Tag Archives: Narada

Music of India – a brief outline – Part fifteen

Continued from Part Fourteen – Lakshana Granthas

Part Fifteen (of 22 ) – Lakshana Granthas – Continued

4. Sangita Makaranda

Sangita Makaranda ascribed to Narada (7th -9th century) is an interesting work. It has two parts, one on music;  and , the other on dance, each divided into four sections. Its style is said to be rather complicated; and, makes a difficult reading.

The first part of the text is devoted to music (Sangita) . It has subsections dealing with the origin of Nada and Svaras; associations of the Svaras with  factors such as Gramas , Murchanas etc ; various musical terms such as , Vadi, Sruti, Alamkara etc; classification of Ragas ; and , with the musical instruments.  

Before we get  back to its music-aspect lets briefly  take a look at its dance-content. 

In the first section of the part on dance, the author discusses the dance-hall, the audience, the poet, the singer, types of learned spectators, the chairman, the dance-teacher, the percussionist, the performer, the flower-offering and the origin of the Talas.

The second section describes the characteristics of 101 Talas.  The third section also gives information on Tala, including the derivation of the word, the essence of Tala, the time, Marga, Desi and such other details.

The fourth section is devoted to drums but also contains a short final subsection of 33 verses called natibhavanirupanam which is devoted to dance. It describes five double hand-gestures, five single hand-gestures, eight bhramaris, nine head movements and four feet movements.


According to Emmie te Nijenhuis ,  the first chapter of the Sangita Makaranda seems to closely follow  Sarangadeva’s views , specially , with regard to the treatment of the Svaras and their association with the deities (Devata), meters (chhandas) , and emotions (rasa). Narada also adds to the systems of associations the family names (gotra), constellation (rasi), the birth-star  (nakshatra ) , the presiding deities of the constellation (rasi- adidevata) and the associated creature (yoni kathanam).

Narada brings in philosophical, Tantric and religious interpretations into Desi Music. He names Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara as the deities of Shadja, Madhyama and Gandharva Gramas, respectively. In that order, each Grama is allotted to a season (Rtu): Hemanta (winter) for Shadja; Grishma (summer) for Madhyama; and, Varsha (rains) for Gandharva Grama. As regards the time of the day for rendering the Gramas, he allots forenoon to Shadja; midday to Madhyama; and afternoon to Gandharva Grama.

Narada in his Sangita Makaranda (12)  calls the playing of the seven pure or natural notes (Shuddha Svara) of the scale ascending from the lower to higher , i.e., starting from Shadja (meaning , the one giving birth to the other six notes) as Prakrti; and, the way of playing from the descending scale as Vikrti . Here, Prakrti denotes, a hierarchy of sounds played on a Veena. According to Narada, the practicing the scale on musical instruments is comparable to emanation and withdrawal of the universe.

Prakrti dve vijaniyath –svara-tantreshu samsthithe / tatrapi cha tayormadhya shadjadi cha nishadakam //

Ya sa prakrti-vijneta Bharatena cha charchita / vikrutich nishadadi shadja-antara-svara puritah //

There are two modes that are known to exist in playing of the Svaras on stringed instruments. Of the two, the playing of the Svaras starting with Shadja and ascending up to Nishada is known as Prakrti (natural), which was practiced by Bharata . In the other mode, the Vikrti (modified) the Svaras start with Nishadha and moves on to Shadja in order to complete the scale.


Narada explains that Shadja is the first important note holding more ministers (samvadi notes), hence it gets a Grama on its name. Madhyama is a note which cannot be omitted in any Grama, so it also holds a Grama. About Ga he says that it is born in heaven, used by divine beings, thus indisputable. (There seems to be a pun on the term. Here, Grama is a technical term; and grama is village).

Earlier, Gandharva-grama was not defined clearly.   Narada in eight Slokas (49-56) gives the names of the Murchanas of Gandharva Grama as : Nandi, Visala, Sumukhi, Chitra, Chitravati, Shukha and Aalapa.

Emmie te Nijenhuis explains that according to Narada, Sa and Ma has four Srutis; and Dha three Srutis. He takes one Sruti from Ri and Ma each and allocates them to Ga, which normally has two Srutis only. Thus, Ri has two Srutis; Ma has three Srutis; and, Ga has four Srutis. Narada says that Ni takes one Sruti from Pa; which has four Srutis. Sa has only three Srutis.

Further Emmie te Nijenhuis  explains : In the description of Shadja and Madhyama Gramas,  Narada follows the general order accepted by all, i.e. Shadja Grama (4,3,2,4,4,3,2 Srutis); Madhyama Grama (4,3,2,4,3,4,2 Srutis). Narada also confirms that in Shadja grama, Shadja is in consonance with both Madhyama and Pancama. In the same way, in Madhyama Grama, Pancama is the consonant to Dhaivata and Rishabha. Narada again mentions that Panchama has only three Srutis, while Dhaivata of Madhyama Grama gains one Sruti and has four Srutis.


As regards the Ragas, Narada introduces the concept of identifying the proper hour of the day for rendering certain Ragas.

Narada, in the third khand of the chapter Sangeetadhyaya of his Sangeet Makranda, categorized ragas according to the suryansh (solar) and chandransh (lunar) groups, i.e. sun- and moon-based ragas. He further says

evam kalavidhin gyatva gayedhyaha sa sukhi bhavet || ragavelapraganen raganan hinsako bhavet | yaha shrinoti sa daridri ayurnashyati sarvada

[One who sings the raga-s according to their designated times, attains peace and prosperity. The raga-s themselves shall become violent and lose their attraction if sung off their times. Such (singers) become poor and live a short life ]

According to Sangeet Makranda (Ch. III, 10-23):

Morning melodies:

    • Gandhara,
    • Deva-gandhara,
    • Dhannasi,
    • Saindhavi,
    • Narayani,
    • Gurjari,
    • Vangala,
    • Patamanjari,
    • Lalita,
    • Andola-sri,
    • Saurastreya,
    • Jaya-saksika,
    • Malhara,
    • Sama-vedi,
    • Vasanta,
    • Suddha-Bhairava,
    • Velavali,
    • Bhupala,
    • Soma-raga.

Noon-day melodies:

    • Sankarbharana,
    • Purva (?),
    • Balahamsa,
    • Desi,
    • Manohari,
    • Saveri,
    • Dombuli
    • Kambhoji,
    • Gopikiirpbhoji,
    • Kaisiki,
    • Madhu-madhavi,
    • Vahuli (two varieties),
    • Mukhari,
    • Mangala-kausika

After noon melodies:

    • Gauda and the derIvatives therefrom

Noctural melodies:

    • Suddha-nata,
    • Salanga,
    • Nati,
    • Suddha’varatikii,
    • Goula,
    • Malava-gauda,
    • Sri-raga,
    • Ahari,
    • Ramakrti,
    • Ranji,
    • Chaya,
    • Sarva-varatika,
    • Dravatika.
    • Desi,
    • Nagavaratika,
    • Karnata,
    • Haya-gaudi.


A significant  feature of the work  is the system of classifying  six Ragas as male and six Raginis as female , thus    forming six cohesive families, raga-parivara.  It also mentions about neuter (napumsa) ragas. In a particular season, one designated Raga is to be sung along with its Ragini and their offspring (putra raga).

The six groups of Ragas enumerated in the Sangita-makaranda formed foundation of the earliest mythology of the melodies. The legends ascribe to Shiva or Nataraja, the origin of the science of music and drama.

According to the legend here, the ragas are said to have been derived from the union of Sihva and Shakti – Parvati, or Girija. From the five faces of Shiva, at the beginning of his dance (nartana arambhe), came out the five ragas: Sri-raga, Vasanta, Bhairava, Panchama, and Megha; while the sixth raga, Nata narayani came out of the mouth of Parvati (Girija), the daughter of the Himalaya, when she performed the elegant lasya dance.

Siva-Sakti-samayogad raganam sambhavo bhavet / Pancasyat panca ragah syuh sastastu Girija mukhat // Sadyo vaktrattu Srirago Vamadevad, vasantakh / Aghorad bhairavo ‘bhut, tatpurusat pancamo’ ‘bhavat // Isanakhyad megha-rago, natyarambhe Sivadahut / Girijaya-muka lasye nata-narayano’ bhavat //


 In Sangita Makaranda , the author wonders : strange are the ways that assign names to the Ragas – Naradena vicitrena santi namani vaksyate.  He then indicates how the Ragas came to be named during different periods in the history of Indian Music.

