Music has always been considered more of a spiritual experience than mere social activity. Our Indian ancestors were highly impressed with the spiritual side of music and that is how Indian Classical Music was born. For someone to become an Indian Classical musician it takes devotion and a commitment to life. Classical music that originated from the Indian subcontinent is known as Indian Classical Music to date. The origins of Indian Classical Music date back to the sacred Vedic scriptures over six thousand years ago where musical notes were developed through chants.

Indian Classical Music is said to be closely connected to nature and takes a lot of inspiration from natural phenomena that include seasons and time of the day. The roots of Indian Classical Music are found in the Vedic Literature of Hinduism and the Natyashastra, the classic Sanskrit text based on performing arts by Bharata Muni.

Most types of music have three very basic elements -melody, rhythm and harmony. Indian Classical Music is very spiritual and thus focuses more on the development of melodies.

Indian Classical Music has two fundamentals, raga and tala. Raga is based on Swara, the notes that include microtones, which form the melodic structure whereas the tala measures the time cycle. The raga provides a musician with a palette to use sounds and invent a melody whereas tala uses the time to facilitate a creative framework for improvisations in rhythm.


Music as a Language

Learning Indian Classical Music is like learning a language altogether. Just like any other language, once you have learnt the basics like grammar and vocabulary of music, you will be able to create your music. Once you are introduced to the various ragas of Indian Classical Music, you will be able to make your melodies.


Major Traditions under Indian Classical Music 

The classical music of the Indian subcontinent was undivided and was very integrated until the 14th century after a lot of political and social factors came into existence which separated the north and the south. Until the 16th century, north and south India were not considered distinct, but later North Indian classical music was named Hindustani classical music and music from the south was called Carnatic music.

Indian Classical music adopted a lot of regional styles like the Bengali classic traditional music. Classical music from India later allowed a lot of influence from outside the continent. The biggest example of this is the influence of Arabian and Persian traditions on Hindustani music.


Carnatic Music 

Carnatic music is said to be rhythmically and structurally more sound than Hindustani classical music. Purandara Dasa was a Hindu composer and musicologist who is considered the grandfather of Carnatic music. He was a monk and a big devotee of Lord Krishna. Purandara Dasa was the person who added a system to Indian Classical Music and developed various exercises for musicians to practise and perfect their art. He travelled across the country and shares his knowledge with several South Indian and Maharashtra Bhakti movement musicians. His teachings about raga and his methodology called Suladi Sapta Tala are still being used by musicians. 


This tradition of music that emerges from South India is very systematic and is classified accurately into ragas and melakartas. In comparison with Hindustani music, the raga elaborations in Carnatic music are much faster and shorter in terms of tempo. The accompanists also have a major role to play in Carnatic concerts than in Hindustani music concerts. The typical concert structure of Carnatic music that we witness today was put into place by Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. A very common belief in south India is that Carnatic music has a very traditional and ancient approach whereas Hindustani Classical Music has a lot of western influence.


Hindustani Music

The process of differentiation of Hindustani music began in the Mughal courts of Delhi in the 14th century. According to Jairazbhoy, the North Indian Tradition of Hindustani music acquired its form between the 14th and 15th centuries. During the reign of Akbar, Hindustani music was at its peak. Tansen was the one who studied music and introduced musical innovations for about sixty years under King Ram Chand of Gwalior and then at the Muslim court of emperor Akbar. Many musicians today consider Tansen as the founder of Hindustani Classical Music.

The innovation and style of Tansen inspired many musicians, and many modern gharanas link themselves to this lineage. Sanskrit was very much discouraged in Muslim courts, technical music was encouraged, causing Hindustani music to evolve differently, when compared to Carnatic music.

Hindustani classical music was mainly practised in North India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The four major existing forms of Hindustani music are Dhrupad, Khyal (or Khayal), Tarana, and the semi-classical Thumri.


Classification of Indian Music

Indian music is widely classified based on cultures, traditions, origins and socio-economical practices. There are various styles of music that coexist in the Indian subcontinent. Some types of music are inclined toward the classical side, while others are influenced by global music. The trend of fusions is also gaining popularity across the globe.


Classical Music:

Indian Classical Music is segregated into two distinct schools that we know today as Hindustani Classical Music which comes from North India, and Carnatic music which originates from South India. Hindustani Classical Music has been improvised over generations, while Carnatic music remains untouched.


Folk Music:

India is a very diverse country geographically. Each state in India has its distinct style of music and has a very deep cultural identity to it. Unlike Classical music, folk music is the music of the people and there are no hard and fast rules. Folk music can also be oriented to dance and often is based on various themes. Each state has different types of folk music associated with it.


Fusion of Classical and Folk Music:

With time music has evolved and new forms of music have emerged that take inspiration from both classical as well as folk music. Devotional music often comprises both these genres. The various famous fusion forms that were developed from classical and folk music are Sugam Sangeet, Rabindra Sangeet, Gana Sangeet and Haveli Sangeet.


Modern Music:

Modern music also called twentieth-century music believes in science, nature, technology and other forward-thinking ideas. Today’s music creators take inspiration from a lot of sounds around them and create their own identity with their music style. Musicians of the new age are open to experiments and want to try something new every day. 

The most prominent names under modern music are Jazz, Rock and Pop Music.


Ragas and Talas of Hindustani CLassical Music

A raga is said to be a group of swaras or notes. Each raga is more than just a sum of swaras and has its melody. Different types of Raga conveys a very special emotion and creates a specific mood.

