Hinduism Hinduism and Music
by
Eben Graves
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0158

Introduction

The breadth of issues and performance practices related to the sphere of music in Hindu traditions is wide ranging. While proscriptions against music are common in other religions (e.g., early Buddhism, Sunni Islam), Hindu traditions, on the other hand, have commonly exhibited a robust enthusiasm for integrating musical discourse and performance within the fabric of religious practice. One reason for this is undoubtedly the foundational place of music in Hindu mythology, where deities such as Sarasvatī, Śiva, and Kṛṣṇa, among others, are depicted as musicians, while their musical performances are associated with miraculous events. Beyond the sphere of mythology, musicians in South Asia often worship Hindu deities and saints through song performance, even if the immediate context is not considered religious. Furthermore, instrumental music that is devoid of religious song texts is commonly associated with concepts of “sacred sound” (nāda-brahman), providing further evidence of relationships between Hinduism and music. The Sanskrit word roughly equivalent to “music” and used in common parlance is saṅgīta. However, since at least as early as Bharata’s early 1st-millennium treatise on drama, the Nāṭya-śāstra, the word saṅgīta has referred to dance and drama in addition to vocal and instrumental music. Research on music and Hinduism, therefore, studies a large body of texts and performance-related practices and has been spread over a number of academic disciplines, including religious studies, ethnomusicology (in Western academia), musicology (in India), and anthropology, among others. Because much of this research has been of a geographic perspective, a number of items in this bibliography focus on a region (e.g., South Asia) or nation (e.g., Indian music) but are still relevant for research on music and Hinduism. Accordingly, those specifically interested in music and Hinduism may only find fleeting references to religious practice in some texts, yet should keep in mind the overarching religious context that defines much musical performance and discourse in South Asia. The majority of research to date has focused on North Indian (Hindustani) and South Indian (Karnatak) Classical Music and the textually based “doctrine of music” (Saṅgīta-śāstra) that preceded these forms of music. More recent work includes research on regional Devotional Music and an upsurge in theory-driven studies that consider the influence of Nationalism and Modernity on Hindu musicians and musical genres. Several studies in this bibliography could be placed in two or three categories, as musicians in South Asia will often not differentiate between divisions such as classical Music and devotional music, for example.

General Overviews

Sources that directly study relationships between Hinduism and music are Beck 2012 and Beck 2014. For a study of the relationship between the more broadly construed concept of sound and its importance in underpinning the theory and practice of music, see Beck 1993. In addition to these, the majority of sources discuss Hinduism in the larger context of geographically organized studies of music in India or South Asia. For example, Nijenhuis 1974 and Singh 1995 cover a large timespan beginning with the Sanskrit treatises of a “doctrine of music” or Saṅgīta-śāstra. Wade 1979 is a good introduction to the classical music traditions of North (Hindustani) and South India (Karnatak), while Thielemann 1999 offers a number of essays that introduce devotional music in North India.

  • Beck, Guy L. Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

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    Though not focusing exclusively on music, a detailed discussion of the role of sound in Hindu theology. Beck discusses how the concept of “sacred sound” (nāda-brahman and śabda-brahman) undergirds philosophies of music in India.

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  • Beck, Guy L. Sonic Liturgy: Ritual and Music in Hindu Tradition. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2012.

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    An excellent and wide-ranging study of music in Hindu liturgical settings. Organized chronologically, this study begins with the Vedic period and continues into present-day performance practices in devotional music. In each chapter Beck focuses on a different chronological period where the author connects liturgical practice to music theory and performance. Suitable as a core text for upper-level or graduate courses that study music and Hinduism.

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  • Beck, Guy L. “Hinduism and Music.” Oxford Handbooks Online: The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts. Edited by Frank Burch Brown. 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195176674.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A concise review essay that charts the major topics in research on music and Hinduism, including: sacred sound, aesthetics, music and worship, Sanskrit musical treatises, devotional music, and classical music. Includes bibliography.

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  • Nijenhuis, Emmie te. Indian Music: History and Structure. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1974.

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    A detailed and readable introduction to Indian music from historical and contemporary perspectives, grouped into four chapters that discuss “documentation,” “melody,” “rhythm,” and “composition.” This is unique for an introductory text in the amount of detail it uses to draw connections between early Sanskrit theoretical texts and present-day musical practice. Especially useful are the tables in chapter 2 that illustrate Indian tonal systems.

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  • Singh, Jaideva. Indian Music. Edited by Premalatā Śarmā. Calcutta: Sangeet Research Academy, 1995.

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    A chronological study of musical texts, concepts, and musicians from the Nāṭya-śāstra until the present. Because of the breadth of the study, some discussions are a bit cursory, but Singh offers a valuable list of musicians and composers from 800 to 1900 CE.

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  • Thielemann, Selina. The Music of South Asia. New Delhi: A.P.H., 1999.

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    A useful collection of lectures that looks at music in South Asia from topical and geographic perspectives. Of special interest is Part 2, which introduces various devotional musical traditions of North India. Includes appendix with numerous musical transcriptions.

