally, the blog was well received and was hugely popular. I enjoyed the sparkle of wit and wisdom.

That set me to think about Ramayana and music.



After the Music of Sama comes the singing of Akhyana or ballads, narrating a story in musical forms. Of all the Akhyana-s, the Ramayana of the Adi Kavi Valmiki is the most celebrated one. It is a divine ballad (Akhyanam Divyam) narrating history of ancient times (Itihasam puratanam).

It is believed; the Ramayana had its origins in folk lore; and was preserved and spread as an oral epic (Akhyana), for a very long-time. It is suggested that poet Valmiki rendered the folk lore into a very beautiful, sensitive and lyrical epic poem by about 7th century BCE. Thereafter, in age after age, the Suthas narrated and sang the glory of Rama and Sita, in divine fervor; and spread the epic to all corners of the land and beyond. Even to this day , the tradition of devote groups of listeners gathering around a Sutha to listen to the ancient story of chaste love between Rama and his beloved, and their unwavering adherence to Dharma amidst their trials and tribulations; is still very  alive. What characterize the Dharma in Ramayana are its innocence, purity and nobility. The Indian people prefer listening with joy, the rendering of Ramayana as musical discourse, to reading the epic themselves.

Ramayana of Valmiki is a renowned Kavya, an Epic poem in classic style. It is also the Adi-Kavya, the premier Kavya; the most excellent among the Kavyas (Kavyanam uttamam); and, the best in all the three worlds (Adikavyam triloke).

The Epic of Valmiki is at the very core of Indian consciousness; and is lovingly addressed variously as: Sitayasya-charitam-mahat; Rama-charitam; Raghuvira-charitam; Rama-vrttam; Rama-katha; and Raghu-vamsa-charitam.

The Great scholar-philosopher Abhinavgupta (Ca.11th century) hailed Valmiki as Rasa Rishi one who   created an almost perfect epic poem adorned with the poetic virtues of Rasa, Soundarya (beauty of poetic imagery) and Vishadya (lucid expression and comfortable communication with the reader) ; all charged and brought to life  by Prathibha , the ever fresh intuition.

The Adi Kavi states that his Epic poem  (Kavyam)  Ramayana , adorned with Srngara,  Karuna, Hasya, Raudra, Bhayanaka and Vira Rasas is sung by Kusi – Lava – 

 rasaiḥ śṛṃgāra karuṇa hāsya raudra bhayānakaiḥ | virādibhī rasair yuktam kāvyam etat agāyatām (R.1-4-9 )


Ramayana is more closely associated with music than other epics. That might be because Ramayana is rendered in verse; and, its poetry of abiding beauty melts into music like molten gold, with grace and felicity. Further, the epic has a certain lyrical lustre to it. The epic itself mentions that the Rama tale was rendered in song by two minstrels Kusi and Lava to the accompaniment of Veena, Tantri- laya-samanvitam (I.20.10), during the Asvamedha.

There are innumerable references to Music in Ramayana. Music was played for entertainment and in celebration at the weddings and other auspicious occasions; (II.7.416-36; 48.41.69; III.3, 17; 6.8; IV 38.13; V.53.17; VI.11.9; 24.3; 75.21 etc.)  . Music was also played in palaces and liquor parlours (IV 33.21; V.6.12; X.32; 37.11.4; Vi.10.4). Soulful songs were sung to the accompaniment of instruments, at religious services and in dramas. Music was played in the festivities; to welcome and see off the guests. The warriors fighting on the battlefield were lustily cheered and enthused by stout drum beats;   and piercing blow of conches, horns and trumpets.

There is also mention of those who took to music as a profession. Besides, there were court (state) sponsored musicians. Music was thus a part of social fabric of the society as described in Ramayana.

There are numerous events narrated in Ramayana where Music was sung or played. The word Samgita in Ramayana is a composite term covering Gana (vocal), Vadya (instrumental) and Nritya (dance). Samgita or Music was referred to as Gandharva-vidya. There is also a mention of Karna sung to the accompaniment of Veena (R. VII. 71.5). Samgita was also Kausika (kaisika) the art of singing and dancing (gana-nrtya-vidya), the art of singing and dancing in groups (kausika-charya) to the accompaniment of instruments.

