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Sangita Ratnakara

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Similar  Brihaddeshi, Natya Shastra, Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya, Manasollasa, Yājñavalkya Smṛti

Introduction to nrityadhyaya of sangita ratnakara its comparison with natyashastra pera

The Sangita-Ratnakara of Sharngadeva (1210–1247) is one of the most important Sanskrit musicological texts from India, which both Hindustani music and Carnatic music regard as a definitive text.


The text is also known as Saptadhyayi as it is divided into seven chapters. The first six chapters, Svaragatadhyaya, Ragavivekadhyaya, Prakirnakadhyaya, Prabandhadhyaya, Taladhyaya and Vadyadhyaya deal with the various aspects of music and musical instruments while the last chapter Nartanadhyaya deals with dance. The medieval era text is one of the most complete historic Hindu treatises on the structure, technique and reasoning behind ragas (chapter 2) and talas (chapter 5) that has survived into the modern era.

The significant commentaries on the text include the Sangitasudhakara of Simhabhupala (c.1330) and the Kalanidhi of Kallinatha (c.1430).

This work was written by Śārńgadēva in the end of thirteenth century. The author was attached to the court of King Singhaņa of the Yādava dynasty whose capital was Devagiri, Maharashtra.

Chapter summaries

As the title indicates the work deals with the subject of Sańgīta. Sańgīta is defined as a composite art consisting of Gīta (melodic forms), Vādya (forms for drumming) and Nŗtta (dance literally movements of the limbs of the body). Sańgīta is of two kinds. Mārga-sańgīta and Deśī-sańgīta. Mārga-sańgīta is nothing but the Nāţya (Drama) performed by Bharata and his disciples. This performance of Bharata also consists of Gīta, Vādya and Nŗtta. Deśī-sańgīta represented a tradition different from Mārga and it varied from region to region.

Śārńgadēva's aim in this work is to describe primarily the Deśī-sańgīta. The aspects of Mārga-sańgīta are also described to some extent.

The work is divided into seven chapters covering the aspects Gīta, Vādya and Nŗtta. The seven chapters are:

  1. Svaragatādhyāya
  2. Rāgavivekādhyāya
  3. Prakīrņakādhyāya
  4. Prabandhādhyāya
  5. Tālādhyāya
  6. Vādyādhyāya
  7. Nartanādhyāya

Chapter 1: Svaragatādhyaya

The Svaragatādhyaya is further divided into eight prakaraņa-s or sections.


The author commences with an account of his genealogy i.e., about his family and the Kingdom where they lived. The author also declares that among the three constituents of Sańgīta, Gīta is primary and the most important. Hence the treatment of Gīta is taken up by him first. The author also gives a list of ancient writers on music and related arts from whose work he has drawn out the essence and presented in Sańgītaratnākara. Some of them are Bharata, Kaśyapa, Matańga, Kōhala, Viśākhila, Dattila, Abhinavagupta, Sōmēśvara. After some verses extolling the greatness of Gīta, the author gives a list of topics to be dealt with in each chapter.

Piņḍōtpatti prakaraņa

This section describes the genesis of the human body from its conception to its growth. The reason for this information to be included is that, 'Nāda' is produced in the human body, hence the body has to be described. The physiological account of the human body is given next according to the Ayurveda system. This is followed by the indication of chakra-s, energy centres, based on the yogic school. By concentrating on some of these cakra-s one could attain great heights in music.


This prakaraņa describes how Nāda arises in the human body and how the Nāda manifesting in the three Sthāna-s or places in the human body (a) Hŗd (heart region), (b) Kaņţha (throat) and (c) Mūrdhā (head region) gives rise to Mandra, Madhya and Tāra varieties. In each Sthāna because of the presence of twenty-two Nāḍi-s, twenty-two Sruti-s are produced.

Śruti-s are units of tonal interval with which the interval of a Svara is measured. Hence the Svara-s are described next. After describing the intervals of the Śuddha-svara-s those of the Vikŗta-svara-s are given. Śuddha-svara-s conform to the arrangements of the seven svara-s of the Şaḍja-mūrcchanā of Śaḍjagrāma. The Vikŗta-svara-s differ from this arrangement. There are seven Śuddha and twelve Vikŗta-svara-s, as shown in the table.

