The music and dances of India developed a very rich variety on the foundations laid in the ancient times. The earliest traditions of Indian music can be traced back to the Vedas which prescribed the pitch and accent for the chanting of Vedic hymns.
The music of the Vedic chant survives to this day. The earliest known composition 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.
Over a thousand years later another major work composed was Matanga’s Brihaddesi. Indian music, both vocal and instrumental, developed with seven basic notes and five others. Besides providing patronage to musicians, many rulers themselves were accomplished musicians. Music also associated with the worship of gods and goddesses and in its perfection it has received the same devotion as worship.
Music during the Medieval Period:
Music was not a part of the original Islamic tradition but it developed under the influence of the Sufis and became a part of court life. Many new forms and instruments were developed. Amir Khusrau also invented some of the musical instruments. He was the originator in India of the early form of the popular musical style known as Qawwali/Khayal. One of the most important forms of Indian classical music is also believed to be his contribution. Baz Bahadur and his queen Rupamati in the sixteenth century were accomplished musicians.
The growth of Indian classical music has been a major force of India’s cultural unity. 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 in praise of Hindu deities and Muslim saints, was written by a seventeenth century ruler Ibrahim Adil Shah II. Both in vocal and instrumental music two main classical styles have evolved—Hindustani and Carnatic. These two styles have many things in common and each has a variety of forms. Besides classical music, Indian people have developed rich traditions of folk music.
Indian dance has also developed a rich classical tradition. It 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. Some styles of classical dance that are Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Bharat Natyam, Kathak and Manipuri. These styles have developed over a long period of time. Every region and area in the country has also developed rich traditions of folk dances. Both these art forms have been inspired by life and in turn have enriched life.