In the period of Natyashastra the Gramas were named after their main Svaras. For instance; Shadava was named after Sha; Madhya Grama after Ma; and, Gandharva after Ga. As regards the  Ragas,  took their names from the dominant or significant Svara prevailing in their compositions. Thus, one of the Grama-ragas is called Shadji  from the note Shadja; Arsabhi, from the note Rsabha; and,  Gandhiiri, from the note Gandhara, and so on.

In the second stage, it says, the Ragas came to named after the names of tribes (Janapada). For instance; Raga Abhiri was named after Abhira tribe, Raga Saviri after Savara tribe; Pulinda Raga after Pulinda tribe ; Saverika (Saveri) after the Savars, and Bhairava-raga  after the Bhairavas  ; and so on .

In the third stage, Ragas were named after the regions (Desha). For instance Surati or Surat Malhar was named after Saurastra region; Sindu Bhiravi after Sindu Desha; Karnati after Karnataka; Kambhoji after Kambhoja Desha; Gauda and Purvi after the  Eastern part  of Bengal  ; Gurjari after Gujarat region and so on . 

Later , some of the names of the Ragas were derived from their associations with the season( Megha raga with raina , Vasantha with spring ) , and seasonal feastivals  (Hindola with swing festival, Sri Raga with harvest festival).

 [ For more please check pages 71 and onward of Prof. O C Ganguli’s book . ]


Sangita Makaranda has seven sections:  Naada, Sruti, Svara, Raga, Veena, Taala, Nartana, etc. Many types of instruments are mentioned – including nineteen types of Veena – kachchapi, kubjika, chitra, parivadini, jaya, ghosavati, jyeshta, nakuli, mahati, vaishnavi, brahmi, raudri, ravani, sarasvati, kinnari, saurandri, ghosaka etc.

It also lists 22 Srutis and their names. The Srutis are divided into five classes :

    • (1) Dipta (dazzling) –Tivra,Raudri, Vajrica and Ugra;
    • (2)  Ayata (vast oe expansive) – Kumudvathi, Krodha ,Prasarini, Sandipini, and Rohini;
    • (3) Karuna (compassion) – Dayavathi, Alapini and Madanti;
    • (4) Mrudu (tender) – Manda , Ratika,Priti and Ksiti; and
    • (5) Madhya (moderate) – Chandovathi, Ranjani, Marjani , Raktiki, Ramya and Ksobini.

[Ref:        Natalie Savelyeva; Musicological literature by Emmie te Nijenhuis ;]


Sarasvathi-hrdaya-alamkara-hara by king Nanyadeva

King Nanyadeva, a prince of a later branch of the Rastrakuta (Karnataka) dynasty is said to have reigned in Mithtili between 1097 and 1154 A.D. His capital was at Simarampur (modern Simraon), now within Nepal. Though his Sarasvati-hrdaya-alamkara hara was primarily written as a commentary (bhashya) on Bharata’s Natya-shastra, it is, for all purposes, treated as an independent work. Because, he introduced many new matters such as –  the grama and jati ragas that were not commented upon  by earlier authorities. He also mentions Karnata-pata tanas and gives references to the music of South India.

The Sarasvati-hrdaya-alamkara hara contains four main chapters  : Vachika, Angika , Satvika and Aharya.

[ Each chapter ends with the colophon: “Iti maha samantadhipathi dharmapalaka Sri-man-Nanyapati-viracite Sarasvati-Hrdayalankara Bharata-vartike vacikamso …… adhyaya samaptah “]

Nanyadeva is cited as an authority by Sarangadeva. His text not only includes descriptions of several Ragas, but also about 15 examples of compositions (called Panikas, which are of lighter nature might have been used for dancing as also for singing in groups) with notations for vocal rendering. The Panikas belong to a genre of music forms called Gitakas or Prakaranas of varying rhythmic patterns (as opposed to the modern compositions set to a particular Taala). These are no longer in use. Each rhythmic suit is identified by the number of matras (time units), by claps and gestures to measure the time of the beats.

The Notations used by Nanyadeva are simple pitch notations by numbering the Svaras (Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni). However, no distinction is made between Shuddha Ga and Antara Ga; or between the standard Shuddha Ni and Kakili Ni. Some notations are indicated by placing dots as superscripts. In some cases, it is not clear; as it appears the copyists might have got confused.


Nanyadeva derives most of his materials from Narada, Yastika, Kasyapa and Matanga, the last two of whom are profusely quoted as important authorities. He remarks: “How could people of lesser intelligence succeed in swimming across the ocean of Ragas which such early exponents as Matanga and others failed to cross,” meaning thereby that it is impossible to describe the melodies exhaustively.

Yo na tirno Matanga-adyaih raga-dvash raga-sagarah / Svalpa-buddhya purveneha sanataritum sakyate katham

Following Matanga, he gives the various classifications of Ragas. Nanyadeva divides the gitis under five instead of under the seven groups given by Matanga.  He uses the term mula-raga (root-ragas) for the major melodies (mukhya) which are so called “because of their extremely soothing qualities.” – Ranjanadatisayatvena tastu mukhyah prakirtitah

[Nanyabhupala,  in his Bharatabhashya, connects each type of  Giti s to specific hours hours (yamas) of the day. For instance; the two Gitis, Shuddha and Bhinna, are assigned to the first yama or prahara (a three-hour period) of the day. The Giti, Gaudi, is placed at mid-day; Vesara is in the first part of the day; and Sadharana is said to be common to all hours of the day.

These Gitis, were not Ragas or similar forms; but, were various ways of rendering Ragas, akin to the Banis (Vanis) of Dhrupad and the different Gayaki (vocal tradition) of present-day music. Further, Nanya Bhupala states: “The Bhashas of different Ragas fall within the same Kaala (time bracket) as the Ragas to which they are related.”]

He introduced a new term called ‘Svarakhya ragas’, i.e., Ragas which take their names according to the notes (svara) e.g.   the Grama ragas such as Sadji, Arabhi, Dhaivati, etc.

Similarly, the term Desakhya ragas, indicated Ragas which derive their names from the country, province, or region of their origins. They are five in number, and, are classed as Upa-ragas: Dakshinatya, Saurastri, Gurjari, Vangai, and Saindavi.

Desakhya Dakshinatya ca Saurastri Gurjari tatha / Vangali Saindhavi cobhe pancaitu tett- uparagaja

Of the various melodies described by their note structures and notations we come across some new names such as ‘Stambha-patrika’ and ‘Tumburupriya‘.

Nanyadeva devotes a small section of his work for  indicating the presiding deity of the principal melodies. Some indications are also given as to the appropriate hours and seasons for the Ragas.

 [ For more on Nanyadeva and notations on Panika songs please the remarkable study made by D. R. Widdess in his paper:Tāla and Melody in Early Indian Music: A Study of … – jsto ]


 5. Manasollasa

Manasollasa (also called Abhjilashitarta Chintamani) ascribed to the Kalyana Chalukya King Someshwara III (1127-1139 AD) is an encyclopedic work, written in Sanskrit, covering a wide variety of subjects ranging from the means of acquiring a kingdom, methods of establishing it, to medicine, magic, veterinary science, valuation of precious stones , fortifications, painting , art, games ,  amusements , culinary art and so on . The third section called upabgogasya vimsathi details twenty kinds of upabhogas or enjoyments. The chapter on annabhoga describes how various recipes are prepared as well as how they should be served to the king. Manasollasa is a treasure trove of ancient recipes. In general , it provides valuable information on life of those times. It is also of historical importance as it gives the geographical description of Karnataka of 12th century and details of its people.

The work is divided into five sections called Vimsathis because each contains twenty Adhyayas (chapters) .  The book is thus a tome of 100 chapters. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific topic. The five Vimsathis are: the Rajya Prakarana; Prapta Rajya –  Sthairikarana; Upabhoga; Vinoda and KreedaThe treatment of the subjects is sophisticated, cultured , suiting the  elite atmosphere of a King’s court.

The first Vimsathi, Rajya Prakarana, describes the means of obtaining a kingdom and the required qualifications for a king.  The second, Prapta Rajya Sthairikarana describes the ways of maintaining a king’s position strong and stable.   The Upabhogasya vimsati describes how a king must enjoy a comfortable life. In this section two chapters are dedicated to annabhoga or enjoyment of food and jala or paniyabhoga enjoyment of drinking water and juices. The next Vinoda vimsathi describes how a king should amuse himself.   The last section Krida vimsathi describes various recreations. The last two sections , in particular, are virtually the guides to Royal pastime (vinoda).

The subjects of Music and dance are covered under the fourth Section, the Vinoda Vimsathi.  The  Vocal and instrumental Music is covered  two sections Geeta Vinoda and Vadya Vinoda ; and , dance is covered under Nrtya Vinoda.