 For instance:

:- The sage Valmiki, the author of the Epic, at the commencement says that the Ramayana he composed is well suited to musical rendering in melodious (madhuram) tunes (Jatis) having all the seven notes (Svaras) in three registers (vilambita, Madhyama and Drita) with proper rhythm (laya) to the accompaniment of string instruments (tantrī laya samanvitam)

– pāhye geye ca madhuram pramāai tribhir anvitam | jātibhi saptabhi yuktam tantrī laya samanvitam (R.1-4-8)

:- Describing the glory and the beauty of Ayodhya, it is said the city resounding with the rhythmic  drum beats of Dundubhi, Mrudanga and Panava; with the melodious tunes of string instruments like Veena , the city , indeed, was unique ; and undoubtedly the best city on earth

dundubhībhi mdangai ca vīābhi paavai tathā | nāditām   bhśam atyartham pthivyām tām anuttamām (R.1.5.18)

: – And, in the hermitage of Rishyasrnga the girls sent by King Lomapada sang and danced

tāḥ citra veṣāḥ pramadā gāyaṃtyo madhura svaram  (R.I .10.11 ).

 :- When  Sri Rama and his three brothers took birth, the Gandharvas in great jubilation  sang cheerfully; the celestial nymphs Apsaras danced with great delight, the Devas played on the drums enthusiastically, while the heavens showered flowers ; and,  with that there was a great festivity in Ayodhya among its joyous people who had  thronged in celebration

jagu kalam ca Gandharvā nantu ca Apsaro gaā | deva dudubhayo nedu pupa vṛṣṭi ca khāt patat  utsava ca mahān āsīt ayodhyāyām janākula (R. 1-18-17 )

: – Sri Rama himself is said to have been proficient in Music (Gandharve Ca bhuvi Sresthah).

: – As Lakshmana enters the inner court  of the Vanara King Sugriva, he hears singing and ravishing strains of the music of the Veena and other string instruments.

: – As Hanuman flew over the sea towards Lanka he heard a group of musicians singing sons (kausika-charya).

:-  Hanuman , as he entered the city of Lanka, while going from one building to another,  heard a sweet song which was decorated by sound from the three svaras – Mandra, Madhya and Tara of love lorn women like Apsara women in heaven.

:-Hanuman while wandering at night through the inner courts of Lanka heard melodious and sweet  songs adorned with Tri-sthana and Svara; and, the songs had regular Taala (sama-taala) and aksara (words) – (R.V.4.10)

– Śuśrāva madhuram gītam tri sthāna svara bhūitam | strīām mada samddhānām divi ca apsarasām iva  (R . 5-4-10 )

:-  Hanuman heard musical notes coming from stringed instruments which were comforting to ears:

Tantrīsvanāh karasukhā pravttā | svapanti nārya patibhi suvttā (R. 5-5-9 )

:-  Hanuman found the huge palace of Ravana, vast like the legendary mansions of Kubera, encircled by many spacious enclosures; filled with hundreds of best women; and, resounding with the sounds of percussion on Mrudangas with deep sound

mdanga tala ghoai ca ghoavadbhir vināditam ( R.5-6-43)

:- Silently wandering through the inner courts of Ravana, in the middle of the night, the bewildered Hanuman came upon sleeping groups of women, adorned with rich and sparkling ornaments (R 5.10-37-44) . These women who were skilled in dance and music, tired and fast asleep, lying in various postures, was each clutching or hugging to a musical instrument ; such as Veena,  Madduka; pataha; Vamsam ; Vipañchi; Mridanga ; Paava; Dindima;  and, Adambar. 

