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History of Carnatic Music
Tuesday, 10 June , 2003, 10:42
Indian Music had its origin in the "Vedas" (4000 B.C - 1000 B.C ). Four in number, the Vedas are considered the most sacred texts which contain about a thousand hymns. All the four Vedas were passed down by oral tradition and it is remarkable that both the text and the rituals remain unchanged to this day.

The four Vedas are Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharvana Veda. The Yajur veda which mainly consists of sacrificial formulae, mentions the "Veena" as an accompaniment to vocal recitations during the sacrifices. By this time, the chants had evolved to two main notes with two accents forming the first concept of the Tetrachord (four notes).

The Sama veda laid the foundation for Indian Music. The origin of Indian Music can be traced back to this Veda. Three more notes were added to the original Tetrachord resulting in the first full scale of seven notes.

The long history of South Indian music can be divided into 3 periods :

The Ancient Period  The Medieval Period  The Modern Period

The Ancient period starts from the age of Sangam (a great confederation of poets and musicians) that is, approximately from the 20th century B.C. and stretches to the beginning of 3rd century A.D., followed by a Dark Period from 3rd century A.D. till the end of 6th century A.D. The Medieval period starts from the 7th century A.D., and ends with the close of the 15th century A.D. The Modern period begins from the 16th century A.D., and continues till today.

The Ancient Sangam Period
(20th Century B.C. to 3rd Century A.D.)
In the ancient period, we come to know of the existence of the Sangams during which Tamil with its three aspects of Literature, Music and Drama flourished. Some of the great works written during this period are:

1. Tholkappiam
2. Paripadal
3. Purananooru
4. Agananooru
5. Pathupattu
6. Thirukkural
7. Silappadikaram

The Medieval Period

To this period belongs the famous Kudumiyamalai Inscription found on the rock-face of a small hillock in Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu. This is an important musical inscription attributed to the Pallava King Mahendra Varman I. It gives brief Sancharams for seven ragas which are not in use today.

Age of Thevaram and Divya Prabhandham

This period may be called the Age of Thevaram and Divya Prabhandam. Thevaram is the name given to the sacred hymns composed by the three Saivite Saints generally known as Nayanmars. They are Thirunavukkarasar, Thirugnanasambandar and Sundaramoorthi Nayanar (popularly known as Appar, Sambandar and Sundarar respectively).

The Modern Period

The Evolution of Kriti

One of the greatest influences in the development of Karnatic music was that of the immortal bard, Purandara Dasa (1484-1564). He made great contributions to both Sacred and Art music. He is the most prolific of all the South Indian composers. He perfected a systematic approach to train students of Carnatic music which has since become a standard format. He composed the "Swaravali" (simple exercises based on the Scale), "Alankaras" (exercises based on the seven basic Talas) and "Gitams" (simple melodic compositions in praise of the various deities), songs in Kannada known as "Devarnamas". He was the creator of the musical form, "Kriti" which was later perfected by the great composer "Thyagaraja".

Age of Operas

Seventeenth century was a period of Vijayanagar Supremacy ; Thanjavur and Madurai came under the rule of Nayaks whose mother-tongue was Telugu.

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