Indian Classical Music

Traditional music of India ( Indian classical music ) has been a rich and diverse musical tradition in India from ancient times. Indian classical music is based on Raga, which is a set of musical notes and rules. The Indian Classical Music have their own style and different musical forms, including khayal, dhrupad and thumri. Some of the main instruments used in Indian Classical Music are tabla, sarod and sitar. Indian music is hardly ever recorded. It is communicated verbally between the teacher-student tradition (Guru-shishya parampara).

indian classical music
Indian Classical Music

The Indian Classical Music is divided into two types, Hindustani Music and Carnatic Music. Hindustani Music belongs to Northern India, Bangladesh and Pakistan but Carnatic Music belongs to South India. Both music are the oldest musical traditions in the world.

There are two primary performance styles in Indian classical music, vocal and instrumental. Vocal music is a type of music where the human voice is used. This can be done a cappella or with musical accompaniment and can include singing as well as speaking or chanting. Vocal music, which is performed by trained vocalists who have mastered the particular techniques and forms associated with the tradition. Instrumental music is performed by the musical instruments, rather than using the human voice. There are a wide range of Instruments used in Instrumental Music some of the examples are, Sarod, Tabla, Sitar, Veena and many more.

The Samaveda is one of the Vedas. The Samaveda, which focuses especially on the musical components of the Vedic culture, includes hymns chanted at religious rites. Prior to being officially recorded circa 1000 BCE, it is thought that the hymns of the Samaveda were passed down orally for many generations.

Types of Indian classical music

Hindustani classical music and Carnatic classical music are the two main classical music traditions of India. They both have their own distinct characteristics, styles, instruments, and vocal techniques.

The regional origin and influence are the primary distinction between the two traditions. Hindustani classical music has a strong connection to northern India and is influenced by Persian and Islamic musical traditions. The ancient Hindu texts and temple music have an impact on Carnatic classical music, which is predominantly related to the southern parts of India.

Hindustani classical music is noted for its improvisation and spontaneity in terms of style, with a focus more on the growth of melody (raga) than rhythm (tala). On the other hand, the development of rhythm and the usage of complex time signatures are more prominent in Carnatic classical music.

In terms of instrumentation, Carnatic classical music is often played on the veena, mridangam, and ghatam, while Hindustani classical music is typically performed on the sitar, sarod, and tabla.

In terms of vocal methods, Carnatic classical music is recognised for its use of kriti, a composition that is sung with a fixed lyrics and melody, whereas Hindustani classical music is known for its use of alaap, a slow, improvised type of singing.

Despite their differences, both traditions are regarded as significant components of Indian cultural legacy and have many things in common, such as the usage of ragas and talas.

Notable Figures in Indian classical music

1. Tansen is the greatest musician in Indian history, he developed the khayal form of Hindustani classical music.

2. Saint Purandara Dasa is known as the father of Carnatic Music. He was a saint, poet and musician from the state of Karnataka. Purandara Dasa is credited with many raga-based compositions and many new styles of singing which were easy for common people to learn.

3. Saint Amir Khusrau was the most notable figure in Indian Classical Music, He created several important forms of music and introduced Persian and Arabic elements into classical music.

4. Pandit Ravi Shankar is the greatest sitar musician of the 20th century and was well regarded Indian musician Pandit Ravi Shankar. He was an expert in the genre of Indian classical music.

5. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. As well as being one of the best sarod players of the 20th century, he is regarded as one of the most significant characters in Indian classical music.

Best Indian classical music

Best Indian classical music in India are –

  • Raga Bhairavi – Raga Bhairavi is a popular raga in both Hindustani and Carnatic Music traditions.
  • Raga Yaman – Most papular raga in Hindustani Classical music.
  • Raga Todi – Popular raga in both Hindustani and Carnatic Music traditions.
  • Raga Malkauns – Raga Malkauns is a popular raga in the Hindustani Classical music tradition.
  • Bhairavi Thillana – Popular raga in Carnatic Classical Music tradition.
  • Raga Shankara – Popular raga in Carnatic Classical Music tradition.
  • Raga Miyan Ki Todi – Popular raga in the Hindustani Classical Music tradition.
  • Raga Darbari Kanada – Popular raga in Hindustani Classical Music tradition.
  • Raga Kedar – Popular raga in Hindustani Classical Music tradition.
  • Raga Shree – Popular raga in Carnatic Classical Music tradition.
  • Raga Malkauns – Popular raga in Hindustani Classical Music tradition.
    Raga Bageshree – Popular raga in Hindustani Classical Music tradition.

Indian classical music instruments

Many instruments are used in Indian Classical music. Some of the most commonly used instruments in Indian are –

  1. Sitar
  2. Sarod
  3. Veena
  4. Tabla
  5. Mridangam
  6. Harmonium
  7. Santoor


In Indian classical music, the notes (or swaras) used in a raga are based on a seven-note scale known as the sargam. The seven notes of the sargam are:

Sa (also known as Shadja)
Re (also known as Rishabh)
Ga (also known as Gandhar)
Ma (also known as Madhyam)
Pa (also known as Pancham)
Dha (also known as Dhaivat)
Ni (also known as Nishad)

These seven notes form the foundation of Indian classical music, and each raga is defined by the specific notes it uses, as well as the order in which they are played and the ornamentation used to decorate them.

The notes in Indian music are not fixed to a particular frequency as in the western music but are relative to the tonic note (Sa) and the performer has the freedom to adjust the pitch of the notes according to their preference and to the acoustics of the concert hall.

In addition to these seven notes, there are also two additional notes, known as Komal (softened) and Tivra (sharpened) versions of some of the swaras, which can be used to add further variation and expressiveness to a performance.

Indian classical music, ragas

Indian classical music uses a melodic framework known as a raga. It is a set of guidelines for the usage of particular notes, the order in which they should be performed, and the feelings they should elicit in the listener. Each Raga has its own personality and conjures a particular feeling or atmosphere.

Typically, a raga is made up of a particular set of notes (referred to as the Arohana and Avarohana) that are played in a specific order and with a particular ornamentation and phrasing. Some ragas are also sung customarily during certain times of the day or seasons since they are connected to those times.

An improvisation called the alap, which introduces the notes of the Raga gently and thoughtfully, usually starts off a Raga performance. The jor, a quicker improvisation that follows, uses the notes in a more intricate and virtuoso manner. The jhala, a quicker and more rhythmically intricate improvisation, marks the performance’s conclusion.


Indian classical music has a rhythmic structure called tala, which serves as the framework for performances. It is frequently referred to as the “time-measure” of a composition or performance and is used to systematically arrange the beats and rhythms. Typically, the tala is divided into a predetermined number of beats (matras), which are then grouped together to form vibhag. Every beat is further broken down into smaller components known as kriya. Indian classical music employs a wide variety of talas, each with its own distinctive qualities and time signatures. The Teen Taal, Rupak Tala, Jhaptaal, and Ektal are some of the most often utilized talas in classical music.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is Indian classical music called?

Answer – Hindustani is the name given to the classical music of North India, whereas Carnatic is the name given to that of South India (sometimes spelled as Karnatic). Both are the oldest forms of music in the World.

Q. What are the 2 types of Indian classical music?

Answer – North Indian Hindustani classical music and South Indian Carnatic classical music are the two main subgenres of Indian music.

Q. Why Indian music is unique?

Answer – Indian music is rarely recorded, might be entirely improvised, and often lacks harmony.

Q. What is the oldest Indian music?

Answer – The Samveda is the source of Dhrupad and oldest genre of Indian music.

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