Hanuman  sees a lady of the court, tired and asleep, clutching to her Veena,  like a cluster of lotuses entwining a boat moored on the banks of a stream

kācid vīām parivajya prasuptā samprakāśate | mahā nadī  prakīrā iva nalinī potam āśritā (R. 5-10-37  )

There was one woman with black eyes sleeping with an instrument called Madduka under arm pit shone like a woman carrying an infant boy with love

Maḍḍukena asita īkaā | prasuptā bhāminī bhāti bāla putrā iva vatsalā  (5-10-38).

A woman with beautiful body features and with beautiful breasts slept tightly and hugged instrument called Pataha as though hugging a lover, meeting him after a long time

paaham cāru sarva angī pīya śete śubha stanī | cirasya  ramaam labdhvā parivajya iva kāminī (5-10-39)

Another woman with lotus like eyes hugging a  vaśam (flute  ) slept like a woman holding her lover in secret

kācid vaśam parivajya suptā kamala locanā | raha priyatamam ghya sakāmeva ca kāminī (R. 5-10-40 )

Another woman skilled in dance obtained sleep getting  Vipanchi an instrument like Veena and being in tune with it like a woman together with her lover

vipañcaiim parighyānyā niyatā nttaśālinī | nidrā vaśam anuprāptā saha kāntā iva bhāminī (R.5-10-41)

Another woman with lusty eyes slept hugging a percussion instrument called Mridanga

Anya kanaka … mdangam paripīya angai prasuptā matta locanā (R. 5-10-42 )

Another tired woman slept, clutching an instrument called Panava between her shoulders and reaching arm pits

bhuja pārśva antarasthena kakagena krśa udarī | paavena saha anindyā suptā mada krta śramā (R. 5-10-43 )

Another woman with an instrument called Dindima near her slept in the same way as a woman hugging her husband and also her child

iṇḍimam parigrhya anyā tathaiva āsakta iṇḍimā | prasuptā  taruam vatsam upagūhya iva bhāminī (R. 5-10-44 )

And, Another woman with eyes like lotus petals slept making the instrument called Adambara pressing it by her shoulders

kācid āambaram nārī bhuja sambhoga pīitam |ktvā kamala patra akī prasuptā mada mohitā (R. 5-10-45 )

Some excellent women slept hugging strange instrumentsātodyāni vicitrāi parivajya vara striya(6.10.49)

: – Some versions of Ramayana mention that Ravana was a reputed Saman singer; and music was played in his palace. He, in fact, suggests to Sita, she could relax like a queen listening to music in his palace, instead sitting tensely under the tree

– mahārhaṇi ca pānāni śayanānyāsanāni ca | gītam nṛttaṃ ca vādyaṃ ca labha maṃ prāpya maithili (R. 5-20-10 )

:- According to some versions of the Ramayana , Ravana was a well known player of Veena  called Ravana-hastaka (an instrument played with a bow).

:- As Ravana’s soldiers prepare for the war, they hear the sounds of the Bheri played by Rama’s monkey –army. Sarama asks Sita to listen and rejoice the Bheri sounds resembling the thundering rumbles of the clouds

Samanahajanani hesya bhairava bhiru bherika / Bherinadam ca gambhiram srunu toyadanihsvanam – (6-33-22)

:- Ravana  compared the battlefield to a music stage; bow (weapon for firing arrows) to his Veena; arrow to his musical bow; and the tumultuous noise of the battle to music

– jyā śabda tumulām ghorām ārta gītam ahāsvanām | nārā catalasam nādām tām mamā hita vāhinīm | avagāhya maha raṅgam vādayiṣyāntagan raṇe – ( R. VI: 24:43-44)

:- As the battle ended with victory to Rama, the  Apsaras danced to the songs of Gandharvas, such as Narada the king of Gandharvas (Gandharva-rajanah), Tumbura, Gopa, Gargya, Sudhama, Parvata, and Suryamandala (R.6.92.10). Tumbura sang in divine Taana (divya-taaneshu).