[Please check the following link for more on the Nrtya Vinoda : ]


King Someshwara was himself an accomplished musician and a gifted composer He is said to have composed in varied song-formats such as : Vrtta, Tripadi, Jayamalika, Swaraartha, Raga Kadambaka, Stava Manjari-, Charya and so on. 

He composed Varnas, Satpadis and Kandas   in Kannada language 

In addition, he compiled Kannada folk songs relating to harvest  season , love , separation ( in Tripadi); marriage-songs (in Dhavala); festival and celebration songs (Mangala); marching soldiers (Raahadi); and Sheppard-songs (Dandi).

Prince Someswara  was regarded by the later authors as an authority on Music and Dance. Later musicologists Parsvadeva and Sarangadeva quote from Manasollasa quite often ; and,   Sarangadeva in his work mentions Someswara along with other past-masters of  of music theory (Rudrato Nanya-bhupalo Bhoja-bhu-vallabhastatha, Paramardi ca Someso Jagadeka-mahipatih)


Someswara describes two schools of music – Karnata and Andhra; and, remarks that Karnata is the older form. This, perhaps, is the earliest work where the name Karnataka Sangita first appears (Musical Musings: Selected Essays – Page 46 )

Manasollasa defines chaste Music as that which educates (Shikshartham), entertains (Vinodartham), delights (Moda Sadanam) and liberates (Moksha Sadanam) –   This, I reckon,  by any standard, is a great definition of Classical Music. And, this  is how the chaste and classical music is defined even today.

Shikshartham Vinodartham Cha, Moda Sadanam, Moksha Sadanam Cha.

Such Music, he says, should be a spontaneous source of pleasure (nirantara rasodaram ), presenting varied bhavas  or modes of expressions (nana- bhaava vibhaavitam) and should  be pleasant on the ears (shravyam) .

It says, “One should sing of the manifestations of God like Vishnu and Siva. Out of desire for wealth or honor, one should sing of ordinary mortals; if he sings of them, he is to be condemned”.


Someswara mentions the Ragas as being indirectly derived from the Samaveda. Then , he says :  ‘From the jatis,  the ragas were ascertained. And, from the Ragas came the Bhashas, and then Vibhashas and the Antara Bhashikas.”

Manasollasa classifies Ragas as Shuddha , Gauda , Sadharana etc. Some of the Ragas are named after the region  (Desi)they are associated, such as Turki –Todi etc. It about fifty-one Ragas, and thirty-one types of Taalas.

According to Someshwara, Desi-ragas that were  derived from the names of regions, were current in his time, in popular and beautiful forms – (Desi-raga…desa-nama-samudbhavah I Pravartante vinodesu siimpratam sumanoharah).

 He then says: “The Raga develops by hearing, and the mind is always pleased and elated by it; therefore, they are called Ragas.  I am proceeding to recite them by names- (Ragah pravardhate srutya rajyate manasam sada/ Tena ragah! samakhyata namatastan vravihyahami).

Then, he gives a list  of the different classes or types of Ragas, apparently current in his time .

The five suddha ragas are stated to be:

    • (1) Shuddha-sadava;
    • (2) Shuddha-panchama;
    • (3) Shuddha-sadharita; (
    • 4) Shuddha-kaisika-madhyama; and
    • (5) Shuddhakaisika.

The names of the five Bhinna’ragas are given as :

    • (1) Bhinna-shadja ;
    • (2) Bhinna-tana(?) ;
    •  (3) Bhinna-kaisika-madhyama;
    • (4) Bhinna-pancahma
    • (5) Bhinna-kaisika.

The three Gaudas are: (

    • 1) Gauda-panchama;
    • (2) Gauda-kaisika-madhyama;
    • (3) Gauda-kaisika.

The ragas proper are said to be eight in number:

    • (1) Sadava;
    • (2) Vodda-raga,
    • (3) Malava-panchama;
    • (4) Takka-kaisika;
    • (5) Sauvira;
    • (6) Malava-kaisika;
    • (7) Hindola; and,
    • (8) Taka.

(These mostly  resemble the list given by Matanga :

Sadavo Voda-ragaca tatha malava-pancamah / Taka-kaulika-Sauvira, tatha ma!ava-kauhka/ Hindo!a-taka-ragasca, ityashu raga-bhavantyasu )

Of the Sadharana Ragas, seven names are given:

    • (1) Narta;
    • (2) Saka;
    • (3) Kakubha;
    • (4) Harmana-panchama;
    • (5) Rupa-sadharita;
    • (6) Gandhara-pancahma; and ,
    •  (7) Sadja-kauslka.

Someshwara then gives a series of verses describing the structure of the following melodies:

    • Sri-raga; Soma-raga,
    • Malava-kausika;
    • Hara-puri(?);
    • Hindola;
    • Desi-Hindola;
    • Bhairivi;
    • Mahlara;
    • Saveri;
    • Valiti (? Vahuli);
    • Vangala;
    • Karnata-Vangala;
    • Gurjari;
    • Saurastri;
    • Pun-nata;
    • Kaisik;
    • Suddha-varali;
    • Karlnata-varati;
    • Dravida varati;
    • Suddha-nati;
    • Megharaga;
    • Ahiri;
    • Chayanati;
    • Todi (?);
    • Dulli-Todi;
    • Vahlana;
    • Vahurl;
    • Vala-ulli;
    • Chaya-vela-ulli;
    • Cundyi;
    • Hamsa;
    • Khambhari;
    • Kamoda;
    • Silmhali-Kamoda;
    • Desanaka (?) Desakhya);
    • Danthibhi(?);
    • Kolahala;
    • Saindhav;
    • Damva’krti;
    • Ramakrti; and,
    • Nanda-kiti.

This is an interesting list. By the time of Sarangadeva, the names of the Ragas had changed grately; and , many new Ragas had come into use.


Someswara in his  Manasollasa comments upon the desired qualities of a singer, voice culture, ways of elaborating a song etc besides clearly stating the structure and the components of a class of Music called Prabandha which dominated Indian Music till about the end of 17th century. And, it offers views and comments on, Alapana, Gamaka , a composer etc.

It lists seven qualities of a singer: 

    • Shaariram (Voice);
    • Dhwani (tonal quality and suggestion in the voice);
    • Medha (learned  both in lakshya and lakshana);
    • Praudi (maturity or expertise); 
    • Gamaka Kaushalam (skill in adorning the music with graces) ;
    • Taala gnanam (sense of Taala and understanding rhythm) ; and,
    • Nirbhayata (self-confidence, fearlessness).

Someshwara lists five qualities (Guna) of a good voice as :

    • Madhurya (sweetness) ;
    • Snigdha( possessing high quality and sweetness even in high octaves);
    • Ghana ( rich and resonant) ;
    • Svaraka (clear voice that can carry over to distances) ; and,
    • Swanaka (in which all the beautiful qualities are combined).

Madhurya (sweetness) is the quality of sound that is sweet, melodious as that of Veena and Vamsi (flute) , matching that of  a Cuckoo‘s sound .

 (Venuvinasamo nado yuktosou Avanirisyate I Kokilasavam sankasou madhuradva nirucyate)

Snigdha is very melodious in the high octave and possessing all the beautiful features

(Uccaisthannepi yah sravyah snigdhadhavni rasou matah)

Ghana is the rich and resonant tonal quality.

 (Aksaso nibido yasthui ghanasou dhavaniriritah)

Sravaka is the clarity and loudness that can be heard from a long distance without losing sweetness or Madhurya.

(Durastah sruyate yastu sandhra madhyesthithopi va Madhuryadigunopeto Sravako dhvaniriritah)

Swanaka is the comprehensive quality that is considered very important and best among the qualities (dhvani-nam-uttamh). It is the sound which is very melodious in the high octave and possesses all the beautiful features described earlier.

 (Uccasvanepi yah Sravyah sobhano laknanvitah Dhvaninamuamah prokto dhvani-svanaka-sobhanah)

The composers (Vak-geya-kara) are classified into three classes: the lowest is the lyricist; the second is one who sets to tune songs of others; and, the highest is one who is Dhatu Mathu Kriyakari –who writes the lyrics (Mathu), sets them to music (Dhatu) and ably presents (Kriyakari)  his composition.

The work has clear instructions on how the musicians should be placed on the dais. The Vaggeyakara should be seated in front with assisting male singers on either side. Flutists and female vocalists should be in a middle row and the drummers seated behind. (This makes a good arrangement for blending and balancing the deep voices, the shrill flute and high female voices and the resounding drums.)

Manasollasa makes a very interesting comment on the role of the organizer of the Music-meet. It says that the Sabhapathi, the organizer or the host  should have good knowledge of Music and Shastras . He should be physically fit, mentally sound and must be in a tranquil frame of mind. He can afford to sit and enjoy music only after he fulfilled all his responsibilities and duties.

