The earliest traditions of Indian music can be traced back to the Vedas which prescribed pitch and accent for the chanting of Vedic hymns. The earliest known treatise of Indian music, dance and drama is as old as second century B.C. This is Bharata’s Natyashastra.

Much of the musical terminology used till today is derived from Bharata’s treatise. The concept of raga was discussed at great length in Matanga’s Brihaddesi. A 13th century work Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara mentions 264 ragas. Indian music, both vocal and instrumental, developed with seven basic notes and five others. A variety of string, wind and drum instruments were later developed. Many rulers themselves were well known musicians. We can see Samudragupta’s coin in which the King himself is shown playing on the Vina. Music was also associated with the worship of gods and goddesses.

In the medieval period music developed wider the influence of the sufis and became a part of court life. Amir Khusrau was the originator in India of the early form of the popular musical style known as Qawwali. Khayal, an important form of Indian Classical music is also believed to be his contribution. Baz Bahadur, The ruler of Malwa and his queen Rupmati introduced many new ragas. In medieval India Tansen was the Court musician of Akbar. His attainments in music have become a legend.

Most of the words and themes of the Indian classical music have been derived from Hindu mythology but some of the greatest masters of this music have been Muslims. The Kitab-i-Nauras, a collection of songs is praise of Hindu deities and Muslim saints, which was written by a 17th century ruler Ibrahim Adil Shah II. Both in Vocal and instrumental music, there are two main classical styles—Hindustani and Carnatic. The famous figures in Carnatic music were Purandaradasa, Thyagaraja, Muthuswami, Dikshitar and Syamasastri. We have also developed rich traditions of folk music.


Indian dance has become the medium of expression of emotions, of telling a story and of Drama. The story of Indian dance can be seen in the temple sculptures of ancient and medieval times. The popular image of Shiva in the form of Natraja symbolizes the influence of dance form on the life of the Indian people. Some Styles of Classical dance are – Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Bharat Natyam, Kathak and Manipuri. While at work and during their leisure hours, they have danced, sung and played music.

Some of the great names in Indian science, mathematics, medicine and surgery are Aryabhata, Brahmagupta and Sushruta. The comparative backwardness of Indian science and technology grew more acute as science and technology made rapid progress is the West. In philosophy also, India made significant advances in ancient and medieval times. Many distinct schools of philosophy grew both idealist and materialist.