:-The triumphant Rama, the foremost among men, on his return, was greeted and loudly cheered by the people of Ayodhya accompanied by sounds of conchs  (shankha) buzzing in the ears and tremendous sounds of Dundhubi

 – Śankha śabda praādaiśca dundubhīnān ca nisvanai | prayayū puruavyāghrastā purīn harmyamālinīm (R. 6-128-33)

:- Rama drove to his palace, surrounded by musicians cheerfully playing on the cymbals, Swastika and such other musical instruments singing auspicious (mangalani) songs

– Sa purogāmi abhistūryaistālasvastikapāibhi | pravyāharadbhirmuditairmagalāni yayau vta ( 6-128-37 )

:- On that auspicious and most joyous occasion of the coronation of the noblest Sri Rama, the Devas, the Gandharva sang gracefully ;and , the troupes of Apsaras  danced with great delight

– Prajagur deva-gandharvā nantuśc āpsaro gaā | abhieke  tadarhasya tadā rāmasya dhīmata (6-128-72 )


Music terms

Ramayana is not a thesis on music; it is an epic poem rendering the story of chaste love between a husband and his wife. The music or whatever elements mentioned therein is incidental to the narration of the story. And, yet, Valmiki accorded importance to music and elements of music in his work. He crafted situations where music could be introduced naturally. More importantly, his verses have a very high lyrical quality; and, can be rendered into music quite easily. All these speak of Valmiki’s   love for music and his aesthetic refinement.

Many Music-terms are mentioned in Ramayana, indicating the state of Music obtaining during the time of its composition – (not necessarily during the event-period).

:-  Valmiki mentions that Kusi–Lava sang in Marga style – Marga-vidhana-sampada – (R. I.4.35); in seven melodic modes called Jatis (jatibhih saptabhir) that were pure (shuddha) – (R. I.4.8 ).

:-  Valmiki endorsed use of sweet sounding words, with simple and light syllables; and advises against harsh words loaded with heavy syllables (R. IV.33.21).

: – The music of Kusi-Lava was Baddha, structured into stanzas – with apt rhythm (laya), tempo (sthana) and words (Pada)-  (R.I.4.8).

:-  Valmiki mentions, Kusi-Lava were familiar with Murchana and Tri- Sthana; as also with the rhythmic patterns – Laya, Yati – in three-speeds. Tri-Sthana might either refer to three voice registers (Mandra, Madhyama and Tara) or three tempos (Vilamba, Madhyama and Druta).

: – Lava and Kusi were said not to fall away from Raga. Here, the term Raga is said to mean sweetness of voice (kanta-madhurya).

Here are some terms that  might need short explanation:

: – Marga or Gandharva is regarded the music fit for gods.  It is said to have been derived from Sama Veda; and constituted of Pada (the text), Svara (notes) and Taala (rhythm).Marga was rather sombre and not quite flexible too. Marga or Gandharva in the later centuries gave place to free flowing Desi the Music derived from the folk and the regions.

:- Baddha is a song format that is well structured into stanzas – with apt rhythm (laya), tempo (sthana) and words (Pada). It contrasts with Anibaddha unstructured Music without restrictions of Taala. It is analogous to the present-day Aalap, and rendering of Ragamalika, Slokas etc. The Baddha – Anibaddha distinction is observed even today, just as in Valmiki’s time.

: – Grama (group) was the basic gamut of notes employed in the early music-tradition. The ancient tradition is said to have employed three Grama-s beginning from ShadjaMadhyama, or Gandhara note. Later, the third Grama, based on Gandhara reportedly went out of vogue as it required moving in a usually high range of notes.

: – Jati refers to the classification of musical compositions as per the tones. Svaras and Jatis were seven primary notes such as Shadja, Rshabha etc of the octaves – patya-jati. Ana is said to be a drag note generally called ekasruti.

It means Kusi Lava rendered the verses in several melodies. However, since the raga concept was, then, yet to be evolved, there might not have been much depth and variation in their rendering.

:-   Murchhana was the ancient mode of extending available tonal frameworks by commencing ascents and descents, ranging over (purna) seven notes, every time from a new note. This mode gave place to the Mela system around the 15th -16th century.