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  • Wade, Bonnie C. Music in India: The Classical Traditions. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979.

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    An overview of Hindustani and Karnatak Classical Music that uses a comparative approach to discuss the relationships between Indian and Western music. Uses both Western and Indian notational systems throughout.

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Reference Works

Reference material is usually included in texts that focus on either Hinduism or a specific geographic area (most commonly South Asia or India). These sources include essay collections, alphabetically organized entries, and bibliographies. Arnold 2000 is the most comprehensive collection of topical essays on music in South Asia, and contains numerous articles related to various aspects of music and Hinduism. Bhattacharyya 1953–1987, though somewhat dated, offers essays on various topics of religion in India that intersect with Hinduism. Qureshi, et al.’s article “India” is an extended entry on “India” that can be easily searched using the Oxford Music Online website. Jacobsen, et al. 2009 contains several thematically organized entries related to music studies. Ghosh 2011 is an exhaustive arrangement of shorter entries organized around music in India. Rust 1996 includes an annotated bibliography of books and journals specifically related to religion in South Asia.

  • Arnold, Alison, ed. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 5. The Indian Subcontinent. New York: Garland, 2000.

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    Contains thematic essays on a variety of topics of interest to research on music and Hinduism. The most up-to-date collection of essays on music in South Asia. Of special interest are essays under the heading “Music in Religion and Ritual.”

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  • Bhattacharyya, Haridas, ed. The Cultural Heritage of India. 2d ed. 7 vols. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, 1953–1987.

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    Several entries in Volume IV (“The Religions”) discuss music or topics of Hinduism where music plays an integral role. Of particular interest is Part III of Volume IV, which includes discussions of “Indian Hymnology” and the “Diffusion of Socio-Religious Culture in North India.”

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  • Ghosh, Nikhil, ed. The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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    A vast collection of shorter entries on biographical, topical, and geographical topics in Indian music. Each volume contains a lengthy index and bibliography.

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  • Jacobsen, Knut A., Helene Basu, Angelika Malinar, and Vasudha Narayanan, eds. Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Boston: Brill, 2009.

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    Thematic entries of interest include “Music” and “Kīrtan and Bhajan” in Volume 2, and “Divine Musical Instruments” in Volume 5, all of which offer excellent introductory discussions and short bibliographies. Volume 4 contains articles on a number of music theorists, composers, and performers.

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  • Qureshi, Regula, Harold S. Powers, Jonathan Katz, et al. “India.” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root.

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    Topically organized essays that discuss historical and contemporary aspects of music in India. The majority of entries focus on Classical Music, with less attention paid on religious and local musical traditions. Includes musical notations, photos through the text, and bibliographies at the end of each section. This is an updated version of Harold Powers’s seminal essay first published in 1980.

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  • Rust, Ezra Gardner. The Music and Dance of the World’s Religions: A Comprehensive, Annotated Bibliography of Materials in the English Language. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996.

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    Although this does not supply the most up-to-date information, Rust’s study is still a useful annotated bibliography on music, dance, and religion. A good source for journal articles that are not found in other bibliographies.

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Journal

Although there are not any journals that focus solely on Hinduism and music, Journal of the Music Academy, Madras regularly includes articles on this topic.

Veda Recitation

While the practice of Veda recitation falls outside of the normative sphere of what is generally considered music in academic research, the importance of the concept of sacred sound in Hinduism has prompted music scholars to study Veda recitation. Moreover, the historical significance of the Sāma-veda cannot be overlooked, as it contains what may be the earliest notated melodies. The main focus of Veda recitation scholarship has been the chants of the Sāma-veda. Howard 1977 is the most comprehensive study of different schools of Sāma-veda chant, while Howard 1988 is a detailed study of one school of chant, the Namputiri Jaiminīya system. Tarlekar 1985 provides a useful overview of Sāma-veda research. Staal 1961 studies Ṛg-, Yājur-, and Sāma-veda chant in one community in Kerala, while Howard 1986 covers several types of Veda recitation in Vārānasi in Northern India.

  • Howard, Wayne. Sāmavedic Chant. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977.

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    Based on extensive fieldwork, including interviews and recordings, the author studies the three extant schools of Sāma-veda recitation: Kauthuma, Rāṇāyanīya, and Jaiminīya. An extremely detailed and excellent analysis that includes a study of notated melodies from Sāma-veda manuscripts and oral traditions, drawing out comparisons between schools. Includes photos of hand gestures that accompany performance and a large collection of notated songs.

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  • Howard, Wayne. Veda Recitation in Vārānasi. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986.

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    Though prefaced with a short history of Vedic recitation in Vārānasi, Howard’s central point is an analysis of the types of recitation that were current in this North Indian city during his research from 1970 to 1971. The book is organized according to particular Veda being recited. Contains numerous transcriptions using Western staff notation.

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  • Howard, Wayne. The Decipherment of the Sāmavedic Notation of the Jaiminīyas. Helsinki: Finnish Oriental Society, 1988.