The seven Svara-s are also associated with the songs uttered by the various birds and animals e.g. Şaḍja with the voice of peacock. The four kinds of roles that svaras play in a melodic structure, namely, Vādī, Samvādī, Vivādī and Anuvādī are described next. Finally the association of Svara-s with different Castes (Jāti), Colours (Varņa), Islands (Dvīpa), Seers (Ŗşi), Chanda (Metre), Aesthetic tastes (Rasa) are given.

Grāma, Mūrcchanā, Krama and Tāna

This prakaraņa deals with Grāma, Mūrcchanā, Krama and Tāna. Three Grāmas are described - Şaḍja-grāma, Madhyama-grāma and Gāndhāra-grāma. The names of the Seven Mūrcchanā-s in each Grāma are also given.

Among the tānas there are two kinds- Śuddha and Kūţa. Śuddha-tāna is a Mūrcchanā devoid of one or two svara-s. Kūţa-tāna-s are those varieties of Mūrcchanās in which the svaras occur in a disorderly way e.g., 's g r m p d n'. Those varieties in which svara-s are present in an order are called Krama-s.


Sādhāraņa is of two kinds (a) Svara-sādhāraņa (b) Jati-sādhāraņa. Sādhāraņa means ' being common to two or more elements'. When an extra svara occurs within the region between two svara-s then it is called sādhāraņa svara. Such svara-s are seen to occur in the region between Gāndhāra and Madhyama and between Nişāda and Şaḍja.

Jati-sādhāraņa deals with two jatis belonging to the same grāma and having the same amsa and that consequently share similar scale formation.


The sixth prakaraņa is on Varņa and Alańkāra. Varņa-s denote the different kinds of movements that a melodic line can take. There are four varņas—Sthāyi, Ārōhī, Avarōhī and Sañcārī.

Alańkāra-s are ornamental patterns of svara-s that decorate a melodic line. Alańkāra-s are classified under the four Varņa-s.

are described. In addition seven more Alańkāra are given.


The seventh prakaraņa is Jāti-prakaraņa in which the 'lakşaņa'-s or characteristics of eighteen Jāti-s are given. These eighteen Jāti-s are :

  1. Şāḍjī
  2. Ārşabhī
  3. Gāndhārī
  4. Madhyamā
  5. Pañcamī
  6. Dhaivatī
  7. Naişadī
  8. Şaḍjakaiśikī
  9. Şaḍjōdīcyavā
  10. Şaḍjamadhyamā
  11. Gāndhārōdīcyavā
  12. Raktagāndhāri
  13. Kaiśikī
  14. Madhyamōdīcyavā
  15. Kārmāravī
  16. Gāndhārapañcamī
  17. Āndhrī
  18. Nandayantī

Before the description of the individual jāti-s are furnished, the first seven are classified into `Śuddhā' and `Vikŗtā' and the remaining eleven as `Samsaragajā'. The characteristics or the lakşaņa-s that are used for a describing a Jāti are the same ten as mentioned in Bŗhaddēśī. i) Graha: the svara commencing the melody. ii) Amśa: the predominant svara that formed the tonic and also frequently occurred in the melody. iii) Tāra: the svara in the higher register up to which the melodic movement could ascend. iv) Mandra: the svara in the lower register up to which the melodic movement could descend. v) Nyāsa: the svara on which a song finally concludes. vi) Apanyāsa: the svara on which the section of the song can conclude. vii) Alpatva: the svara, which should be sparingly used or rendered weak. viii) Bahutva: svara, which is strong and frequently used. ix) Şāḍava: the svara, which could be omitted to render the jāti in six notes. x) Auḍuva: those two svara-s, which could be dropped to render the jati in five svara-s.

In addition three more are given. These are:

  1. Sanyāsa - the svara on which a portion within a section of a song concludes.
  2. Vinyāsa - the svara on which a melodic phrase especially underlying a word, concludes.
  3. Antaramārga - the special movement of the melody involving the Amśa and the Alpa svara-s taking place in the region between Graha and Nyāsa svara-s.

After the description of the Jāti-s the author gives the notation of a song based on one of the Amśa svara-s of the Jāti. A song for each of the eighteen Jāti-s is given.


The last prakaraņa is called the Gīti-prakaraņa. Although it is named thus it takes up the treatment of certain musical forms called Kapāla and Kambala first and then goes on to Gīti-s. The Kapāla songs are based on some derivatives of Jāti-s and they are made up of words describing the fierce form of Lord Śiva.

In the second part of this prakaraņa, the Gīti-s are described. Gīti is a kind of variation brought about through changes in the duration of certain element of a song. There are two kinds of Gīti. Pada-gīti: It relates to the text of the song and denotes the change in the duration of the syllables of the text in a song. Tāla-gīti: This relates to the change in the duration the Kriyā-s or actions of a tāla.

Chapter 2: Rāga-vivēka-adhyāya

The second chapter describes the Raga-s. The Rāga-s are divided into Mārga and Dēśī. Among the Mārgarāga-s there are six varieties—Grāmarāga, Uparāga, Rāga, Bhāşā, Vibhāşā and Antarabhāşā, The four kinds of desi rāgas are Rāgāńga, Bhāşāńga, Upāńga and Kriyāńga. Grāmarāgas resemble the Jāti-s closely and they are further classified on the basis of the different melodic styles characterising them. These styles are called "Gīti" and are of five kinds—Śuddhā, Bhinnā, Gauḍī, Sādhāraņī and Vēsarā. In all, there are thirty-three Grāmarāga-s. Uparāga-s and Rāga-s are closer to Grāmarāga-s.

Bhāşā-s, Vibhāşā-s and Antarabhāşā-s are derivatives of Grāmarāga-s and Uparāga-s and represent different tunes of the parent Rāga. Rāgāńgarāga-s are derivatives of Grāmarāga-s and Bhāşāńga-s are derivatives of Bhāşā-s. Kriyāńga-s are certain melodic themes employed in dramatic performances portraying different kinds of emotions.

In this chapter Śārńgadēva deals primarily with the Dēśīrāga-s. In addition he describes the parent Bhāşā and the source Grāmarāga-s. Under each Grāmarāga he gives in notation a song called Ākşiptikā based on that Rāga.

Chapter 3: Prakīrņaka-adhyāya

The third chapter deals with a variety of topics. They are—a) The characteristics Vāggēyakāra-s. Vāggēyakāra-s are composers of both the melody and text of a song. b) Guņa-Dōşa: The characteristics of different kinds of Voice; Merits and Demerits of Men singer (Gāyana), Lady singer (Gāyanī), Śabda and Śarīra. c) Gamaka: There are fifteen kinds of Gamaka-s, namely the kinds of shake or oscillations that svaras can be endowed with. d) Sthāya: There are ninety-six kinds of Sthāya-s, which represent the feelings or effects associated with rāga phrases. e) Ālapti.: There are two kinds of Ālapti.

  1. Rāga-ālapti—the non-rhythmic melodic structure preceding a composition similar to the alapana of present times.
  2. Rūpakālapti- Melodic improvisation done with the song text as the base (similar to a 'Nerval')

Chapter 4: Prabandha-adhyāya

Prabandha represents a collection of musical forms described in terms of two aspects, namely, 'Dhātu' and 'Ańga". Dhātu denotes the different sections, which are, at a maximum, five:

  1. Udgrāha
  2. Mēlāpaka
  3. Dhruva
  4. Ābhōga
  5. Antara.

Ańga-s are six: and denote the content of a song.

  1. Svara
  2. Biruda
  3. Tēnaka
  4. Pāţa
  5. Pada
  6. Tāla

These cover the three aspects of Music - Melody, Tāla and the text.

Prabandha-s are divided into three classes:

  1. Sūḍa
  2. Āli
  3. Prakīrņa.

Sūḍa prabandha-s are further divided into two groups

  1. Śuddha-sūḍa
  2. Chāyālaga-sūḍa.

Chapter 5: Tala-adhyāya

This chapter could be divided into 2 sections, one dealing with Mārga tāla-s the other with Dēśī talas. The Mārgatāla-s are 5:

(i) Caccatpuţa
(ii) Cācapuţa
(iii) Şaţpitāputraka
(iv) Sampakvēşţāka
(v) Udghaţţa.

The different aspects of these tāla-s like the time units - Laghu, Guru and Pluta -, the Kriyā-s; the different forms of a tāla like Ēkakala Dvikala and Catuşkala are described along with the Mārgatāla-s. In this section is also included the description of musical forms called `Gītaka-s'. Gītaka-s musical forms are set in a temporal framework defined in terms of the margatala structures.