Instrumental Music

Valmiki’s Ramayana mentions varieties of musical instruments. The musical instruments were collectively mentioned as Atodya The term also  denoted instrumental music. The musical instruments, of the time, were categorized, broadly, as those played by hand (hastha-vadya); and as those played by mouth (mukha- vadya) (R. II.65.2).

The string and percussion instruments came under the former category; while the wind instruments were among the latter category. Instrumental Music was primarily individualistic; not orchestrated.

It appears instruments were used mainly as accompaniments (not solo) and depended on vocal music. Group music- vocal with instruments –appeared to be popular.

In another manner , the musical instruments were  classified under four broad categories : Tatha which included all stringed instruments; Anaddha which included all that  were covered or were struck like drums; Sushira which included all wind  instruments like the flute and the Shanka; and, Ghana which included all  solid cymbal-like resonators.

String instruments

Among the string instruments (Tatha), Ramayana mentions two kinds of Veena: Vipanchi (fingerboard plucked ones with nine strings like the Veena as we know) ;Vana or Vallaki (a multi stringed harp); and, Kanda-Veena (made by joining reeds). In fact, till about 19th century, string instruments  of all kinds were called Veena: harps like the Chitra; fingerboard plucked ones like  the Vipanchi,  Rudra Veena, the Saraswati Veena and the Kacchapi Veena; bowed ones such as the Ravana hastaveena and the Pinaki Veena.

Percussion instruments

As regards the percussion instruments, the Epic refers to quite a large number of them:

    • Mrudanga; Panava (a kind of Mridanga which had a hole in the middle with strings were laid from one side to another);
    • Aataha; Madduka (a big drum of two faces having twelve and thirteen angula- finger lengths);
    • Dundubhi (Nagaara); Dindima (resembling Damaru but smaller in size);
    • Muraja (a a bifacial drum, the left one of eight fingers and right one of seven fingers);
    • Adambara (a sort of kettle drum made of Udambara wood);
    • Bheri (two faced metal drum in a conical shape , the leather kept taut by strings; the right face was struck by a kona and the left one by hand, striking terror in the heart of the enemy 
    • Pataha (resembling Dholak);  and
    • Dundubhi (drums made of hollow wood covered with hide) played during wedding ceremonies as also for welcoming the winning-warriors .

Gargara was another drum used during the wars.

 All these were leather or leather bound instruments. They were played with metal or wooden drum-sticks with their ends wrapped in leather.

There is also a mention of BhumiDundubhi where the lower part of a huge drum is buried in a pit while the exposed upper part covered with animal hide is beaten with big sized metal or wooden drum-sticks to produce loud booming sounds. It was played during battles to arouse the warriors; to celebrate victory; or in dire emergency. BhumiDundubhi was also played at the time of final offering (Purna-Ahuthi) at the conclusion of a Yajna.

The other instruments to keep rhythm (Taala) were: Ghatam and cymbals. Aghathi was a sort of cymbal used while dancing.

Wind instruments

The instruments played by mouth (mukha- vadya) , that is the wind instruments, mentioned in Ramayayana include :

    • Venu or Vamsa (flute) ,
    • Shankha ( conch) blown on auspicious occasions and at the time of wars ;
    • Tundava (wind instrument made of wood);
    • Singa ( a small blower made of deer horns to produce sharp and loud sounds); and,
    • kahale or Rana-bheri (long curved war- trumpet).

The flute was also used for maintaining Aadhara- Sruthi (fundamental note). [Tambura or Tanpura did not come into use till about 15th-16th century.]

State of Music

It is evident that during the period in which Ramayana was composed (say 7th century BC) , the Music was fairly well developed ; and the basic concepts were, in place. However, a full-fledged musicology and elaborate theories on music were yet to develop. Marga system was prevalent; and, Desi with its Ragas was yet centuries away.

Singing well known texts of poetry, in public, appeared to be the standard practice.  Instruments were used for accompaniment and not for solo performances. Group singing with instrumental support appeared to be popular. Music was very much a part of the social and personal life.


