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Indian music has a very long, unbroken tradition and is an accumulated heritage of centuries. It is believed that sage Narada introduced the art of music to the earth and the sound that pervades the whole universe, i.e. ‘Nadabrahma[i], itself represents the divinity. The origin of music is at least two thousand years old going back to the Vedic times.  The ‘Samavedais believed to contain all the seven notes of the raga ‘karaharapriyaThe earliest reference to musical theory is found in ‘Rikpratisakhya’ (400 B.C.). Bharata's ‘Natya Shastra (4th century A.D.) contains several chapters on music and it is probably the first work that clearly elaborated the octave and divided it into twenty two keys. Saranga Deva in his work Sangeeta Ratnakara defined almost 264 ragas and described the various 'microtones'. The other significant works on Indian music include Matanga's Brihaddesi’ (9th century A.D.), Narada's Sangeeta Makaranda (11th century A.D.), Ramamatya's  Swaramela-kalanidhi’ (16th century A.D.) and Venkatamakhi'sChaturdandi-prakssika’ (17th century A.D.).

It took several centuries for music to evolve from purely ritualistic form to its modern form.  During the late Vedic period (3000-1200 B.C.), a form of music called ‘Samgana was prevalent which involved chanting of verses set to musical patterns.  Various forms of music like ‘Jatigan were evolved to narrate the epics. During 2nd-7th centuries A.D. a form of music called ‘Prabandh Sangeet’, which was written in Sanskrit, became very popular. This form gave way to a simpler form called ‘dhruvapad’, which used Hindi as the medium. The Gupta Period is considered as the golden era in the development of Indian music.

  Among the foreign influences on Indian music, the most profound influence has been that of the Persian music, which was instrumental in bringing about changes in the perspectives of the Northern Indian style of music.  Several genres of singing were introduced in the Indian Music, which include the ‘dhrupad (an evolved form of the devotional dhruvapad) and khayal.  Gradually two different styles of classical music emerged in India, the ‘Hindustani Style’ in the north and the ‘Carnatic Style’ in the South, both based on the music traditions laid down in Bharata's ‘Natya Shastra’. The two traditions started to diverge only around 14th Century AD. Carnatic music is kriti based and saahitya (lyric) oriented, while Hindustani music emphasises on the musical structure and the possibilities of improvisation in it. Hindustani music adopted a scale of Shudha Swara saptaka (octave of natural notes) while Carnatic music retained the traditional octave. Both systems have shown great assimilative power, constantly absorbing folk tunes and regional tilts and elevating many of them to the status of ragas. These systems have also mutually influenced each other.

[i] Dr Ausaf Sayeed;'Trends in Indian Culture and Heritage',  p.80, Har Anand Publications Pvt. Ltd, 2012, 579 pages