Shiva_Both_Severe_ and_Tender_ Discourse_
18 April 1982, Calcutta
Shiva observed that in the days of the Rgveda, chanda [metre] was known, but rágas and ráginiis [melodies of Oriental music] were not yet invented. Not just any composition with rhythm qualifies to be called music! Suppose people are making dissonant sounds in a particular rhythm – that certainly will not be considered music.
Based on the sounds of the seven creatures, Shiva evolved the seven musical notes. This musical sura-saptaka, which made the rhythm sweeter and more graceful, includes the sounds of śad́aja [peacock], rśabha [ox], gándhára [goat], madhyama [horse], paiṋcama [cuckoo], dhaevata [ass] and niśáda [elephant]. By taking the initials of the seven sounds – sá from śad́aja, re from rśabha, gá from gándhára, má from madhyama, pá from paiṋcama, dhá from dhaevata and ni from niśáda, Shiva made the musical octave sá-re-gá-má-pá-dhá -ni-sá. At the eighth step, the first sound of the octave is repeated, although in a different scale. In those regions of the world where the influence of Shiva was less, the eighth note of the musical scale is slightly different from the first.
Thus through permutation and combination, endless varieties of sound can be produced. So in Western music, we find do-re-mi-fa- sol-la-ti- do: in other words, “do” is repeated at the end of the scale. That is why, instead of sura-saptaka [literally, “seven notes”] Western musicians call the scale “octave.”(1)
Thus by inventing the seven musical notes, Shiva made the world of rhythms sweeter and more delightful. This was no ordinary achievement.
The music of the present-day world is entirely based on these seven musical notes. It is a matter of great regret that people have forgotten this science of music, whose foundation was laid by the intense efforts of Shiva. Nowadays, instead of considering music as a valuable asset to spiritual practice, they take it as a hobby, a means of livelihood, or a mere pastime. The arduous effort which Shiva invested in this science is conspicuously absent today.
Shiva did not give a systematic form to music only – even to this day people utilize the fruits of His research in the field of phonetics. Phonetics depends on the science of breath, on inhalation and exhalation. Also on the basis of the science of breath, Shiva invested the world of rhythm with mudrá.(2) He established harmony between rhythm and dance, and added mudrá to them.
In the pre-Shiva society of the Rgvedic Age, there was chanda, but no mudrá. In order to acquire proficiency in the study of the Vedas, the student had to master the six vedauṋgas, the six branches of Vedic knowledge: chanda [the science of metre], kalpa [explanation of rites], nirukta [lexicography] , jyotiśa [astronomy], vyákarańa [grammar], and áyurveda or dhanurveda [the science of medicine]. This proves that the people of that time were well acquainted with chanda.
Then how did Shiva introduce mudrá in music? He observed that in the bodies of different creatures, the various glands were either over-active or under-active, either oversecreting or under-secreting. As a result, these creatures expressed themselves in various ways. Shiva intensively researched all these factors, and finally invented mudrá. Each and every mudrá affects certain human glands in a particular way and thus influences people’s minds accordingly. This was Shiva’s contribution to the world of dance. In those days, people wrongly considered the random movement of the limbs to be dance; later, to this random movement of the arms and legs were added a few Vedic rhythms. But that certainly cannot be accepted as classical dance. Only after the addition of mudrás was it elevated to the status of classical dance.
Regarding the táńd́ava dance invented by Shiva, I will speak a bit later.
Then again, the mere beating of drums is not the art of vádya [percussion] . This should be harmonized not only with chanda and the musical scale, but also with the rhythms and mudrás of the dance. Shiva Himself added all this to the art of percussion; prior to Him, it was completely unknown.
Shiva did not merely invent nrtya, giita and vádya [dance, song and instrumental music]; He also spread the knowledge of music among the people. He selected Maharshi Bharata as an ideal candidate and said to him, “You must teach the science of music to anyone who wants to learn it, without any consideration of caste or community. You should consider only one thing: whether or not the person has the deep inner urge to learn.” Shiva gave a systematic form and definite structure to everything which was not well-formulated until then. He provided a system not only for music but for each and every expression of human life, so that everything might progress in a rhythmic way, so that nothing would be done haphazardly.
Prior to Shiva, there was no system of marriage in human society. And as there was no recognized marriage system, the matrilineal order was in vogue, because it was easy to identify the mothers. In the case of the fathers, it was impossible to identify them. Shiva, for the first time, introduced the system of marriage which has continued until this day. The Sanskrit word for marriage, viváha (derived vi – vah + ghaiṋ), literally means “to follow a particular system”. This system of marriage is known as Shaeva viváha. According to this system, the bride and the bridegroom will equally share full responsibility for their marriage, without any consideration of caste or community. Shiva was above all sorts of geo-sentiment and socio-sentiment.
Now, Shiva’s greatest contribution to humanity is the concept of dharma.(4) Here it should be remembered that at the time of Shiva, many Aryans had already arrived in India, many were on the way, and many were still preparing to come. For those Aryans there was no clear-cut concept of dharma; they had no spiritual awareness or spiritual urge. Each rśi propounded his views differently from the others.
(1) From the Latin word for “eight”. –Trans.
(2) Mudrás are subtle, symbolic gestures characteristic of Oriental dance. –Trans.
(3) Shiva’s viińá that produces sounds of tremendous vigour as well as sweetness. The viińá is a musical instrument
similar to a sitar. –Trans.
(4) Dharma means “innate characteristic”. The essential innate characteristic of human beings is the urge to attain the Supreme through morality and spiritual practice. –Trans.
Namah Shiváya Shántáya
Shiva_Both_Severe_ and_Tender_ Discourse_
18 April 1982, Calcutta