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    A detailed investigation of the system of Sāma-veda chant used by the Namputiri Jaiminīya school. Through a fine-grained analysis of seventy-nine chants, the author offers the surprising argument that the oral tradition of the Namputiri’s more strictly adheres to the notational system of the neighboring Tamil Jaiminīya school. Method of analysis is specialist oriented.

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  • Staal, J. F. Nambudiri Veda Recitation. ’s-Gravenhage, The Netherlands: Mouton, 1961.

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    An early study of Veda recitation in the Numbudiri Brahman community of Kerala. Stall studies the chant techniques used for the recitation of the Ṛg-, Yajur-, and Sāma-vedas.

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  • Tarlekar, Ganesh Hari. The Sāman Chants: A Review of Research. Bombay: Indian Musicological Society, 1985.

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    Provides an overview of research on Sāma-veda recitation in English, Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, and Gujarati. Individual discussions of books and articles are occasionally cursory, but the collection of sources is useful.

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Saṅgīta-śāstra

The term “Saṅgīta-śāstra” refers to a Sanskrit-language “doctrine of music” or the texts that establish said doctrine of music. It is often referred to as musicological literature in contemporary academic discussions. Though the term saṅgīta is often used as a one-for-one translation of “music” in everyday discussions in contemporary South Asia, its earlier textual meaning referred to three interrelated practices: vocal music, instrumental music, and dance. This already diverse field of discussion is further compounded by a number of topics covered in these primary texts, which touch on music theory, musical instrument construction, tantric philosophy, and the role of music in early Sanskrit drama, among other subjects. Research on Saṅgīta-śāstra has covered the treatises of the ancient and medieval periods, roughly covering the time span from c. 100 to 1650 CE. This wide timespan can be usefully divided into two subcategories. In the first section, Pre–9th Century, the focus is on texts that discuss the ritual music associated with early Sanskrit drama (i.e., Gāndharva) and Veda recitation and has traditionally fallen under the term Mārga, meaning the “path to salvation [mokṣa]),” and often denoting a pan–South Asian “Great” tradition. The second period, 9th Century and Later, begins with the Bṛhaddeśī, a text that marks the shift toward an increasing vernacularization of Saṅgīta-śāstra in the Indian subcontinent and is associated with the description of regional musics (i.e., deśī). Cutting across these two broad time periods, scholarly research on Saṅgīta-śāstra has been of two general types. In the first category are a number of texts that explore themes and relationships across the entire body of musicological literature (see Overviews and Multitext Studies). A second category of research focuses on one treatise alone, offering critical editions and translations, thematic discussions, and works that include both. The list here is not exhaustive but represents the texts that have been the primary focus of music scholarship.

Overviews and Multitext Studies

Despite the fact that the texts of Saṅgīta-śāstra span a considerable amount of time (from c. 100 to 1650 CE), several works have studied a number of common issues that pervade these primary texts. Rowell 1992 is a book-length topically organized overview of ancient and medieval textual sources. Nijenhuis 1977 focuses on tracing continuities and shifts across Saṅgīta-śāstra texts in a chronological essay. Widdess 1995 is a music-theoretical study of the various modes of melodic organization and available notational evidence found across texts. Sarmadee 2003 is a chronological survey of Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic sources on music and their authors. Katz 1992 offers a number of articles that study the relationship between theory and practice as it relates to Saṅgīta-śāstra.

  • Katz, Jonathan, ed. Panels of the VIIth World Sanskrit Conference: The Traditional Indian Theory and Practice of Music and Dance. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1992.

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    A collection of edited conference papers from the World Sanskrit Conference in 1987. Each article takes a different approach to studying the relationships between Sanskrit musicological (or choreological) theory and performance practice. Contains a short but excellent introductory discussion of the concept of Saṅgīta-śāstra by Jonathan Katz.

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  • Nijenhuis, Emmie te. Musicological Literature. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1977.

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    Nijenhuis’s essay chronologically surveys Sanskrit musicological literature, covering the major and minor texts. An excellent and useful feature of this shorter study is how the author traces relationships between various texts. Includes extensive bibliography of published texts and manuscript catalogues.

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  • Rowell, Lewis Eugene. Music and Musical Thought in Early India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226730349.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent, thematically organized study of ancient and medieval musicological texts. Uses chapter headings such as “Thought,” “Sound,” and “Pitch” to synthesize Sanskrit musicological texts from c. 200 to 1240 CE.

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  • Sarmadee, Shahab. Nūr-ratnākar: A Bio-Bibliographical Survey, and Techno-Historical Study, of All Available Important Writings in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit and Other Allied Languages on the Subject of Song, Dance and Drama. Kolkata, India: ITC Sangeet Research Academy, 2003.

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    A chronological survey of music-related texts from the earliest sources until 1399 CE. The book is “bio-bibliographical” in that it offers both biographical and bibliographical data about authors and specific treatises, and, more importantly, incorporates sources from Arabic and Persian that are often left out of discussions on Saṅgīta-śāstra.