The two important parts of ragas are Aaraoh and Avaroh. Bandish is a very important concept in Raags. There are two important characteristics of Bandish, it has only two stanzas ( one in the lower register called the mandra and the second in the upper register called the taar.

While a swara is a musical note, a raga is a melody, the taal is analogous to the rhythm. Taal gives structure to the music by binding it into particular avatars. Taal is given by a percussion instrument, usually a Tabla or a Pakhawaj. A total number of taals have been told to be 108 in ancient texts, however, modern music employs only 10-20 taals.


Indian Classical Music Instruments

Hindustani classical music is known largely for its instrumentalists, while Carnatic classical music is renowned for its virtuosic singing practices. Instruments most commonly used in Hindustani classical music are the sitar, sarod, tambura, shehnai, sarangi, and tabla; while instruments commonly used in Carnatic classical music include the vina, mrdangam, kanjira, and violin. The use of bamboo flutes, such as the murali, is common to both traditions as well as many other genres of Indian music. Many of these instruments are often used in both North and South India, and there are many clear relationships between the instruments of both regions. Furthermore, often instruments that are slightly different in construction will be identified by the same name in both the south and the north, though they might be used differently.



Various national honours are presented to musicians for their exceptional contributions to Indian Classical Music. These include Padmashri, and Padmabhushan and the most prestigious awards of them all is the Bharat Ratna.

After these, the most prominent award is the Sangeet Natak Academy award. These honours are considered very prestigious and highly valuable since they are given in recognition of excellent talents and brilliant view and for acknowledging the meritorious and magnificent services rendered by the doyens.


Up Close with the Legends

Indian musicians have inspired people all over the globe through their music. Their contribution to the world of music is unmatched. Here are some legends of Indian Classical Music that are idols to the newly budding musicians.


Miyan Tansen

Miyan Tansen was the part of the nine jewels or Navaratnas in the court of Emporer Akbar. Tansen is considered the greatest musician of all time. The North Indian music that we call Hindustani music is said to be brought into existence by the mighty Tansen.


Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was one of the most accomplished Indian musicians. He was admired all over the world for his mastery of the sarode and compositions.


Hariprasad Chaurasia

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia is a world-renowned exponent of the bansuri or bamboo flute. He is the musician that took his music to the common masses.


M.S Subbulakshmi

Before Lata Mangeshkar, the legendary Carnatic musician M.S. Subbulakshmi was popularly known as the Nightingale of India. Her Bhajans were divine and are known for transporting listeners to another world.


Bismillah Khan

Ustad Bismillah Khan was a legendary Shehnai player who has been credited for taking the Shehnai from the marriage mandaps to concerts. He is one of India’s most celebrated classical musicians.


Zakir Hussain

Known as the tabla maestro, the contribution of Zakir Hussain to the field of percussion is appreciated globally. He is the most famous tabla player from India.


Ravi Shankar

Pandit Ravi Shankar is a legendary sitar player, and is respected amongst all Indian Classical musicians. Pandit was largely known for his unmatched talent and his association with The Beatles.


Shiv Kumar Sharma

Santoor and Shiv Kumar Sharma are names that are considered synonyms. He made the santoor a popular instrument across the world.


Evergreen Classical Songs

Classical music has had a very huge influence on Bollywood films. The trend of including classical songs in Bollywood movies began in the 50s and went up to the 80s. During these three decades, musicians gave Bollywood many blockbuster song, and that is why this period is popularly known as the Golden Era of Indian music. Some of the most popular classical songs from that era are as follows.


Ketaki, Gulab, Juhi

This famous song featured two best musicians, who went on to become among the biggest names in the music industry. The combination of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and the exceptions vocalist Mannade gave Bollywood its best jugalbandi.


Laga Chunari Mein Daag

This evergreen song made in Raga Bhairavi, a classic music organization of Hindustani music and used by Bollywood music writers, went on to become the best classical song to date.


Tu Ganga Ki Mauj Mein

Sung by the legendary Mohd. Rafi, this classical masterpiece in Raga Bhairavi was formed by another legend Naushad, while the lyrics were written by Shakeel Badayuni.

Just like these, there are many such songs inspired by Hindustani music or Carnatic music that have gone down as the biggest hits in the history of Bollywood and are referred to by musicians even today.

You can now listen to your favourite Indian Classical songs and musicians on Saregama Carvaan. Saregama Carvaan is a premium portable digital audio player with 5000 pre-loaded evergreen Hindi Bollywood songs. You can now enjoy music all day long without being interrupted by advertisements. The best part about Saregama Carvaan is that you can enjoy songs according to your favourite artists and moods. Saregama Carvaan also has geet mala with 80+ dedicated stations. The Saregama Carvaan delivers crisp and clear sound, thus making the music listening experience to another level. Apart from being a retro-looking speaker, the Saregama Carvaan has some great features like Bluetooth and USB connectivity through which your brother/sister can enjoy a playlist of their own. You can listen to songs from the Golden Era of Bollywood music sung by legends like Lata Mangeshkar, Mannade, and Mohd. Rafi, Kishore Kumar and many more.


For traditional Hindustani and Carnatic music, you can also opt for the regional variants of Saregama Carvaan namely Carvaan Tamil, Carvaan Bengali, Carvaan Telugu, Marathi, Malayalam and Punjabi. You can enjoy folk songs as well from different states on the Saregama Carvaan.


Pay tribute to the flag bearers of Hindustani classical music and Carnatic classical music by listening to their music on the Saregama Carvaan.