TEMPLE MUSIC

“Until about a thousand years ago there was no such thing as ‘concerts’ in the Indian tradition. There was no ‘performance’ of music or dance or singing.

Music was confined to the temples for sacred ceremonies and rituals. They were not entertainment forms of music, but what I call very potent sound formulas. Such formulas are like different elements; you put them together and you get a certain effect. They were used in ancient times to bring tranquillity and peace to agitated minds and tired bodies, as well as to change and transform the listener.

On the one hand it had a therapeutic effect; to heal disease, to heal sickness. On the other hand its aim was to focus the attention of people who came to the temple – towards one-pointedness. When we are centred and one-pointed, our lives take on a different meaning. When, on the other hand, our minds are scattered, the way we experience things is also influenced. So in order to achieve that focus, music was instrumental.

From the beginning of the eleventh century, we see a turn in the history of India. Many foreign invaders came and established their empires there: the Persians, the Moguls, and so on. They liked the music and art so much that they invited the musicians to their courts, to appreciate and honour them.

Therefore something very significant happened at that time. The musicians and the music, which so far had only been played at the temple, were now made available to everyone from the king to the common people. People who did not belong to the temples could now enjoy the music.

However, this had one disadvantage. Previously, the artist or the musician did not have to prove anything. In the temple you play as part of a ceremony. There is a deity, there is a God sitting there and you don’t have to prove anything, because supposedly God knows everything – all the music, and all the variations, all the rhythms.

But the king doesn’t know. You have to prove it to the king. So the ego comes along. Now the egos began to build up as the art was developing. They became very intellectual. A lot of music started to come from the left brain, and as a result the music took another shape.

As the inner feelings change so does the art – expression changes.

From that point onwards there are two branches in music. One became the entertainment branch or what I call deshi. The other is called margi ( marga means a path) when we use the music as a path to evolve ourselves.

I had the honour of studying in both schools…”

Roop Verma, interviewed by Swami Janakananda; published in Bindu no 10

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