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  • Widdess, Richard. The Rāgas of Early Indian Music: Modes, Melodies, and Musical Notations from the Gupta Period to c. 1250. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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    A theoretical study of the various classificatory systems of melody type (rāga) from early Sanskrit treatises. Includes an overview of the shifting systems of melodic organization, a transcription of melodies from early notations, and an analytic comparison of notations to the sphere of theory. Because of the nature of the study, the language used and issues discussed are specialist oriented.

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Pre–9th Century

Scholarship focusing on Saṅgīta-śāstra in the period before the 9th century analyzes texts that discuss the ritual music associated with early Sanskrit drama and Veda recitation. The music used in these contexts has traditionally been defined as Mārga, referring to the “path to salvation [mokṣa]),” and often considered emblematic of a pan–South Asian “Great” tradition.

Nāṭya-śāstra

The Nāṭya-śāstra (Doctrine of Drama) is the earliest treatise that includes information on Saṅgīta-śāstra, having reached its final form somewhere between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE. Music is an ancillary topic in this treatise on drama, as evinced by the fact that only seven (in some editions six) of its thirty-seven (or thirty-six) chapters discuss music. Though so-called studies and handbooks on the Nāṭya-śāstra are abundant, many of them focusing on drama and dance, few dedicate much space to musical discussions. An exception is Tarlekar 1975, which offers a useful discussion of Gāndharva, the music performed by “Gandharvas” (heavenly musicians) and described in the Nāṭya-śāstra. Ghosh 1950–1961 is a complete English translation.

  • Ghosh, Manomohan, trans. Nāṭyaśāstra: A Treatise on Ancient Indian Dramaturgy and Histrionics, Ascribed to Bharata-Muni, Completely Translated for the First Time from the Original Sanskrit with an Introduction and Various Notes. 2 vols. Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1950–1961.

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    A standard and readable edition of Bharata’s treatise. This edition includes two volumes and does not include the original Devanāgarī, but a 2009 reprint does (Varanasi, India: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office).

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  • Tarlekar, Ganesh Hari. Studies in the Nāṭyaśāstra: With Special Reference to the Sanskrit Drama in Performance. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975.

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    A discussion of the Nāṭya-śāstra divided up into topical sections. Chapter on music engages with other secondary sources and cites later commentators, such as Abhinavagupta.

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Dattilam

The Dattilam takes its name from its author, Dattila, and is roughly contemporaneous with the Nāṭya-śāstra, as both study the musical system known as Gāndharva. The Dattilam is relatively short (244 verses) when compared to the approximately six thousand verses of the Nāṭya-śāstra, a point that has led to various debates about its supposed completeness. Nijenhuis 1970 is a translation and detailed commentary of the treatise that argues that the extant manuscripts of Dattilam only hint at a larger as yet undiscovered text. Latha 1978, on the other hand, is a topical study and translation in which the author argues that the extant manuscript represents the treatise’s complete form. Dattila 1988 offers a critical edition and translation of the treatise.

  • Dattila. Dattilam. Translated by Mukunda Latha. New Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1988.

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    A revised translation of Latha 1978 that includes the Sanskrit in Devanāgarī on a facing-page translation. A discussion of text-critical issues and a verse-by-verse commentary follows the translation.

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  • Latha, Mukunda. A Study of Dattilam: A Treatise on the Sacred Music of Ancient India. New Delhi: Impex India, 1978.

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    Opens with ten chapters that discuss various aspects of the text and the subject of Gāndharva. This topical discussion is followed by a translation of the treatise that organizes verses into fifteen topical sections. Introductory argument goes against previous research that suggests that the manuscript of the Dattilam is only a fragment of a larger treatise that remains undiscovered.

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  • Nijenhuis, Emmie te. Dattilam: A Compendium of Ancient Indian Music. Orientalia Rheno-Traiectina. Vol. 11. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1970.

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    Contains a readable English translation of Dattila’s short treatise with the Romanized Sanskrit on the facing page. Translation is followed by a verse-for-verse commentary that defines terms, often by making cross-references with other treatises.

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Cilappatikāram

An early Tamil-language source on music (5th century CE), the Cilappatikāram is a Tamil epic poem titled the “The Epic of an Anklet” that contains information on musical theory and practice. Ramanathan 1979 is a discussion of the role of music in this epic and contains a translation and Romanized version of the Tamil text. Iḷaṅkōvaṭikaḷ 1993 is an English translation of the entire poem.

Nāradīya-śikṣā

Nāradīya-śikṣā (The Phoenetic Manual of Narada) is a 5th- or 6th-century CE manual containing instructions for chanting the hymns of the Sāma-Veda. Nārada 1986 is a readable translation of this relatively short text (239 verses) with one commentary. Rowell 1977 is an article that discusses the relationship between the text and Hindu cosmology.

  • Nārada. Nāradīyā Śiksā: With the Commentary of Bhaṭṭa Śobhākara. Translated by Usha R. Bhise. Poona, India: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1986.

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    Contains the Devanāgarī text along with commentary and a readable translation. Introductory material discusses the manner in which the manuscripts notate the various Sāma-Veda hymns.