It also mentions how the listening audience should behave and interact to music.

The work  suggests that the audience must be youthful in its frame of mind to be able to appreciate music .

(Ref: Dr Sathyavati  on Manasollasa and its relevance to present day music )


As regards Dance, the Manasollasa deals with the subject in the sixteenth chapter titled Nrtya-vinoda, coming under the Fourth Section of the text – the Vinoda vimsathi. It is dealt with in 457 verses (from 16.4. 949 to 16.4.1406) of the sixteenth chapter.

Someswara introduces the subject by remarking that dances should be performed at all joyous occasions, such as:  festivals; celebration of conquests achieved; success in competitions and examinations as well as festivities of joy, passion, pleasure and even when someone enters into Sanyas (the  stage – asrama – of  renouncement).

The term that Someswara uses for dancing, in general, is Nartana, which he divides into six types: Natya (limb movements), Lasya (delicate), Tandava (vigorous), Visama (acrobatic), Vikata (comic or ludicrous) and Laghu (light and graceful).

[But, Someswara cautions that Kings would do well to avoid performing dance items like Visama (acrobatic) and Vikata (comic), perhaps because they were rather inappropriate for a King.]

Someswara classified the whole of dancing into two major classes:  the Marga and Desi. The term Marga (literally ‘of the way’ or ‘path’) refers to those arts that adhere to codified rules; while Desi stands for all those  several types of unregulated dance forms with their regional variations.  

Later, around the same time, Sarangadeva, in his Sangitaratnakara; and, Pundarika Vittala in his Nartana Nirnaya, following Someswara, adopted the Marga-Desi concept for classifying various dance forms. The authors of the later times followed such classification.

Thus, in Manasollasa, we find four recognized categories of dance forms that were developed after Natyashastra, viz: Nrtya, Lasya, Marga and Desi.

Dr. Mandakranta Bose observes:  The term Nrtya was first recognized as a distinct category of performance in the Dasarupaka. The Manasollasa takes the term to represent the whole art of dancing. It is also the first text with a complete and sustained discussion on dancing which treats Lasya as a division of dancing.

It is also the earliest extant work, which laid emphasis on the Desi aspect for which later writers on this subject are indebted.

For these and other reasons, the Nrtya Vinoda of Mahasollasa,  occupies a significant place in the sizable body of dance literature. 

Another important contribution of Nrtya Vinoda is that it serves as a source material for reconstruction of the dance styles that were prevalent in medieval India, since it is the earliest text that describes various dance forms in vogue during its time.


In regard to Dance-movements, Someswara classifies them into Six Angas, Eight Upangas and Six Pratyangas. The last mentioned sub-division viz. Pratyanga is an introduction made by Someswara into Natya terminology; the Natyashastra had not mentioned this minor sub-category.

The other important contribution of Someswara is the introduction of eighteen Desi karanas, (dance poses) that were not found in other texts.

Someswara, in about seventy verses (16.4. 1307- 78) describes varieties of Nrtta-hastas – gestures through hand and finger movements – which though devoid of meaning on their own, yet add beauty and grace to dance movements.

Here, he mentions 21 Sthanas and 26 Caris (Verses 1307- 78); 18 karanas of the Desi variety, none of which was found in earlier works.

He remarks that these varieties of Nrtta-hastas should be performed either by a dancer; or , by the king himself to please his beloved.


Six types of Nartakas (dancers) are mentioned. The term Nartaka , here, stands for performers in general ; and, it  includes :

    1. Nartaka (dancer);
    2. Nata (actor);
    3. Nartaki (danseuse);
    4. Vaitalika (bard);
    5. Charana (wandering performer); and,
    6. Kollatika (folk dancers who dancing  around in circles rhythmically striking each other’s sticks acrobat –  as in Dandi Raas – the term kolu in Kannada is a stick).


The audience should be connoisseurs of dancing, which should be performed inside the palace or a house, or in a pleasant courtyard or a garden. Thus ends the section on dancing

[Source: Dr. Mandakranta Bose’s research paper: The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition ]


6.Sangita-cudamani of Kavi Cakravarthi Jagadekamalla

Sangita-Cudamani of Jagadeka Malla (1138 to 1150 AD ) –   son of king Someshwara ,  author of Manasollasa –  covers many topics related to music , such as  : Alapana  and Gamaka;   the desired qualities of a singer, of a composer; the voice culture; design of  the auditorium, and so on . Its author who is also known as Pratapa Prithvi Bhuja. Jagadeka Malla the king of Kalyan   .

Parsva Deva followed the work of Jagadekamalla on subjects like ragas, Prabandhas, etc. Sarangadeva too mentions him with respect.


7.Sangita Samayasara of Parsvadeva

The author of Sangita Samayasara, Prasavadeva was a Jain Acharya of 12th or early 13th century, who was widely acclaimed for his musical knowledge; and was honored with the title Sangita-aakara (ocean of music).

He was said to be the son of Adideva and Gauri. His Guru was Sri Mahadeva Arya who was the disciple of Abhayachandra Muni

The date of the author is uncertain. But, since he refers to Bhoja (1010-1050 A.D), Somesvara (about 1131 A.D.), and Paramard (about 1165 A.D.) it is surmised that Parsvadeva’s time might be 12th or early 13th century.

Parsvadeva devotes a short chapter of 75 verses to the ragas. He does not state what are the major ragas; and, he principally deals with the minor ragas under the various sub-divisions of Ragangas, Bhashangas, Upangas and kriyangas, which he defines as: ‘Ragangas are socalled by the learned as they imitate the appearances (shadows) of ragas. Similarly, Bhashangas are imitators of the visages (shadows’) of Bhashas. The Upangas are so-called by the learned by reason of imitating the visages of the Angas.

Raga-cchayanu kritad ragia-ragini vidurabudhah / Bhasangani tathaiva syuhr-bhasha-chayanukaratah// Anga-chaya mukartvad upangam kathyate budhaih/ Tananam karanam tantryah kriyabhedena kathayate// Kriyayaid bhavedangam kriyangam tadudahrtam//

Then, Parsvadeva proceeds to enumerate the Ragangas, Bhashangas, Upangas   and Kriyangas under the three groups of Sampurna, Sadava, and Odava.


Parsvadeva, in his work, quotes frequently many ancient authors such as Kasyapa, Yastika, Kohala, Tumburu, Dattila, Anjaneya, Matanga; in addition to his predecessors such as : Raja Bhoja, King Somesvara (author of Manasollasa and Jagadekamalla (the son of King Somesvara ) whom he mentions as Pratapa Prithivibhuja. And, among the later authors who quote Parsvadeva, Sarangadeva is prominent.

Though Sangita Samayasara is in Sanskrit , it contains many words of` local language of Maharashtra origin suggesting that Parsvadeva might have been residing in a place where Marathi was the language of the common people. (e.g. thaya, Chitta ce thaya phella phelli, joda ce thaya).

The Sangita Samayasara might be taken as the earliest contribution of a Jain author dedicated to Desi Sangita (vocal, instrumental music and dance). And, The Sangita Samayasara along with Manasollasa are the two earliest works that recognize and treat Music and Dance as two separate art-forms.

The text pays enormous importance to Desi Music and Desi Dance in contrast to Marga class of Music and Dance. Therefore, its emphasis is on Desi Music and Desi Dance.

This text discusses Sangita that is, Gita (vocal music), Vadya (instrumental music) and Nrtta and Nrtya (dance).  The text  elaborately discusses   theory of Music and various topics relating to  Nada (sound),  Dhvani (pitch),  Shaarira  ( resonating musical voice) , Gita (song), Alapti (free flowing elaboration of Raga) , Sthaya  (phrases), Varna ( lines) , Taala (rhythm) and Alamkara  (ornamentation)  . It is said; Prasavadeva explained Gamaka as: “When a note produces the color of Sruthis other than those which are its own, it is known as Gamaka.”

Parsvadeva states that Alapti is of two types Raga and Rupaka. While Raga-Alapi is Anibaddha (unrestrained or unbound), Rupaka-Alapi is rendered within the framework of Raga and Taala. Yet Rupaka-Alapi allows scope for expansion or improvisation. ( Elaborate distinctions of the two are given. These are almost the same in Parsvadeva’s Sangita Samayasara and Sarangadeva’s Sangita-Ratnakara. Some say, Sarangadeva adopted it from Prasavadeva.)

According to Parsvadeva, Raga-Alapi ( which is similar to Alapana of present-day) is presented in four stages or Svara-sthanas.