As compared to Ramayana, there is relatively less information about Music in Mahabharata. Yet; Music (Gandharva) did occupy an important place in the life of its people. There are references to Music played on various occasions, including welcoming and seeing off the guests.  Along with singing (Gita) such Musical instruments as Panav, Vansa and Kansya Tala etc., were played. The Music instruments were broadly covered under the term Vaditra, denoting the four-fold group of Tata, Vitata, Ghana and Sushira -Vadyas.

In Shanti-parva, there are references to Veena and Venu.  The string instrument (Tantri-Vadya) Veena, was played during religious ceremonies like Yajnas; and, for relaxation by the ladies of the Queen’s court- vīṇā-paṇava-veṇūnāṃ svanaś cāti manoramaḥ / prahāsa iva vistīrṇaḥ śuśruve tasya veśmanaḥ – 12,053.005

In Dronaparva, there are references to Drum class instruments like: Mridanga, Jharjhara, Bheri, Panava, Anaka, Gomukha, Adambara, and Dundubhi (paṇavānaka-dundubhi-jharjhar-ibhiḥ – 07,014.037).

Andin Virata-parva, there is a reference to Kansya (solid brass instrument), the cymbal; Shankha (conch) and Venu (flute), the wind instruments Sushira -Vadyas. And, Gomukha was perhaps a cow-faced horn or trumpet – śaṅkhāś ca bheryaś ca gomukhā-ḍambarās tathā – 04,067.026.

The known Musical Instruments of the Mahabharata Period could be grouped as under:

Muscial instruments in Mahabharata

elepphant carriage


Ramayanadalli Sangita (Kannada) by Dr. R Satyanarayana

Origin of Indian Instrumental Music Music is found …

Musical Instruments

Telling a Ramayana

Music of India

Glossary of music terms

The Music and Musical Instruments of North Eastern India by Dilip Ranjan Barthakur

Painting by Shri S Rajam


Posted by on September 15, 2012 in Music, Rigveda, Sanskrit


Tags: , , , ,

16 responses to “The state of music in the Ramayana

  1. sreenivasaraos

    March 20, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    dear sreenivasarao,

    i am not a musically knowledgeable person..
    but i am defenitely a music lover…
    i am fascianted to note the evloution
    of ghandrvas and ragas over a perod of time..


  2. sreenivasaraos

    March 20, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    salutations to you shree shree shree sreenivasa rao…what a treasurehouse of information. i am amazed and bow to your knowledge & reasearch oriented mind & your devotion. thank you..


  3. sreenivasaraos

    March 20, 2015 at 3:29 pm


    interesting blog. i am fascinated by the history of anything and certainly of music but i know nothing about it. i would also like you to elaborate on the perceived connection between ravana and samaveda and music. regads


    • sreenivasaraos

      March 20, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      dear shri palahali,
      thank you for asking. let me use this to mention a few things that i did not in the blog. please bear with me.
      to start with, one has to make a clear distinction between the times of the historical rama; and the society depicted in the ramayana epic poem rendered by the great poet valmiki.

      1. the music in valmiki’s ramayana (say 7th century bc) was sung and played for entertainment; it was performed amidst public in celebrations; and it was used by minstrels to sing ballads. the concept of linking music to spiritual development did not appear to be present, then.

      the later texts, say of 4th to 6th century ad, such as brihaddeshi, vayupurana and narada shiksha assigned the musical taanas, names of the various yajnas; and said that the benefits of those yajnas could be obtained by singing the relative taanas. the yajnavalkhya shiksha said, the music would help spiritual practices. the idea that music was a way to liberation (moksha sadhana) seems to have emerged at a later stage, perhaps during the bhakthi period (10th -11th century and onwards).

      2. sundara kanda mentions that ravana was fond of music; and music was played in his palace. he, in fact, suggests to sita, she could relax a bit listening to music in his palace, instead sitting tensely under the tree.