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  • Rowell, Lewis. “A Śikṣā for the Twiceborn.” Asian Music 9.1 (1977): 72–94.

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    In addition to describing the contents of the Nāradīyā-śiksā and discussing its relationship to other Sanskrit literary genres, this article contextualizes the treatise in relation to its historical and social context.

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Kuḍumiyāmalai Rock Inscription

This inscription is a 7th-century CE carving of musical notation on a cave wall in Tamil Nadu. Scholars believe it to be one of the earliest sources of musical notation in the Indian subcontinent. Widdess 1979 provides an overview of research and new interpretation of this important early source of musical notation.

  • Widdess, D. R. “The Kudumiyamalai Inscription: A Source of Early Indian Music in Notation.” Musica Asiatica 2 (1979): 115–150.

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    A detailed survey of previous studies of the Kudumiyamalai inscription that presents an alternative argument for interpreting the rock’s musical markings. Written for a specialist audience with experience in theoretical studies of music.

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9th Century and Later

Research that studies musical treatises in this period notes the beginning of a shift from the Mārga music of the Pre–9th Century era toward an increasing vernacularization in Saṅgīta-śāstra. The texts of this period thus describe the growing importance of regional music (i.e., deśī) in the Indian subcontinent.

Bṛhaddeśī

A treatise written by the sage Mataṅga in the 9th century CE titled “The Great Treatise on Deśī Music.” Discusses the influence of provincial music (deśī) on the older Mārga system of the Nāṭya-śāstra and Dattilam. The treatise appears to be what remains of a larger text that further charts the influence of yoga and tantric philosophies into the sphere of Saṅgīta-śāstra. Mataṅga 1992–1994 is a critical edition and translation of the text aimed at specialists. Sharma 2001 is an anthology of conference papers that discuss the text from numerous angles. Rowell 1987 provides an excellent introduction to the text, while also giving a translation and discussion on the topic of secular song (prabandhas) in the Bṛhaddeśī.

  • Mataṅga, Muni. Śrīmataṅgamuipraṇītā Bṛhaddeśī (Bṛhaddeśī of Śrī Mataṅga Muni). 2 vols. Edited by Prem Lata Sharma. New Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in association with Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1992–1994.

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    A critical edition of the text with facing-page translation and original Devanāgarī. The translation features technical language that is oriented to a music scholar audience.

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  • Rowell, Lewis. “The Songs of Medieval India: The Prabandhas as Described in Mataṅga’s Bṛhaddeśī.” Music Theory Spectrum 9.1 (1987): 136–172.

    DOI: 10.2307/746122Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An insightful essay that offers a study and translation of the Bṛhaddeśī’s section on secular song (prabandhas). Extremely useful in the connections it draws between this topic and later Saṅgīta-śāstra treatises.

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  • Sharma, Prem Lata, ed. Mataṅga and His Work Bṛhaddeśī: Proceedings of the Seminar at Hampi, 1995. Delhi: Sangeet Natak Akademi, 2001.

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    Conference papers on Mataṅga’s Bṛhaddeśī that focus on topics of historicity, the influence of yoga and tantra on the treatise, and detailed musicological discussions. Papers are in English and Hindi.

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Saṅgīta-ratnākara

Written by Śārṅgadeva, the royal accountant of the Yādava king Siṅghaṇa in c. 1240 CE, the Saṅgīta-ratnākara (The Mine of Musical Jewels) is a wide-ranging treatise of more than five thousand verses, considered to synthesize material from previous Saṅgīta-śāstra treatises. Śārṅgadeva 1978–1989, though not a complete edition, is an excellent introduction to the main topics of the text. Ramanathan 1999 focuses on the various song forms (gīta) in the treatise, while Kitada and Śārṅgadeva 2012 is a translation and discussion of the portion of the treatise dealing with human anatomy and sound production. For a complete Sanskrit edition, see Śārṅgadeva 1943–1953.

  • Kitada, Makoto, and Śārṅgadeva. The Body of the Musician: An Annotated Translation and Study of the Piṇḍotpatti-Prakaraṇa of Śārṅgadeva’s Saṅgītaratnākara. New York: Peter Lang, 2012.

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    An annotated translation of the portion of the Saṅgīta-ratnākara dealing with the relationship between human anatomy and the production of sound (piṇḍotpatti-prakaraṇa). Translation is prefaced with a discussion that compares the Saṅgīta-ratnākara with other Sanskrit texts on anatomy.

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  • Ramanathan, N. Musical Forms in Saṅgītaratnākara. Chennai: Sampradāya, 1999.

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    Revision of the author’s PhD thesis, a detailed study of the various forms of song (gīta) in the Saṅgīta-ratnākara that makes extensive cross-references with the Nāṭya-śāstra and its commentaries.

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  • Śārṅgadeva. Saṅgītaratnākara of Śārṅgadeva, with [the commentaries] Kalānidhi of Kallinātha, and Sudhākara of Siṁhabhūpāla. Edited by S. Subrahmaṇya Śāstri. 4 vols. Madras, India: Adyar Library, 1943–1953.