(1) The Svara on which the Raga commences or is established is Sthayi. The fourth Svara from Sthayi is Dvya-ardha, which is the half-way from the starting Svara. Sounding of the Svara just below it is Mukha-chala. This is the first Svara-sthana.

(2) The second Svara-sthana comprises sounding of the Dvya-ardha and returning to Sthayi. The eighth Svara from Sthayi is double the pitch (Sruti). The Svaras in between Dvy-ardha and the eighth Svara are Ardha-sthita Svaras.

(3) The rendering of Ardha-sthita and return is the third Svara-sthana.

(4) And, rendering of the eighth and returning to the Sthayi as the ending note Nyasa, is the fourth Svara-sthana.

The rendering of the four Svara-sthanas followed by Sthapana or the concluding part constitutes rendering of Raga-Alapi. This is done in small measures of Sthaya.

As regards the Rupaka-Alapi, it is rendered in two stages. If after rendering Raga-Alapi, the Rupaka-Alapi is taken up, it is then called Prati-grahanika (lit.  to take up). And, if it is broken again it is called Bhanjani (lit. to break).

Bhanjani is, again, in two stages: Sthaya (after rendering Raga-Alapi) and Rupaka (during the singing of composition).

When a Sthaya (phrase) from Rupaka (composition) is presented in various ways with Taala, it is known as Sthaya-Bhanjani. And, if the whole composition is rendered in different ways with Taala, it is called Rupaka-Bhanjani. (These are perhaps the origins of the present-day Pallavi and Neraval).

Gamaka is explained as: “When a Svara produces the colour of Sruthis other than those which are its own, it is known as Gamaka.”

Svara technique that emphasizes the significant characteristic of a Raga is called Kaku.  Parsvadeva’s Sangita Samayasara describes six kinds of Kakus –

1. Raga-Kaku is the essential splendor of a raga;

2. Svara-Kaku is the embellishment of a Raga is shading of its Mukhya Svara through Gamakas ;

3.Desa- Kaku is the introduction of folk and regional inflections into the Raga, giving it a novel and rich form;

4.Anya Raga Kaku is the contrasting quality achieved by introducing Graha-Bheda techniques or bhavas of other Ragas;

5. Kshetra Kaku emphasizes all the rules of the Raga in various combinations;

6. Vadya Kaku is the technique of bringing an instrumental quality into the vocal expression of Ragas.


Parsvadeva, the great Sangita-laksankara considers the following five qualities as merits (Guna) of the voice:  Madhuryam (sweetness), Sravakartvam (loudness or clarity in voice), Snigdha (not harsh even the high octave), Ghanata (richness), and, sthana-katria-sobha (pleasant in all the three Sthana).

(Madhuryam guna samyukte kanthe syanmadhuro dhvanih)

The sound which comes out from the throat must be sweet and this quality is described as madhura. The audibility of the voice depends upon the carrying power of loudness and this is known as ―Sravakara.

Snigdha is defined as that which is not unpleasant even in singing the high notes and has fluency in producing the notes of the high octave.

(Snigdhakanthe dhvani-sthao-apvaruksah saraso bavet)

Ghanata is the voice which is pleasant, full and rich

(Kanthe tristhanasobhesyat tristhane Madura dhvanih)

The voice should be sthana-katroya-sobha– Excellent in all the three Sthanas-Mandra, Madya, and Taara.

Apart from Gunas (qualities) Parsvadeva also lists Dosha (defects) in voice, as: Kheti (phlegm); Kheni (inflexible voice unable to produce what is intend); and, Bhagnasaba (broken voice without any continuity, like that of monkeys and camels)

Chapter wise contents of the work:

Sangita-Samayasara has ten Adhikaras (chapters) with 1400 verses work establishes the importance of Desi music (vocal and instrumental) and dance. It deals with dance, instrumental and vocal music of musicology and musical traditions prevalent during its time.

The work is in nine chapters and for the most part it is devoted to vocal and instrumental music. The seventh chapter and the last part of the eighth are of interest to the study of Desi dance. Some editions carry a Tenth Chapter which contains an incomplete discussion on Taala (already described earlier in 8th chapter); and, it seems to be a later interpolation by some unknown person.

First chapter begins with   salutation to Lord Vasudeva followed by a brief description of ancient Marga or Margi music. The chapter comprises a short definition of some terms of Margi music such as Sthanas (registers), Sruti (micro tones), Svaras (notes), Grama-Murchanas (scales), Taanas (half scales), Jatis, Grama ragas (melody types) and Gitakas (song forms). It also talks, in general,  about Nada (sound), Dhvani (pitch), Sarira (resonating voice), Gita (vocal songs), Varna (melodic line) and Alamkara (ornamentation)

Second chapter deals with the Desi music which was prevalent at that period. Parsvadeva gives a brief account of the formation of human embryo as it is the origin of the sound (human voice).

Third chapter is an important chapter which deals with the Thayas, (Various types of phrases formed with a group of notes) the essential ingredients used in Alapti (elaboration of melody types).The types of Alaptis are briefly defined

Fourth chapter is on Ragas, their classification and description.

Fifth chapter deals with the Nibaddha Sangita (structured or pre composed music). It is a long chapter discusses classification of Prabandhas. Parsvadeva discusses only the Suda Prabandhas.

Sixth chapter relates to Music Instruments, their classification and playing techniques with illustrations.

Seventh chapter describes aspects of Desi types of Nrtya (dance); and it is a very lengthy Chapter.

It is not until the Sangita Samayasara that we find any description of a complete dance. This text not only describes specific dance pieces but also adds a number of new movements of the Cari, the sthana and the karanas of the Desi variety, all of which involve complicated leaping movements.

In the beginning of his chapter on dancing, Parsvadeva mentions two kinds of presentation, Nrtta and Natya. He states that he is going to describe only Angika or body movements, a class of movements that is of particular relevance for Nrtta. When he finishes describing these movements, he proceeds to describe modes of presentation, and finally to fully composed dance pieces. Such pieces he calls Desi-Nrtya.

The seventh chapter is devoted entirely to Desi dance, which is referred to as Nrtta, its definition and the body movements (Angika) . Like Bharatha, Parsvadeva divides body parts into two: Anga and Upanga. He counts all the movements of the different parts of the body and the karanas and angaharas following Bharatha. But while describing them he does not discuss the Cari, Sthana, Karana or Angahara as in Bharatha tradition; but, he  follows the Desi tradition. He describes the forms of Desi-Nrtyas which, according to him, consist of Perana, Pekkhana, Gundali and Dandarasa. He then discusses the Sthanas and Caris needed for these Desi dances. He uses the term Pala for cari, a term not  found in any other text.

Next, the author describes the utplatti-karanas, also needed for the Desi dances, eleven Desi karanas with different Desi-sthanas, and five Bhramaris; and he then moves on to describing the Angas or features of Desi dances, calling them Desiya-Angani. Jaya, the later author, combines these Desi Angas and the Angas of Lasya into one category called Desi-Lasyas. After describing the Desi Angas, Parsvadeva describes the Angas or parts of Perana.

Finally, he discusses the instrumental music, drumming in particular, needed for four kinds of Desi dances, namely, Perana, Pekkhana, Gundali and Dandarasa. The requirements of a good dancer, her physical appearance and the way she should be dressed are also described towards the end of the seventh chapter.

Eighth chapter gives a brief description of Taala (rhythmic pattern and its varieties, both Marga and Desi.

Ninth chapter, titled as Vada nirnaya (judgment of elocution contest). It is a unique and a unusual topic dealt extensively. It discusses the sitting arrangements, the qualifications of the audience, the poets, the singers, the dancers, the qualities and faults of a singer, drummers and their qualities and faults and those of the dancers of each type of Desi dance. The author warns against making dance and music subjects of gambling matches and ends the text by saying that music  leads to Moksha or liberation.

 [Ref: The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition by Mandakranta Bose; The Shaping of an Ideal Carnatic Musician Through Sādhana  By Dr. Pantula Rama; and Sri Parsvadeva’s Sangitasamayasara Text with English Translation and Commentary by Dr. M. VijaylakshmiProf. O C Ganguly in his monumental work Raga and Ragini (Nalanda Books, 1935)]


Continued in Next Part

Lakshana Granthas –Continued


Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Music, Sangita


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Bhakthi Sutras of Narada

The concept of Bhakthi has its origins in the Rig Veda, which preaches strong faith and devotion in God. It calls upon the devotees to establish a relationship with  each Deva-Agni , Indra, Varuna and others , as one would do with a son , friend, father, mother etc. There is a faith that the Devas would in turn communicate with the men and women and fulfill their desires.  “Instill in us a wholesome happy mind with goodwill and understanding. Then we shall ever delight in your friendship like cows who gladly rejoice in the meadows green.”