      2.1. it is said ravana was a well known player of veena (an instrument played with a bow).he compared the battlefield to a music stage; bow (weapon for firing arrows) to his veena; arrow to his musical bow; and the tumultuous noise of the battle to music (vi: 24:43-44).

      2.2. linking ravana to sama veda is a mythological construct.

      it is said when ravana unwittingly got trapped under the weight of kailash, he cried out in pain and burst forth into the song shiva tandava stotra praying shiva to rescue him. it was here he acquired his title ravana, meaning “he of the terrible (cry) roar”. [till then, it appears, he was called dashanana vishravas (to check)]. ravana, it is said, cried out in sama music (a type of traditional music of those days) when he prayed to shiva for help and rescue.

      3.1. sama veda is linked to music through yajna. it was customary to invite and invoke deities by singing their hymas; and to recite the mantras while the rituals were being performed. those who sang were designated: udgatru .they selected riks (mantras) from rig veda, which could be sung and compiled them into a collection; and that collection came to be known as sama veda. out of the 1,549 mantras in sama veda, as many as 1,474 mantras are taken from rig veda. it is explained, sa stands for rik, while ama stands for various notes (brihad up: 1-3-22). sama veda is thus, virtually, a musical rendering of the selected mantras from rig veda.

      3.2. udgathrus were usually a group of three singers; and they together rendered the mantras in five stages;

      prasthava: the initial portion of the mantra is sung by an udgathru designated prasthothru. he starts with huuum sound (hoon kara).
      udgita: he is followed by the chef ritwik (designated the chief udgathru) who sings the rik. he commences with an om kara.
      prathihara: the mid-portion is sung loudly by prathiharthra.
      upadrava: the chief udgathru sings again; and
      nidhana: the final portion is sung by all the three together.

      3.3. in the beginning, samagana employed only three notes called udatta, anudatta and svarita. the lyre accompanying this (vana-veena) would have three strings only, one for each note. but, the scale, gradually, over a period of time, expanded into seven notes.

      3.4. narada shiksha explaining the sama music states: there were: seven notes (svaras); three gramas; 21 moorchanas; and 49 taanas in sama music. it also gives the relation between the sama notes (sama svara) and notes on the flute (venu svara) :

      sama svara
      venu svara

      in the later sama texts, it became customary to write the numerals on top of the sama mantras to indicate their note- delineations (sama vikara).

      3.5. the music, based on sama mantras was classified into:

      (i). grama_geya gana: was sung amidst people of the society. it was a natural way of singing.
      (ii).aranya gana: sung in contemplation, in the woods and groves. this was also a natural singing.
      (iii).uhaa gana :sung during the soma yajna. the singing here followed a rather complicated pattern.and,
      (iv).uhya gana: secrect or singing within oneself.

      4. it was during the gupta period that indian music gained the form which we now call classical. as a result of those disciplines, the sama gana retained a defined structure and a typical way of singing (marga).no matter who sang and in which region it was sung, the sama music had to follow the traditional approved format.

      the roots of sangita, the traditional (classic) indian music are in samagana.

      the folk music (desi) on the other hand, sprang from the common people and varied from region to region. it was spontaneous and fluid.the two systems developed independently.

      it is only of late the marga and desi; the classical and folk music are coming together, enriching and inspiring each other. it is wonderfully delightful development.

      i thank your patience.

  4. Mohanish Jaju

    September 4, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Dear Sir,

    i find a lot of knowledge here!

    thankyou for sharing.

    Could you kindly elaborate more on:-

    1) the kind of percussion instruments used
    2) the 49 ‘taanas’

    thankyou sir!

    warm regards,
    (studying MA Music, final year, Pune)

    • sreenivasaraos

      September 4, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Dear Mohanish,

      I am happy you read the article closely

      I have written a series of articles on the course and development of Indian music.

      It is titled – Music of India, spread over about 22 articles. Please click on Sangita (22) in the categories column , on the right.You might find them useful for your studies.

      As regards Taanas , they basically refer to the permutations and combinations of note-sequences (tanas) elaboration of various musical expressions which provide pleasure to the listener as also to the performer.