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    Complete in four volumes, this is a standard Sanskrit edition of the treatise without English translation. Includes two commentaries.

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  • Śārṅgadeva. Saṅgīta-ratnākara of Śārṅgadeva: Sanskrit Text and English Translation with Comments and Notes. 2 vols. Translated by R. K. Shringy, under the supervision of Prem Lata Sharma. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1978–1989.

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    Originally planned as an English translation of the six chapters of the Saṅgīta-ratnākara dealing with music, the two available volumes only cover chapters 1 through 4. However, the translator’s method of grouping verses by topic, along with detailed comments based on standard commentaries, makes this an invaluable resource despite being incomplete. Republished in 2007 (New Delhi: Munshiram Manaharlal).

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Saṅgītopaniṣat-sāroddhāra

Written by the Jain author Sudhākalaśa in 1350 CE, this text is a rare 14th-century treatise on music from the Indian subcontinent and contains the earliest known collections of rāga-dhyānas, short verses that alluded to rāgas as the musical forms of deities. Sudhākalaśa 1998 is an English translation of this text with original Devanāgarī and a substantial introduction that contextualizes the historical and textual context of the treatise’s composition.

  • Sudhākalaśa. The Saṅgītopaniṣat-sāroddhāra: A Fourteenth-Century Text on Music from Western India. Translated and edited by Allyn Miner. New Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1998.

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    Though not a critical edition, this is a readable English translation with the original Devanāgarī on facing page. Introduction contextualizes this treatise in relation to the well-known Saṅgīta-ratnākara that was composed one hundred years previously. This edition updates the author’s PhD dissertation, originally published in 1994.

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Saṅgīta-śiromaṇi

Saṅgīta-śiromaṇi (The Crest-jewel of Music) was composed under Sultan Malika Śāhi in 1428 CE as the result of a convened musical congress in his capital of Kaḍa. Nijenhuis 1992 is a translation of this treatise that includes a useful introduction outlining the various topics of the text.

  • Nijenhuis, Emmie te, ed. Saṅgītaśiromaṇi: A Medieval Handbook of Indian Music. New York: Brill, 1992.

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    A useful and readable translation paired with facing-page Romanized Sanskrit. Introduction situates this text historically and theoretically with regard to prior Saṅgīta-śāstra treatises.

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Rāgavibodha

Written by Somanātha in 1609 CE, the Rāga-vibodha features the most detailed rāga notations before the modern period. In addition, Somanātha gives pictorial descriptions (dhyānas) that are meant to convey each rāga’s visual form and often derive from Sanskrit aesthetic theory. Somanātha and Nijenhuis 1976 is a study of specific rāgas through both historical and technical analysis. Somanātha 1945 is a Sanskrit edition of the text with commentary.

Saṅgīta-nārāyaṇa

The Saṅgīta-nārāyaṇa, a text on music and dance from c. 1650 CE, takes its name from the court of King Gajapati Nārāyaṇadeva in Orissa where it was written. More recently, research has posited that the author of this treatise was Puruṣottama Miśra, a minister in this court. This treatise offers a valuable insight on styles of regional music and dance extant in eastern India during this period. Miśra 2009 is a critical edition with facing-page Devanāgarī and English translation. Katz 1987 is a translation and detailed commentary on the portions dealing with music.

  • Katz, Jonathan. “The Musicological Portions of the Saṅgītanārāyaṇa: A Critical Edition and Commentary.” 2 vols. PhD diss., Oxford University, 1987.

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    A translation and verse-by-verse commentary on the three chapters of this treatise that deal with music. Katz’s commentary is extremely useful in helping to find relationships with previous treatises.

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  • Miśra, Puruṣottama. Saṅgītanārāyanaḥ. Translated by Mandakranta Bose. New Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 2009.

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    Translation of the entire treatise in English with original Sanskrit.

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Classical Music

Since at least the 16th century, the musical traditions hinted at in the later stages of Saṅgīta-śāstra bifurcated into two sampradāyas (lineages) known as Hindustani (North Indian) and Karnatak (South Indian) musics. For both lineages the criteria used to legitimize performance are a basis in śāstra and a connection to an oral tradition of musical transmission (gharānā or “family” in the North, and often family based). Though the current practices of Hindustani and Karnatak music may have little to no connection to the theories and practices described in Saṅgīta-śāstra, one aspect of this earlier textual tradition that is central to current practice is that melodic arrangements are governed by the concept of rāga (melody type). The term “classical music” was adopted for these lineages in the early 20th century and has become part of common parlance in contemporary South Asia and beyond. Both Hindustani and Karnatak music were part of hybrid social and religious contexts; however, considering the influence of the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire in the North, the musical sphere of Hindustani music reveals a more profound synthesis between concepts of Hinduism and Islamic culture. The broad dimensions of Karnatak music, on the other hand, feature less syncretism in regard to the religious identity of musicians and the primarily Hindu devotional nature of song texts. Geographically, Hindustani music is most commonly found in the regions where Indo-European languages are spoken (i.e., Northern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), while Karnatak music is found in the Dravidian-speaking regions that cover most of Southern India. However, increasing collaborations between Hindustani and Karnatak musicians are beginning to complicate this general geographical distinction.

