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Principles of Hindustani Music

The Gandharva Veda is a Sanskrit scripture describing the theory of music and its applications in not just musical form and systems but also in physics, medicine and magic. It is said that there are two types of sound: Aahat (struck/audible) and Anahat (unstruck/inaudible). The inaudible sound is said to be the principle of all manifestation, the basis of all existence.


There are three main 'Saptak' which resemble to the 'Octaves' in Western Music except they characterize total seven notes or 'swaras' instead of eight. These are - Low (mandra), Medium (madhya) and High (tara). Each octave resonates with a certain part of the body, low octave in the heart, medium octave in the throat and high octave in the head.

The rhythmic organization is based on rhythmic patterns called tala. The melodic foundations are called ragas. One possible classification of ragas is into "melodic modes" or "parent scales", known as thaats, under which most ragas can be classified based on the notes they use.

Thaats may consist of up to seven scale degrees, or swara. Hindustani musicians name these pitches using a system called Sargam, the equivalent of the Western movable do solfege:

  • Sa (ṣaḍja षड्ज) = Do

  • Re (Rishabh ऋषभ) = Re

  • Ga (Gandhara गान्धार) = Mi

  • Ma (Madhyama (music) मध्यम) = Fa

  • Pa (Pancham पञ्चम) = So

  • Dha (Dhaivat धैवत) = La

  • Ni (Nishad निषाद) = Ti

  • Sa (ṣaḍja षड्ज) = Do

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