Rig Veda primarily follows Saguno _pasana. The Supreme Being in Rig Veda is the abode of all auspicious qualities. The Ultimate Supreme Reality is described (though He is beyond description) as Sat_Chit_Ananda. He is the one who created the world and sustained it. He is the Omniscient and the original cause of the world(tasyedu viva bhuvanadhi mrudani).He manifests himself as the world (visvarupaha).He is omniscient, compassionate and easily accessible to devotees (Niyanta sunrutanam). Rig Veda firmly believes in grace of God and preaches that a virtuous life in this world and the progression to Amrutatva , immortality, is possible only with complete surrender to God and with the grace of God. The seeds of the Bhakthi movement and the attitude of complete surrender to the Divine Will are in Rig Veda

The Vedic approach to worship led in due course to the path of devotion which revolved round the loving adoration of the Divine as the Supreme Person (Uttama Purusha) the infinitely superior Lord (Isha, Ishvara). Bhakthi here signified both devotion and most elevated pure love for God. The term Bhakthi, some say, is derived from its root Bhaj, meaning to participate or to partake. Bhakthi is essentially participation with the Divine.

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Bhakthi Yoga, as a clearly delineated path, did not seem to flourish until the time of Svethashvatara Upanishad (c. older to sixth century BCE) which mentions Bhakthi and Sharanagathi (surrender) as modes of worship of the Ultimate in the form of Shiva (6.23 and 6.280). In Svethasvatara Upanishad,  man is called upon to have Bhakthi in the divine, to resort to him who is the shelter to all.

Later, the Bhagavad Gita accorded prominent position to the path of Bhakthi. Here Bhakthi Yoga emerged as a formal spiritual path and declared Bhakthi as the ultimate form of religious expression. Sri Krishna declares in the Gita(6.47) : he who loves Me with faith and whose inner self is absorbed in Me , worshiping Me  with love –  him I deem  to be united with Me in Yoga and is the highest of all.

yoginām api sarveṣāṃ mad-gatenāntar-ātmanā | śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṃ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ ||BG. 47||

The concept of Bhakthi fully matures and is given full exposition in Srimad Bhagavatha.  Here, Bhakthi is termed as trayi-vidya the wisdom of the three Vedas; the highest good of man

Mere hearing, remembering, thinking, and meditating on the Lord were not therefore considered adequate. It called for an unquestioning faith, devotion and absolute surrender to God with love. Bhagavan Ramanuja says in his commentary on the Sutras in Athatho Brahma Jignyasa, Lord himself helps those who are constantly attached to Him, worship Him with love and surrender to him in devotion, He draws them to Him because such devotees are very dear to Him.

Bhakthi is seen as a series of   earnest efforts beginning with worship and ending in a supreme intensity of love for the Ishwara.”one great advantage of Bhakthi is that it is the easiest and most natural way to reach the Divine; its greatest disadvantage is that its lower forms oftentimes degenerate into hideous fanaticism”  Says Swami Vivekananda ”But the danger exists only in the lower stages of Bhakthi which is the preparatory (Gauni). When Bhakthi ripens and passes into the Supreme (Para) there is no more fear of these hideous manifestations of fanaticism. The soul overpowered by Bhakthi is too near to the Love of God to be affected by diffusion of hatred”.

Swami Maharaj says, there is not much difference between Bhakthi and Jnana (knowledge); and in the end they converge. The great preceptors Bhakthi Sri Ramanuja and Sri Yamunacharya amply demonstrated that the path of devotion need not be mindless and that Jnana and Bhakthi complement each other, fully.



While talking about Rasa, we may take a look at the discussions on Bhakthi Rasa, as in Sanskrit Kavya.

Natyashastra mentions eight Rasas (not nine). These Rasas were basically related to dramatic performance; and Bhakthi was not one of those. Thereafter, Udbhata (9th century) introduced Shantha Rasa. After prolonged debates spread over several texts across two centuries Shantha was accepted as an addition to the original eight.

But, it was Abhinavagupta (11th century) who established Shantha Rasa as the Sthayi-bhava the basic and the abiding or the enduring Rasa form which all Rasas emerge and into which they all recede. His stand was: one cannot be perpetually angry or ferocious or sad or exited or erotic, at all the time. These eight other Rasas are the passing waves of emotions, the colors of life. But, Shantha, tranquility, is the essential nature of man; and it is its disturbance or its variations that give rise to shades of other emotions. And, when each of that passes over, it again subsides in the Shantha Rasa that ever prevails.

During the times of by Abhinavagupta and Dhanajaya, Bhakthi and Priti were referred to as Bhavas (dispositions or attitudes); but, not as Rasas. Even the later scholars like Dandin, Bhanudatta and Jagannatha Pandita continued to treat Bhakthi as a Bhava.

[Later, each system of Philosophy or of Poetics (Kavya-shastra) applied its own norms to interpret the Rasa-doctrine (Rasa Siddantha) ; and in due course several Rasa theories came up. Many other sentiments, such as Sneha, Vatsalya; or states of mind (say even Karpanya – wretchedness) were reckoned as Rasa. With that, Rasas were as many as you one could identify or craft (not just nine).]

It was however the Gaudiya School of Vaishnavas that treated Bhakthi as a Rasa. Rupa Goswami in his Bhakthi-Rasa-amrita–Sindhu; and the Advatin Madhusudana Sarasvathi in his Bhagavad-Bhakthi Rasayana asserted that Bhakthi is indeed the very fundamental Rasa. Just as Abhinavagupta treated Shantha as the Sthayi Rasa, the Vaishnava Scholars treated Bhakthi as the Sthayi, the most important and the abiding Rasa.

Their texts described twelve forms of Bhakthi Rasas – nine of the original and three new ones. Instead of calling each Rasa by its original name, they inserted Bhakthi element into each, such as: Shantha-Bhakthi-Rasa, Vira-Bhakthi-Rasa, Karuna-Bhakthi-Rasa and so on. They tried to establish that Bhakthi was not one among the many Rasas; but, it was the fundamental Rasa, the other Rasa being only the varied forms of it. The devotee may assume any attitude of devotion like a child, mother, master, Guru or even an intimate fiend. It was said “Bhakthi encompasses all the Nava-rasas”.

Bhakthi, they said, is the Sthayi (abiding) Rasa; and it is the original form of Parama-Prema (highest form of Love) as described in Narada Bhakthi Sutra. What constitutes this Love is its essence of Maduhrya (sweetness) and Ujjvalata (radiance).

Although, an element of individualized love is involved in Bhakthi, it is not confined to worship of a chosen deity (ista Devatha). The Vedanta Schools treat Bhakthi as a companion of Jnana in pursuit of the Brahman. They hold that Bhakthi guides both the Nirguna and the Saguna traditions. Just as Ananda is the ultimate bliss transcending the subject-object limitation, Bhakthi in its pristine form is free from the limitations of ‘ego centric predicament’ of mind. And, both are not to be treated as mere Rasas.

Bhakthi is that total pure unconditional love, accepting everything in absolute faith (Prapatthi).

Now, all Schools generally agree that Bhakthi should not be confined to theistic pursuits alone; it pervades and motivates all aspects human persuasions including studies, arts and literature. In the field of art, it would be better if the plethora of Rasa-theories is set aside; because, the purpose of Art, the practice of Bhakthi and the goal of Moksha are intertwined.

Therefore, it is said, it is not appropriate (an-auchitya) to narrow down Bhakthi to a mere Rasa which is only a partial aspect. Bhakthi is much larger; and it is prime mover of all meaningful pursuits in life.]

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The ideal of devotion and establishing a close and a dear relationship with the God became the theme of a whole cultural movement and came to be known as Bhakthi Marga the path of devotion. Bhakthi became one of the constant themes of our sages. This movement flourished in the period 800 to 1100 AD.It advocated surrender to the will of God, dedication, worship, service and absorption in God. It was clearly the way of the heart and not much of the intellect.

Two aphoristic works in Sanskrit codifying the features and recommendations of the Bhakthi Marga viz. Bhakthi Sutra of Narada and the Bhakthi Sutra of Shandilya were among the significant products of these times.

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Narada is a name that occurs very often in the ancient texts. Down the several centuries, there have been many scholars who went by the name of Narada.

:- To start with, the SarvapAnukramika (a sort of Index of Vedic personalities) said to have been  compiled by Katyayana describes Narada as a Rishi who was the descendent of sage Kanva and as the author of several Riks in Rig-Veda. It is said; the mantra sukhaya nividata was revealed to Narada and to another Rishi Parvata. He was the founder of a long line of distinguished scholars, all of whom adopted the name Narada.

:-There is a mention of a Narada Atharva Veda too (5.19.9:12.4.16).

The Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.2) mentions that Narada was well versed in Vako-vakya (Logic or Nyaya?) .

The Chandogya Upanishad, under Bhumavidya, refers to Narada as a disciple of the sublime quartet of Sanath kumaras.

:- Narada and Sama Veda have a close relationship. Naradiya Shiksha, a treatise on Music, which deals mainly with the musical notes and the pronunciation of the words in the Vedic language, is ascribed to a Narada. Some believe that Naradiya Shiksha might pre-date Bharatha’s Natyashastra (second century BCE) by several centuries. Naradiya Shiksha is a work of seminal importance in Indian Music. It redefined the concepts and terms of the Sama Gana; recast the descending order of the Sama scales as it did not offer much scope for flexibility and elaboration  in music; and , restructured the music notes (Svara)  into the natural ascending order as we know today. We all owe a debt of deep gratitude to this Narada.

:- In the Sabha-parva of Mahabharata, a sage named Narada appears as an expert in Nyaya Shastra. He was said to be skillful in distinguishing unity and plurality; conjunction and co-existence; genus and species etc. He had mastered the art and science of deciding questions through evidence (Pramana)

:- Nārada-smti (100 BC – 400 CE), a text of the Nyaya-shastra, ascribed to a Narada, is hailed as  the “juridical text par excellence”.  It is the only Dharma-śāstra text which deals solely with juridical matters. This Narada is also credited with another text: Narada Pancha ratra.

:- Another well-known text on Music, Sangita Makaranda (7th -9th century) is ascribed to Narada. It is an interesting work which brings in philosophical, Tantric and religious interpretations into Desi Music. It also introduces the concept of associating sets of Music notes (Grama) with seasons (Rtu) in the year ; as also with the hour of the day. For instance; Sangita Makaranda associates Hemanta (winter) with Shadja Grama; Grishma (summer) with Madhyama Grama; and, Varsha (rains) with Gandharva Grama. As regards the time of the day for rendering the Gramas, Narada allots forenoon to Shadja; midday to Madhyama; and afternoon to Gandharva Grama.

:- In several Puranas, Narada is a very popular and an endearing character , though a bit too clever and ever busy in igniting disputes. He is described as the Manasa-putra (born out of the will) of Brahma. He is well versed in traditional learning and in Music (Samgita shastra). He is depicted invariably carrying a Veena and singing the praise of Lord Hari, Vishnu. He is revered as the propagator of Bhakthi-marga , the path of devotion.

:- Narada in the Puranas is the guide and mentor of young devotees like Dhruva and Prahlada.

:- Srimad Bhagavatha narrates the life of Narada in detail (1.5, 23-31; 1.6.5-36).

 :- The Matsya Purana (dated around second century AD) reckons Narada as one among the eighteen ancient Master architects (vastu-shatropadeshkaha) : Brighu, Atri, Vashista, Vishwakarma, Brahma, Maya, Narada, Nagnajit, Visalaksa, Purandara, Kumara, Nanditha, Shaunaka, Garga, Vasudeva, Aniruddha, Shuka and Brihaspathi.

:- There is also a Narada Purana said to have been recited by Narada himself. It deals with a vast range of subjects such as, origin of the universe, , training of the mantras, worship rituals and tales related to various incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

:- It was Sage Narada who urged Valmiki to script the epic Ramayana.

He also inspired the Rishi Vyasa to write Mahabharata.

Narada muni instructing Vyasa

:- In Ramayana , there is a mention of another Narada . It is said; 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.VI .92.10). Tumbura sang in divine Taana (divya-taaneshu).

: and, again , in Mahabharata , the sage Narada imparts instructions, delivers discourses to Yuddhishtra, the eldest of the five Pandavas


It is obvious that all these Narada-s do not refer to a single individual. There might have been many  more persons , over the centuries, all  sharing the name of Narada,.

The Narada, to whom the text Bhakthi Sutras of Narada is ascribed, could not have been anyone of the above Naradas. The text belongs to around 11th century. An ardent devotee or an admirer of the venerable sage might have published his work under the name of Narada, as an act of devotion and submission.


Narada Bhakthi Sutra is a brief work of 84 Sutras. Its language is simple, beautiful and direct . It claims to be a collection of the sayings of the sage Narada. The main subject of the text is the practice of pure devotion. Narada Bhakthi Sutra predates Shandilyas Bhakthi Sutras, another treatise on the subject of Bhakthi which appeared around the same time. While talking of Bhakthi Sutras it is customary to mention both the texts and compare their treatment of the subject

Narada’s is a simple and a direct presentation addressed to the practitioners; while Shandilya’s work is in the nature of philosophical treatise and is addressed to the scholarly. It is in terse language, containing arguments and counter arguments. Shandilya’s approach is intellectual; Narada approach is through the heart and humility of a devotee. Shandilya is more into philosophy and metaphysics of devotion.

Narada ignores all those philosophical arguments and plunges straight into the practical aspects. Apart from defining devotion and describing its forms, he classifies various types of Bhakthi, the stages of development and the process required to achieve the state of pure devotion. He also quotes from Vedas in support.   He gives various suggestions and hints useful for practice. He warns against things to be avoided while practicing. Finally, he explains the different forms of adoration (attachment) to the Supreme Person, the nature of selfless love, and the ideal state of a liberated one living in the presence of God

The following are broadly the subjects dealt in the Narada Bhakthi Sutras and its views thereon. They are presented in summarized form:

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The objective of human life is God realization. God exists in everyone’s heart as the innermost self (su .2sā tvasmin para-premarūpā 2 – 1.02

He dislike egotism and hypocrisy. He appreciates love and humility (su.27) īśvarasyā-apya-abhimānad-veitvāt dainya priyatvāt ca 27 – 2.03

When devotees sincerely love God and adore Him, He receives the adulation with grace and blesses them. He is full of love (Su.37, 38, 40, 80). The true nature of pure love of God is beyond description. But this does not restrict God from revealing it to those who are qualified. When once you realize God; it is the fulfillment of your existence and being.

loke’pi bhagavad-gua-śravaa-kīrtanāt 37-3.04 mukhyatastu mahat kpayaiva  bhagavat kpāleśād vā 38 – 3.05 mahat sagastu durlabho ‘gamyo ‘moghaśca 39 – 3.06 labhyate ‘pi tatkpayaiva 40 – 3.07

sakīrtyamāna śīghra mevā avirbhavatya nubhāvayati bhaktān 80 – 5.14

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The easiest (su.58) and the best instrument of God realization is Bhakthi (Su. 25, 26, 30, 59, 60). It is superior to Jnana (knowledge), Yoga (meditation), Karma (rituals) and other spiritual practices. In fact, Bhakthi is the summation of all such practices. Bhakthi is the embodiment of peace and supreme ecstasy.

sā tu karma-jñāna-yogebhyo’pyadhikatarā 25 – 2.01 phala-rūpattvāt 26

svaya phala-rūpateti brahma-kumāra 30 – 2.06

pramāāntarasyānapekatvāt svaya pramāatvāt 59 – 4.09 śāntirūpāt paramān-andarūpācca 60 – 4.10

Bhakthi is complete in itself. It is not dependent on anyone or anything for nourishment. Bhakthi is independent of the paths of knowledge and other modes. Bhakthi is its own fruit (su.30). Bhakthi is the most precious of all possessions.

Once pure love is obtained, the person looks only at lord, hears only about Him, speaks only of Him and thinks only of Him.

Bhakthi is classified into Para_bhakthi and Apara Bhakthi. The latter is sub-classified as Gauni_bhakthi and Mukhya-bhakthi. These are seen as stepping stones to Para_bhakthi (Su.57).

uttara smāduttarasmāt pūrva pūrvā śreyāya bhavati 57 – 4.07

Para_bhakthi is the aim while Apara_bhakthi is the means to it.



It has two stages, Gauni and Mukhya (Prema).