After these the Dēśītāla-s used in the prabandhas, which total around 120, are described.

Chapter 6: Vādya-adhyāya

In the sixth chapter come the four classes of musical instruments.
i) Tata - Stretched stringed instruments
ii) Suşira - Literally those with holes, i.e., the wind instruments
iii) Avanaddha - Literally covered i.e., drums constructed as vessels covered by stretched membranes
iv) Ghana - Literally dense objects i.e., solid pieces like Bell, Cymbals etc.

For these Vādya-s not only the construction but also the technique of playing and the compositions played on them are described. Some of the instruments under the four categories are:
a) Tata - Ekatantrī, Citrā, Vipañcī, Mattakōkilā, Ālāpinī, Kinnari
b) Suşira - Vamśa (of different sizes), Kāhala, Şańkha.
c) Avanaddha - Huḍukka, Paţaha
d) Ghana - Kāmsyatāla, Ghaņţā

Chapter 7: Nartana-adhyāya

The seventh and the last chapter is in two parts. The first one deals with Nartana. The term Nartana is a common term representing the arts of Nŗtta, Nŗtya and Nāţya based on the movements of the limbs of the body. However, only the aspects of Nŗtta is relevant to Sańgīta. The various elements of Nŗtta like Hasta, Karaņa, Ańgahāra and Cārī are described and also the characteristics of a good dancer and teacher. The different kinds of performance of sańgīta involving the three aspects of Gīta, Vādya and Nŗtta are described. Some of these are - Śuddha-paddhati and Gauņḍalī-vidhi.

In the second part of this chapter,the author describes the Nine Rasa-s, namely, Śrńgāra, Vīra, Hāsya, Raudra, Adbhuta, Karuņā, Bhayānaka, Bībhatsa and śānta. Rasa-s represent the different tastes that are evoked in the audience by the human feelings that transpire in the performance of Sańgīta.

Patronage in the Devagiri Court

The court of the Seuna (Yadava) dynasty, in which the Sangita Ratnakara was written, had an impressive history of patronage of the arts, literature and science that provided Sarangadeva with a conducive environment for scholarship. Bhaskaracharya, the outstanding mathematician and astronomer produced his Siddhanta-Siromani, an exposition on algebra, shortly before Yadava independence. His son Lakshmidhara was an astrologer in Jaitugu's court and his grandson, Changadeva, held the same position during Singhana's time. In 1207, Singhana established school for the study of the works of Bhāskara II. The aforementioned Changadeva was head of the school. Anantadeva, Changadeva's cousin, was also a great astronomer in Singhana's court. He produced a commentary on the Brhadjataka, an ancient text on astrology, and a discussion on the Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta of Brahmagupta, a 7th-century text on mathematics. In the time after Singhana's rule, Hemadpant, a high administrator in the Devagiri court, wrote an incredibly detailed treatise on religious practice called the Caturvarga-Cintamani. Bopadeva, one of Hemadpant's contemporaries, wrote a number scholarly works while in the Devagiri court, including more than one book on Ayurveda and a commentary on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, a religious text. Jñāneśvar wrote the Jñānēśvarī, an important piece of early Marathi literature, under the rule of the later Yadava Kings. Clearly, the Devagiri court was an accommodating environment for scholarly endeavors.


Sańgītaratnākara is a very important text and this is evident from the fact that many commentaries were written on it. The famous ones are Sańgītasudhākara of Simbabhūpāla and Kalānidhi of Kallinātha. Sańgītaratnākara is to a great extent a compilation of the information found in earlier works like Nāţyaśāstra, Dattilam, Bŗhaddēśī, Sarasvatī-hŗdayālańkāra-hāra and is greatly influenced by the commentary of Abhinavagupta on Nāţyaśāstra. On the other hand, the work made a great impact on almost all the writers in the subsequent period. Thus it forms a useful bridge between the ancient and the medieval periods. Śārńgadēva called himself Nih,śańka i.e., `doubtless'. He also names a stringed instrument as Nih,śańka-Vīņā and Dēśī-tala as Nih,śańka-tāla. This book is a great landmark in the history of Indian Music.


Sangita Ratnakara Wikipedia