Hindustani Music

Sustained topics of research in Hindustani music have been studies of musical theory and performance. Bagchee 1998 offers an overview of Hindustani music with a focus on theoretical topics. Bhatkhande 1999 is an early-20th-century study of rāga (melody type) that proved immensely influential for later theorists. Jairazbhoy 1971 is a later music-theoretical analysis of the concept of rāga (melody type) in North Indian performance. Two studies of the North Indian genre of Dhrupad that also pay special attention to musical performance are Sanyal and Widdess 2004 and Thielemann 1997, each of which studies a different gharānā or “family” of Dhrupad performance. Wade 1984, similarly, compares performances between six different families of Hindustani Khyāl vocal performance. Manuel 1989 is a study of the semiclassical genre of North Indian Ṭhumrī from historical and performance-based angles. Simms 1992 studies the connections between musical sound and Hindu cosmology.

  • Bagchee, Sandeep. Nād: Understanding Rāga Music. Mumbai: Eeshwar, 1998.

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    An overview of Hindustani music that usefully divides chapters topically, paying special attention to vocal music in the Khyāl idiom. Draws much of its material from the writings of Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande and other 20th-century Indian music theorists.

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  • Bhatkhande, Vishnu Narayan. Hindustānī Saṅgīt-Paddhati. 2d ed. 5 vols. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1999.

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    Studies the concept of rāga (melody type) from perspectives of practice and 16th-century musicological treatises. This work was profoundly influential for Indian musicological studies of the 20th century, especially with regard to its concept of scale type (ṭhāṭ). In Marathi. Hindi translations of this text are more commonly found, such as the Hindi translation by Laksminarayan Garg (Hathras, India: Sangeet Karyalaya, 1954–1968).

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  • Jairazbhoy, Nazir Ali. The Rāgs of North Indian Music: Their Structure and Evolution. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1971.

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    A comprehensive study of the music-theoretical aspects of Hindustani music with a focus on the concept of rāga (melody type). The author’s analysis pays special attention to the theoretical contributions of Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, one of the most influential Indian music theorists of the 20th century.

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  • Manuel, Peter. Ṭhumrī in Historical and Stylistic Perspectives. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass, 1989.

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    After tracing textual relationships with medieval devotional song, the author analyzes the historical development of the semiclassical genre of Ṭhumrī in relation to various social developments in North India. Includes a music-analytical study that views Ṭhumrī in relation to other vocal genres in North India.

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  • Sanyal, Ritwik, and Richard Widdess. Dhrupad: Tradition and Performance in Indian Music. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004.

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    A comprehensive study of the Dhrupad genre that includes historical, ethnographic, and music-analytical analyses. The main focus is on the Dāgar gharānā, and the final three chapters offer an engaging and in-depth analysis of three phases of a Dhrupad performance, using detailed tables and Western staff notation. Includes CD.

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  • Simms, Robert. “Aspects of Cosmological Symbolism in Hindusthani Musical Forms.” Asian Music 24.1 (1992): 67–89.

    DOI: 10.2307/834450Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An engaging and speculative study of the relationships between concepts of Hindu cosmology and musical form in Hindustani performance with a specific focus on the genre of Dhrupad.

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  • Thielemann, Selina. The Darbhangā Tradition: Dhrupada in the School of Pandit Vidur Mallik. Varanasi, India: Indica, 1997.

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    A collection of essays about the Darbhangā gharānā (family) of Dhrupad performance that is based in the Vaiṣṇava center of Vrindavan. Includes interviews with musicians and an appendix containing a number of Darbhangā gharānā song compositions.

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  • Wade, Bonnie C. Khyāl: Creativity within North India’s Classical Music Tradition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

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    In addition to studying the historical emergence of the vocal genre of Khyāl, the author gives an overview of six major Khyāl gharānās. Uses a series of detailed notations—in both Western staff and modified South Asian solfege—to compare and contrast various styles of Khyāl.

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Karnatak Music

Similar to research on Hindustani Music, scholarship on Karnatak music has focused on musical theory and performance. Pesch 1999 is an overview of several aspects of Karnatak music. Powers 1958 remains one of the most comprehensive studies of the relationship between rāga (melody type) and processes of ornamentation in performance. In other scholarship, the interest in Karnatak performance is combined with a study of the compositions of the so-called trinity of Karnatak musicians who were active as performers and composers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries: Tyāgarāja, Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar and Śyāma Śāstri. Jackson 1994 studies the life of Tyāgarāja and his influence on contemporary performance. Jackson 1992 studies a particular musical form of Karnatak music through one of Tyāgarāja’s compositions. Nijenhuis 2011 offers recordings and transcriptions of various compositions of the Karnatak musical triumvirate, while Nijenhuis and Gupta 1987 focuses on one particular song cycle of Dīkṣitar. Powers 1984 is a study of Dīkṣītar’s kīrtanams sung in praise of Śiva and Śakti. Allen 1998 departs from a direct study of these three composers as he considers the relationship between contemporary Karnatak performance and marginalized female singer-dancers or devadasis.

