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Golden Age of Music

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Music in its many forms flourished on the face of the earth, at all places and at all times of History. Though nothing is known about the music of Harappan culture - a distinctly Dravidian one of the pre-Vedic period, it cannot be taken that there was no music in that well developed society.


The music of South India in the pre-Christian era, viz the Sangam period, is called Tamil music. This period ranges approximately between 300 BC and 3 AD. Literary works of the last Sangam period include Tholkappiam,  and two collections of poems the ettuthokai (Eight Anthologies)  and the Patthuppattu (Ten Idylls) dealing with akam the subjective and puram  the objective human emotions. Of the several authors with conflicting names and dates involved in these Sangam collections, there were at least 27 poetesses, an indicator to the important role played by women in literary field during the Sangam period. These great musical works like Tholkappiam, Ettuthogai, Patthuppattu, etc., provide information on ancient Tamil music, which is believed by many, as the mother of the now more famous Carnatic music.


Through various books and ancient Tamil treatises we come to know of the existence of different types of music, musical instruments, musical forms, Pans (the equivalent of Ragas) and so on. The less importance given to religious topics in the Sangam texts suggest that, the authors who belonged to three different religious groups (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism) played down the religious note deliberately and concentrated on their poetic strengths. It is also probable that theological and devotional (Bhakthi) concepts did not permeate deeply into the society until later. These writings project the sentiment that the whole world is one big family where people conduct themselves with dignity and self respect. 


The Tamil land that excelled in the Shaivaite tradition in the ancient times underwent a dark period during 4th, 5th and 6th century A.D., with the introduction of Buddhism and Jainism, especially Jainism to the Royal throne. The Tamil traditions were subdued till about 7th century AD.


The  period between 7th and 12th centuries, the period of Bhakthi movement, an effort for the revival of Hinduism to free the society from the Buddhism and Jainism as they have, by then, acquired many evils.  This saw a resurgence  characterised by intense worship of single God, Siva (Shaivism) through the efforts of its 63 Nayanmars and Vishnu (Vaisnavism) through the efforts of its twelve Azvars (Alwar) saints. Among the Nayanmars the Nalwar - Sambandhar, Thrunavukkarasar, Sundarar and Manikkavasakar stand ahead for their contributions.



The 17th and 18th centuries were very significant in the musical history of this globe. In the west the Harmonic Music was elevated to the present heights during this period by Beethoven, Allen Beck, Mozart and others. Hindustani music was enriched by Thansen, Haridasa swamy, Baiju and others at that time. During the (18th century) South India saw a cultural explosion with the flourishing of art and literature. The Modern period of Carnatic music began with Purandaradasa (1484-1564). He was the pioneer who blended the rich musical streams of Dravidian and Aryan music into one stream, the synthesis resulting in the highly rich hybrid variety that has become the Carnatic music of South India. Contribution by Purandaradasa to music is immeasurable and he is often called the "Karnataka sangeeta pitamaha" (Father of Carnatic Music). This period is referred to as the Golden age of Music.


The present day Carnatic Music got its shape during this period, at the hands of the Musical Trinity - Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshithar and Shyama Shastri. The compositions of the Trinities form a class by themselves:

Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, who is referred to as 'King amoung musicians and a musician amoung Kings' too, belong to this period. This period is rightly regarded as the Golden Age of Carnatic Music.



Some great composers of the period after Trinities, consists of Harikeshanallur Muthaiah Bhagavathar, Papanasam Sivan, Periyasaami Thooran, patriotic poet Bharathiyar, to mention a few.


The 20th century too has produced brilliant composers, such as Mysore Vasudevachary, Ramnad Srininvasa Iyengar, Mangalampalli Bala Muralikrishna, Jayarama Iyer, G.N.Balasubrahmanyam etc. whose works are second to none.


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