Sangeet Marga
Path to Moksha

According to the Hindu view of creation, it was sound and not light that appeared first. In Vedic parlance it is called Nada Brahma or the Sound Celestial. Vedic rishis believed that the evolution of the Brahmand or universe was caused as a result of Bindu Vsphot or an atomic explosion, that produced infinite waves of sound, which represent cosmic ascent and expansion.

The sound was a monosyllable: Om. Since Om is related to the beginning of the universe, Hindus consider it the most sacred syllable with which Vedic mantras commence. Om is the principal name of the Supreme Being. It refers to all that it manifest and beyond. This is evident in the Bhagvad Gita where Lord Krishna says: "I am the syllable Om in all the veda and sound in ether."

According to Vedic literature music originated from nada or sound, which is the product of akash or ether: There are two types of sound. The ahat or struck sound is audible whereas the anahata or unstruck sound is inaudible. Sound originates in living beings from the friction between air – pran vayu or vital breath and agni or heat energy (will power). It evolves first in a causal forms as anahata and then in the gross form of sound emanates from the vocal chord and is sweet and soothing, it is called snageetam or music. The anahata nada is most significant for yogis who have reached the highest level of consciousness. It is the internal sound they hear, after prolonged meditation and ardous yogic discipline. Ordinary human beings are engaged with the ahat nada.

Indian musical traditions trace the origin of music to the Sama Veda. It is a compendium of melodies, chants and rules required for the recitation of sacred hymns. It serves as a textbook for priests officiating at Soma sacrifices. Lord Krishna in the Gita identifies himself with the Sama Veda : "Of all the Vdas, I am the Sama Veda". Vedic chants are set in a musical pattern, collectively known as Samgan. To this day, the chants are in three accented musical patterns called swaras, precursor of the present seven-note musical system.

Indra’s musicians in Swargalok excelled in various forms of this art. The apasaras were the dancers; the kinnaras were the instrumentalists and the gandharvas, celestial singers. In Hindu mythology, each God is associated and identified with a particular musical instrument or some aspect of music. For example : Shiva – damaru, Vishnu – shankh, Saraswati – veena, Ganesha – mridang, Krishna – flute and Narad – ektara. Shiva is believed to be the originator of five principal ragas : Bhairav, Shri, Vasant, Pancham, and Megh. Parvati, his consort, contributed the sixth, Natnarayana.

Music came to be divided into two categories: Marga or Vedic sangeet, the sacred music which pleased the gods and Desi or Laukik, the profane or popular music serving human beings. Marga sangeet was created by the gods. It liberates the soul.

Natya Shastra, the first comprehensive treatise on Indian musical arts, is considered to be the fifth Veda. According to Bharata, its author, the gods urged Brahma to compose a new Veda which would contain the teachings of all the scriptures. So Brahma, taking the recitation from the Rig Veda, songs from the Sama Veda, histrionic representation from the Yajur Veda and the sentiments from the Atharva Veda, created the new Veda. Brahma taught this Veda to Bharata, who in turn instructed his hundred sons who became authorities on music, dance, and drama.

Sage yajnavalkya in his smriti shows the way to liberation : "The person well-versed in veena vadana and possessing deep knowledge of shruti, jati and tala of music, very easily obtains moksha.

[The Speaking Tree 18/6/02] 

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