      I have written a little more about the Taanas in Part Six of the Series – Gandharva or Marga Music . Please check.


      And , on percussion instruments ; besides the one on the state of music on Ramayana , I have written a little more under – Musical instruments in Natya shastra . Please check.

      Please let me know if you have specific questions.

      Good luck with your studies.


    • sreenivasaraos

      September 15, 2017 at 10:05 pm

      Dear Mohanish,

      As regards Taana and such other ancient terms

      Please also check on the article I posted on Naradiya shiksha at


  5. nikhil

    October 6, 2017 at 2:20 am

    Respected sir,Iam Nikhil from kerala.I like your blog very much .can you pls give the slokas mentioning ravanas music talents and music played for sita devi and all about music in ramayana.It will help me a lot to know about the music in ramayana.

  6. nikhil

    October 6, 2017 at 4:02 am

    sir,can you give those slokas mentioning seeta devi listened to music its a music therapy right

    • sreenivasaraos

      October 16, 2017 at 2:53 am

      Dear Nikhil, Pardon me for the delay in responding to your comment. I was away for some time.

      Inthe mean time, I have updated the blog by citing the slokas from Ramayana, wherever possible. Please do check.

      As regards Ravana and his his musicca-prowess; his expertise in Sama Veda or his Veena-playing–skills etc., there are no particular references in the Ramayana of Valmiki, as far as I know. But, there are many legends in other versions of Ramayana ( like, Adbhuta- Ramayana , Ananada Ramayana etc.,) and in other texts of Tamil and Sri Lanka , which allude to Ravana being a gifted Veena player,his playing Veena for Tandava dance of Lord Shiva himself, his recitation of the Sama Veda to please Mahadeva and so on .

      I have, therefore, not talked about these aspects in the present article, since it pertains to Valmiki’s Ramayana

      And, so far as I know, there are also no ‘slokas mentioning Seeta Devi listened to music as a music therapy’- as you mentioned. It is merely that, in the Sundarakanda, Ravana suggests to Sita that instead of wailing under a tree she could as well stay comfortably at his palace ; and relax listening to music. Please check the relevant sloka in the article, above.

      Sorry, I may have disappointed you

      Thanks for the visit and the comment.

      Cheers and Regards

  7. varna nikhil

    February 26, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Respected sir ,iam varna nikhil from kerala .Iam a phd student in music therapy.Can you pls help me to know more about the power of music therapy as mentioned in Mahabharata, samaveda,upanishads ,vedas and puranas. your blog helps me a lot in getting information about Ramayana and music .pls do the needful.

    • sreenivasaraos

      February 26, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      Dear Nikhil

      Yes. I am aware of your interest in music and its therapy effects; that is music for the purpose of healing.

      I know a bit about it in general. But, I am not sure that would be of any use to you for your doctoral thesis.

      But, I had earlier read a paper produced a student in California University about “Raga Chikitsa and Raga Ragini Vidya – Indian Music as healing therapy”. The paper discusses many related aspects of Indian music, quoting references from ancient texts. Try this link; and, see if it helps you. I believe; you may not have already read this. In any case, see:

      Click to access Raga%20Chikitsa.pdf

      And, there is also another research paper on Raga therapy for healing mind and body, among other things ( from page 131) . Please check this also

      Click to access 07.%20chapter_3.pdf

      In the meantime, let me see if I can do a bit more

      Please keep talking

      Good luck and Cheers

  8. varna nikhil

    February 26, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Respected sir, Iam varna nikhil, phD student from kerala can i include the valuable information from your blog in my Thesis. pls give the permission to add your blog in my reference lists. pls do the needful

    • sreenivasaraos

      February 26, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      Yes Dear Nikhil , you can. Good Luck. Cheers

  9. Kathaa Sangrah

    June 19, 2019 at 6:13 am

    Please check for interesting stories of different characters on Ramayana here

    • sreenivasaraos

      June 20, 2019 at 12:55 am

      Dear Katha Sangrah

      Thank you for the visit; and, for the contribution



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: