Blog | 01 Feb, 2024

Genesis of Nature in Traditional Indian Music

The fragility of our traditions and culture has become apparent in the fast-changing world of AI and the Internet of Things due to the global challenges we are facing. Growing up in India, I was fortunate to have an immersive experience with traditional Indian music that instilled a holistic understanding of different disciplines, ecosystems, and their interdependence that I am grateful for. A comprehensive approach that incorporates the relationship between music, nature, and human well-being through rituals that reflect a scientific approach to living.

In traditional Indian music, ragas are specific to elements of nature and time. Raga in Indian musical tradition refers to musical modes which express different moods in certain characteristic progressions. Musicians have always been inspired by nature; compositions of yore are devoted to manifestations of divine nature, be it forests, oceans, the sound of chirping birds or gently babbling brooks. The time theory of Traditional Indian music suggests that ragas are associated with time. Ragas consist of resonating sounds that are intrinsically entwined with the circle of life and its co-existence with nature. Concern for nature conservation, holistic education and its relevance to human well-being has been the core foundation of this ancient music heritage in India. Ragas specifically assigned from dawn to dusk inherently co-exist with nature and are a way to manifest a gateway to human wellbeing.

Ragini Todi Pratapgarh, Rajasthan, circa 1710 A.D., National Museum, New DelhiPhoto: Ragini Todi Pratapgarh, Rajasthan, circa 1710 A.D., National Museum, New Delhi

As the sun travels through the time, so do the ragas. The musicality functions with specific notes that change in symbiosis with daily time cycles, and atmospheric conditions. In the Indian ragas, the changing dynamics between sound and light in different seasons is expressed through the frequencies of notes depicting the mood that corresponds to each season. The seasonal ragas correspond to the cycles of moon. The sounds resonating and adjusting to the changing light through the seasons creates the human listening experience of ragas in consonance with nature. There is thus a constant flow and symbiosis between man, music and nature. The physical and spiritual unison in the sound of raga music aligns us in the synchronicities and time frames of daily life, the seasons and the body itself.

Ragas create the effect of its sound along with the resonance of the atmosphere, on the human mind and brain that refreshes the mental environment along with the geographical environment and imparts consciousness of oneness of our planet. The society and the mind attached to it are enamoured by looking at our geographical environment with an intention to live in a clean environment and in peace with the planet. The focus of various raga-raginis in Indian music is a close relationship with the environment. It is emphasised that sound in synchronicity with nature promotes good thinking, good thoughts, good music etc. - all create a good environment. The flow of the river, the flow of air, the noise of trees all creates a pleasant musical sound that is supernatural, universal.

Protected area management and governance have traditionally been based on scientific research; a combination of science and spirituality can engage and empower a variety of stakeholders. Therefore, if along with biology, botanical and scientific efforts, all the raga-raginis of Indian music are used for conservation of the environment, then it will be a perfect tool to establish this interconnectedness. In this present age, environmental protection is an important issue and debate on it is to find its remedies and to present them on the path of global welfare.

In both the sacred spaces as well as the mundane, traditional raga music represents the core that is deeply binding nature and human existence creating harmony with the planet.  “Traditional knowledge refers to the knowledge and know-how accumulated across generations, and renewed by each new generation, which guide human societies in their innumerable interactions with their surrounding environment” (Nakashima et al., 2012). In recent times, using traditional knowledge to awaken environmental consciousness has the potential to create a paradigm shift in communication campaigns addressing geospatial cultural understanding of climate change and environment crisis.

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