Love, humour, pathos, anger, heroism, terror, disgust, wonder and serenity are the nava rasas or nine basic emotions which are fundamental to all Indian aesthetics. Sage Bharata, the earliest Indian musicologist said to have lived in the 1st or 2nd century AD, enunciated these moods and believed that it was the musician's task to evoke a particular emotion or mood.The classical music tradition in India is based on the principles enunciated by sage Bharata and continues to be a form of meditation, concentration and worship.
The Raga, or musical mode, forms the basis of the entire musical event. The Raga is essentially an aesthetic rendering of the seven musical notes and each Raga is said to have a specific flavor and mood.
Tala is what binds music together. It is essentially a fixed time cycle for each rendition and repeats itself after completion of eachcycle. Tala makes possible a lot of improvisations between beats and allows complex variations between each cycle.
With the help of the Raga, Tala and the infinite shrutis ormicrotones, Indian musicians create a variety of feelings. The melodious sounds of a musical rendition can evoke the innermost emotions and moods of the audience, connoisseurs and non-connoisseurs alike.
Today, the Indian Musical tradition has two dominant strains: the Carnatic or South Indian music and the Hindustani or North Indian music. The Carnatic and the Hindustani music have some features in common as their heritage and philosophy is essentially the same. However their ragas and their articulation are usually distinctive.
The Northern school of Indian Music can boast of names like Amir Khusro (13th century) and Miyan Tansen who lived in the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century. The great musicians of the Southern style include Venkatamakhi (17th century), Thyagaraja and Shyama Shastri.
All Indian musicians belong to a particular gharana (house) or school. Each gharana has its own traditions and manner of rendition andthese styles are fiercely guarded and maintained. Some of the well-known gharanas are those of Delhi, Agra, Gwalior and Jaipur.
Today, there is a lot of interaction and concourse between music from the north and that from the south. Both styles are influencing each other and this can only lead to an enrichment of the great musical tradition of India.