Art is an expression of all characteristics of the human mind aesthetically. These characteristics (varied human emotions) are known as RAS. In Hindi, ras literally means a sugary juice. It signifies the ultimate satisfaction of aanand.
Human emotions can be categorized into nine sub-headings or navras. They are:
Art reflects human emotions and human beings spontaneously express their frame of mind through various art forms. Thus the intellectual mind merges with the artistic streak, giving birth to art.
The expression is reflected in various styles like singing, dancing, drawing, painting, acting, sculpture. Some of these are expressed through live performances and others through visual arts. Sketching, painting, sculpture are visual arts. Singing, dancing, acting are attributes of performing arts.
The earliest tradition of Indian music may be traced to Sama Veda which contained the slokas that were put to music. The earliest text dealing exclusively with performing arts is Bharata’s Natyashashtra (compiled between 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD) which has six chapters on music.
Another major text is Matanga’s Brihaddesi compiled between eight and ninth century AD. In this work ragas were first named and discussed at great length. Sangeet Ratnakara written by Sarangdeva in the thirteenth century mentions 264 ragas.
A variety of string and wind instruments were invented over the period of time. In ancient texts, references have been made to flutes, drums, veena, and cymbals.
Many rulers such as Samudragupta, King Bhoja of Dhara and King Someshavra of Kalyana patronised music. The Gupta monarch Samudra Gupta was himself an accompolished musician. In some of his coins, he is shown playing on the Veena.
Music was also associated with the worship of Gods and Goddess in the temples. In the twelfth century, Jayadeva of Orissa produced the most brilliant raga kavya, the Gita Govinda, each song of which was set in a raga and was composed on the theme of love of Radha and Krishna.
Abhinavagupta’s (993-1055) Abhinavabharati provides useful information about music. Tamil music has a number of terms and concepts parallel to what is found in Sanskrit texts. The Saivite Nayanars and Vaishnavite Alvars too set their psalms (poems) to music.
In the medieval period, the Sufi and Bhakti saints encouraged music. Qawwalis were sung in Sufi khanqahs and devotional music like kirtan and bhajan became popular with the Bhakti saints.
Names of Kabir, Mirabai, Surdasa, Chandidasa, Tulsidasa, Vidyapati are closely associated with religious music. Great scholars like Amir Khusrau contributed equally to the promotion of music. The legendary ruler of Malwa, Baz Bahadur and his wife Rupmati introduced new ragas.
Kitabe Navras written by Ibrahim Adil Shah II during the seventeenth century is a collection of songs in praise of Hindu deities as well as Muslim saints.
The most famous musician of Akbar’s court was Tansen and there was nobody to match him, even though there were all kinds of singers. Baiju Bawra was also a well known musician during Akbar’s time.