This is at a lower stage and is easier. This can be practiced according to GunasSattva, Rajas and Tamas (su.56).It arouses the natural love that resides in ones heart and directs it towards the Lord. It needs to be practiced and honed regularly (su.58-60).It gradually leads to peace and Mukhya_bhakthi.

gauī tridhā guabhedād ārtādibhedād vā 56 – 4.06

anya māt saulabha bhaktau 58 – 4.08 pramāṇ-āntarasyā-anapekatvāt svaya pramāatvāt 59 – 4.09 śāntirūpāt paramā-ananda-rūpācca 60 – 4.10


This is also called Prema_bhakthi or Ekantha_bhakthi. This is a step away from Para_bhakthi. The devotee here is experiencing joy but unable to express it; like a dumb person eating a tasty dish (su.51-52).

anirvacanīya prema-svarūpam 51 – 4.01 mūkā-asvādanavat 52 – 4.02।

It finds expression only in advanced practitioners (su.53). The emotions, thoughts, words and actions of this fortunate person are beyond description in words. His experience is beyond the three Gunas. Devoid of desires and attachments, he exudes love (su. 54, 56).

prakāśate kvāpi pātre 53- 4.03 guarahita kāmanā-rahita pratikaa-vardhamāna avicchinna sūkmatara anubhava-rūpam 54 – 4.04 tat-prāpya tadevā-avalokati tadeva śṛṇoti tadeva bhāayati tadeva cintayati 55 – 4.05 gauī tridhā gua-bhedād ārtādibhedād vā 56 – 4.06

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This is an important part of Narada’s Bhakthi Sutras. Various instructions, suggestions and hints on the practice of devotion are given in the text.

The Sutra suggests that practitioners must pay greater attention to devotional scriptures, study them and reflect on them. One should not needlessly get into argument with others over devotional texts (Su.74-76).

vādo nāvalambya 74 – 5.08 bāhulyā-avakāśatvād aniyatattvācca 75 -5.09bhakti-śāstrāi mananīyāni tad udbodha-karmāi karaīyāni 76 – 5.19।

Give up activities that come in the way of Sadhana; and perform the rest as a service to the Lord (su. 8-11).

nirodhastu loka-veda-vyāpāranyāsa 8- 1.08 tasmin-nananyatā tad-virodh-iūdāsīnatā ca 9- 1.09 anyā-aśrayāā tyāgonanyatā 10 – 1.10 lokavedeu tad anukūlā-acaraa tad virodh-iūdāsīnatā 11 – 1.11

Give up social customs and religious rituals that come in the way of Sadhana and focus purely on service to God with exclusive dedication (su.9).

tasmin-nananyatā tad virodhi-ūdāsīnatā ca 9 – 1.09

Body is the instrument of your Sadhana; protect it, take good care of it without undue attachment (su.14).

loko’pi tāvadeva bhojanādi vyāpāra-stvā śarīra dhāraā avadhi 14 – 1.14

Cultivate company of good persons. Strive; strive only for the association of pure devotees.  Be regular in your prayers and remembrance of God (su.35-42).

tattu viayatyāgāt sagatyāgāt ca 35 – 3.02 avyāvttabhajanāt 36 – 3.03 loke’pi bhagavad-guaśravaa kīrtanāt 37 – 3.04 mukhyatastu mahat -kpayaiva Bhagavat kpāleśād vā 38 – 3.05 mahat sagastu  durlabho’ agamyo’ amoghaśca 39 – 3.06 labhyate’pi tat kpayaiva 40 – 3.07 tasmin stajjane bhedābhāvāt 41 – 3.08 tadeva sādhyatā tadeva sādhyatām 42 – 3.09

Inculcate habits of: praying in solitude; detachment; surrendering the fruits of action to God etc. (su. 46-50).

kastarati kastarati māyām ya saga tyajati yo mahā-anubhāva sevate nirmamo bhavati 46 – 3.13 yo viviktasthāna sevate yo loka-bandham unmūlayati nistraiguyo bhavati yoga-kema tyajati 47 – 3.14 ya karmaphala tyajati karmāi sanyass-yati tato nir-dvandvo bhavati 48 – 3.15 yo vedānapi sanyasyati kevalam avicchinnā anurāga labhate 49 – 3.16 sa tarati sa tarati sa lokā astārayati 50 – 3.17

Keep away from wickedness and vulgar (su. 43-45, 63).

dus-saga sarvathaiva tyājya 43 – 3.10 kāma krodha moha smti bhraśa buddhi nāśa kāraatvāt 44 – 3.11 taragāyitā apīme sagāt samudrā -yante 45 – 3.12

Practice truth, non violence and such other virtues (su.77-79).

sukha-dukhe-cchālā-bhādityakte kāle pratī kyamāe kaā-ardhamapi vyartha na neyam 77 – 5.11 ahisā-asatya-śaucadayāstik-yādi caritrāi paripālanīyāni 78 – 5.12 sarvadā sarva-bhāvena niścintair-bhagavāneva bhajanīya 79 – 5.13

Bhakthi consists in offering ones every act to God and feeling extreme distress in forgetting Him.

Cultivate attachments in relation to God: attachment to the Lord’s qualities , attachment to His beauty, attachment to worshiping Him, attachment to remembering Him, attachment to serving Him, attachment to dealing with Him as a friend, attachment to surrendering one’s self completely to Him,   attachment to being absorbed in thoughts of Him,

Redirect your emotions like desire, anger, cravings and such towards God; just as the Gopis did and got rid of baser emotions . Else, you would be destroyed (su.64).

abhimāna-adambha-ādika tyājyam 64 – 4.14

Keep a watch on the constant conflict going on in your heart and mind. Do not get involved. Pray to god while you watch the internal play.

Never lose faith in God. Never let go your practice. Practice devotion without anxiety or expectation. Be always in the blissful presence of God, internally. Live as if he is with you at your every breath. Live for Him.

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ignites desire to listen to and praise the Lords name and His glory; to surrender the fruits of all work at the feet of the Lord; to experience a longing to be near Him (Su.16, 19).

pūjādi-vanurāga iti pārāśarya 16 – 1.1

nāradastu tad arpitākhil-ācāratā tad-vismaraṇe parama-vyākulateti । 19 – 1.19

Mercy of great souls or a small drop of the Lord’s mercy is important for progressing in this devotion (Su.38).

mukhyatastu mahat-kpayaiva Bhagavat-kpāleśād vā 38 – 3.05

Bhathi is intense love for God. When a devotee gets it, he hates none, loves all.

It is the manifestation the great bliss and joy that result from God realization. It is full of grace, joy and fulfillment. It is the sweetest and the noblest experience. Those who obtain it attain immortality and liberation (su.2, 3). It is the end of all desires (su.7).

sā tvasmin para-prema-rūpā 2 – 1.02 amta-svarūpā ca 3 – 1.03

sā na kāmayamānā nirodha-rūpatvāt 7 – 1.07

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He who attains Para_bhakthi, the liberated person, is ever in the presence of God and blissful. He is free from cravings and attachments. He is not affected by dualities of loss or gain. He is content for ever. He is full of love and free from hatred.

When he is awake he loves to listens to the words about God, he thinks of God and meets others devoted to God, shedding tears of joy (su.68).

kaṇṭhā-avarodharom-añcāśrubhi paraspara alapamānā pāvayanti kulāni pthivī ca 68 – 5.02

When he is engaged in worldly or religious activities to help, guide others; he does it with detachment as a service to God and is never away from presence of God (su.4-6, 55, 61, 32, 68).

yallabdhvā pumān siddho bhavati amto bhavati tpto bhavati 4 – 1.04 yatprāpya na kiñcid vāñchati na śocati na dveṣṭi na ramate notsāhī bhavati 5 – 1.05 yajjñātvā matto bhavati stabdho bhavati ātmārāmo bhavati 6 – 1.06

tatprāpya tadevāvalokati tadeva śṛṇoti tadeva bhāayati tadeva cintayati 55 – 4.05

lokahānau cintā na kāryā niveditā-atmaloka-vedatvāt 61 – 4.11

na tena rājā paritoa kucchāntirvā 32 – 2.08

kaṇṭhā-avarodharom-añcāśrubhi paraspara lapamānā pāvayanti kulāni pthivī ca 68 – 5.02

He is beyond the pale of the society and its restrictions. He does not differentiate his fellow beings on the basis of caste or wealth or high and low. He sees the presence of God in all beings (su.72).

nāsti teu jāti-vidyā-rūpa-kula-dhana-kriyādi bheda 72 – 5.06

The place he resides is holy. Gods dance with joy when he is happy (su.69-71).

tīrthī-kurvanti tīrthāni sukarmī kurvanti karmāi sacchāstrī-kurvanti śāstrāi 69 – 5.03 tanmayā 70 – 5.04 modante pitaro ntyanti devatā sanāthā ceya bhūrbhavati 71 – 5.05

The last verse (su.84) of the text gives the message that:

“Anyone who trusts these instructions spoken by Narada and is convinced by them will be blessed with devotion and attain the dearest Lord. Yes, he will attain the dearest Lord, the highest and the most sublime good.”

ya ida nāradaprokta śivānuśāsana viśvasiti śraddhate sa bhaktimān / bhavati sa preṣṭa labhate sa preṣṭa labhate 84 – 5.18

offering Diya


Narads Bhakthi sutras by Swami Harshananda

Narada’s Aphorisms on Bhakti. Y. Subramanya Sharma


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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Indian Philosophy


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