Dhyaan in Raag Music

What is dhyaan? Roughly translated, it means contemplation or stillness, terms associated with the meditative sciences. Attaining dhyaan in meditation is an ideal state, implying oneness with one’s spiritual being. Another important aspect of meditation is sound. According to ancient texts, Naad is the primordial sound that is present in the universe, guiding all life forces. The sound vibrations in the universe are known to generate energy, which affect us humans in our everyday life. When sound and dhyaan are combined in practice, it can help one attain a state of fulfilment and realize one’s ultimate purpose in life.

When it comes to dhyaan in Indian classical music, the concept acquires a somewhat more aesthetic meaning. The origin of Indian classical music is traced back to the chanting of the mantras of the Sam Veda, with its transition towards the chanting of mantras for the deities in temples in a musical form. This chanting connoted a spiritual or contemplative aspect, which has been identified as dhyaan. Over the centuries, as the royals from across the subcontinent began to appropriate musicians for their courts, the shift in the music turned from the mere chanting of mantras to the incorporation of words in praise of the kings, describing nature, life, beauty, love and the like. As such, the rasa bhaav of the raga acquired significance over the spiritual aspect of dhyaan.

In the contemporary performance of Indian classical music, this inclination towards the rasa bhav continues and the introduction of instruments has further taken away from the dhyaan aspect of the raga. The verbal intonation of the raga itself has been hidden in the background as the artistic expression, which increasingly relies on music from the instruments, takes centre stage. As such, the contemplative aspect of music has been lost as the performer and the audience put their focus on the acts of performing and listening.

At Naadyatra, it is our belief that Indian classical music can be approached from the two perspectives of rasa and dhyaan. While giving the rasa aspect its due recognition for drawing out the evocative aesthetic side of classical music, at the same time, it is our endeavour to revive the interest in the forgotten aspect of dhyaan. Balancing the scales between rasa bhav and dhyaan, we seek to enhance appreciation towards the experience of dhyaan in a performance. The simplicity and minimalism of technique associated with dhyaan, which has been lost in contemporary times, is sought to be highlighted once again, giving performers and listeners the uplifting experience of connecting with one’s consciousness through music.

At Naadyatra, concerts based on dhyaan focus on the use of only percussion instruments as accompaniments to the raga, letting the music flow in its pure state. As the music flows, the audience can experience the musical notes at the level of the mind, using the notes to connect to their inner consciousness. There is a sense of calmness and tranquillity that is generated, which awakens the mind and the body, enhancing concentration and mindfulness, and giving the performer as well as the listener a rejuvenating experience that touches the soul.

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