The oldest corpus of texts emerging from the Indian Subcontinent and one of the most significant scriptures of Hinduism- The Vedas, are traced to parent Indian Classical Music. Today any piece of Indian Classical Music belongs to either one of its two forms- Carnatic or Hindustani i.e. South Indian or North Indian. However, it isn’t until one comes across the 13th-14th century compositions and available resources that a definite divergence is visible.
The Vedas comprise of four volumes—Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. The hymns and chants of the Rig Veda with an addition of musical notes form the Sama Veda which is considered the source of the Indian Classical Music. Since all art forms were believed to have originated from the gods, therefore, the central theme of both forms of music was ‘divine’. In fact, the correlation between music and worship is also prominent in Sufi music.
Sufi musicians regarded music as a means to reach out to Allah. The last text to be mentioned by both Carnatic and Hindustani is the Sangita Ratnakara from the 13th century. It reports an in surge of Islamic culture in the Indian subcontinent and is deduced to mark the divergence between the two classical forms of Indian music. With the Mughal invasion in the Indian subcontinent, north India saw extensive cultural exchange which is now recognized as tradition quite obliviously in many regions. The influence of this cultural exchange on Indian classical music had two impacts. One was the synthesis of the Mughal and Indian classical music ideas in North India and second, the ensuing dissection of classical music into the Hindustani and Carnatic.
While both Carnatic and Hindustani music are founded on Raga (melody) and Tala (rhythmic cycle), Carnatic teaching is pivoted at composition while Hindustani trails vocal alongside instruments. The two significant compositions of Carnatic music are Varnam and Kriti. Dhrupad, Khyal, Tarana, Tappa, Thumri, Ghazal are popular compositions of Hindustani music.
Qawwali is a strand of Sufiana music and yet it is considered very much a part of Hindustani Music. Both Qawwali and Khyal (or Kheyal—meaning imagination in Arabic) owe their existence to the fusion of Islamic and North Indian music. Miyan Tansen, the royal musician of King Akbar’s court (16th century) is recognized to have codified the Dhrupad style of Hindustani classical music that he learnt from his teacher Swami Haridas. Two centuries before him, Hazrat Amir Khusrau invented the Qawwali by fusing Persian Melody and a Beat on a structure which resembles Dhrupad. Kheyal, too, originated from Dhrupad altering its nature and texture and thus spreading it from temples to courts. Khyal has been a subject of long standing debate as scholars are divided in their opinion of who the father of Khyal was. While one school of thought credits its creation to Amir Khusrau, it is Muhammad Shah’s court musician Sadarang’s compositions which share a greater similarity with Khyal.
Bharata’s Natyasastra (2nd to 4th AD), pertaining to Carnatic music, is the earliest treatise to extensively elaborate on the science of music and dance. Although it deals with music only partly, it states the fundamentals of music as comprising of Swara, Tala, and Pada. On the other hand, Narada’s Sangita Makarandha treatise (1100 CE) is the earliest text to bear resemblance with the rules of modern Hindustani music tracing its roots to the emergence of Dhrupad (Dhruva—fixed and Pada—text) and Dhamar. Narada’s treatise names and classifies the system before it was altered under the Persian influence.
The influence of Persian Music has layered Indian Classical Music in its diversity. Carnatic and Hindustani music demand independent reception while being bound to the same roots in philosophy, heritage and principles.