  • Allen, Matthew Harp. “Tales Tunes Tell: Deepening the Dialogue between ‘Classical’ and ‘Non-Classical’ in the Music of India.” Yearbook for Traditional Music 30 (1998): 22–52.

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    Using the concept of varnamettu or “tune” as a central focus, Allen draws connections between performance practices of colonial-era devadasis (hereditary female singer-dancers) and contemporary Karnatak performance in order to underscore the social dimensions of the category of classical music in south India.

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  • Jackson, William. “Features of the Kṛiti: A Song Form Developed by Tyāgarāja.” Asian Music 24.1 (1992): 19–66.

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    An excellent introduction to the compositional form known as a kṛiti that contrasts it with other Karnatak musical forms. Studies the melodic, rhythmic, and literary aspects of one of Tyāgarāja’s compositions.

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  • Jackson, William. Tyāgarāja and the Renewal of Tradition: Translations and Reflections. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1994.

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    An engaging and composite study of Tyāgarāja that offers a survey of historical sources about the composer’s life and traces his influence into the 20th century through a study of his disciples and later followers. Though there is no musical analysis, the text includes a translation of one Tyāgarāja’s song cycles.

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  • Nijenhuis, Emmie te, ed. Kīrtana: Traditional South Indian Devotional Songs: Compositions of Tyāgarāja, Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar and Śyāma Śāstri. Boston: Brill, 2011.

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    A study of Kīrtana as a specific musical form of Karnatak music, not to be confused with the more general practice of Kīrtan as a form of Devotional Music. After introductory chapters that introduce Kīrtana as a musical form, the remainder of this book offers Western staff notations of a number of compositions of Tyāgarāja, Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar, and Śyāma Sāstrī. Includes accompanying CD with performances of the compositions under study.

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  • Nijenhuis, Emmie te, and Sanjukta Gupta. Sacred Songs of India: Dīkṣitar’s Cycle of Hymns to the Goddess Kamalā. 2 vols. Winterthur/Schweiz, Germany: Amadeus Verlag, 1987.

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    A study of one of Dīkṣitar’s song cycles, contextualizing the analysis in respect to both tantric and musicological spheres. Part 1 offers a translation and commentary on the cycle. Part 2 is a collection of Western staff notations that chart the historical development of Kīrtana as a musical form and analyzes the specific song cycle under study.

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  • Pesch, Ludwig. The Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    A useful overview of many aspects of Karnatak music. Each chapter discusses a different aspect of the history, terminology, and performance practice. Suitable for an undergraduate course.

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  • Powers, Harold. “The Background of the South Indian Raga-System.” 3 vols. PhD diss., Princeton University, 1958.

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    A detailed historical and music-theoretical study of Karnatak music. Author focuses on the relationship between the concept of rāga (melody type) and its relationship to the process of ornamentation in performance. The first volume is textual analysis, while the second and third volumes feature Western staff notations of examples discussed previously.

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  • Powers, Harold. “Musical Art and Esoteric Theism: Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar’s Ānandabhairavī Kīrtanams on Śiva and Śakti at Tiruvārūr.” In Discourses on Śiva. Edited by Michael W. Meister, 317–340. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984.

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    Powers examines two kīrtanam compositions from both textual and musical perspectives, and in the course of this analysis, offers a study of one particular rāga (melody type) that is used for both songs. Argues that Dīkṣitar’s compositions—and the deities they propitiate—index a relationship with specific temple complexes in South India.

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Devotional Music

Though devotional music traditions share similarities with Classical Music, two important differences are evident. The first is the manner that the legitimizing criteria of śāstra (and its concomitant focus on rāga or melody type) and specific oral lineages of musical transmission carry less importance in devotional music. The second difference is the importance of song texts in devotional music performance, texts that index relationships with various regional devotional religious practices (bhakti). The heightened importance of devotional song texts proves to be a useful point of distinction between classical and devotional musics in the Northern Area, as the syncretic Hindu-Muslim social context of Hindustani music features song texts that are often less explicitly descriptive of Hindu religious imagery and themes. Drawing a line between classical music and devotional music in the Southern Area proves more difficult because of the enduring use of Hindu themes in Karnatak song texts, evinced by the smaller number of sources listed in this bibliography under devotional music in the Southern Area.

Northern Area

The majority of research on devotional music in the Northern Area has studied Vaiṣṇava music. The music of the Vaiṣṇava Vallabha tradition in the temples of Nathdvara is described in Gaston 1997, while the Vallabha music of the Vraja region is found in Ho 2006. Further studies of the Vraja region are found in Sanford 2008 and Thielemann 2001. Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava music of Bengal is studied in Graves 2014 and Wulff 1996. Slawek 1986 investigates popular devotional practice in urban Banaras, while Henry 1988 studies popular devotional music in rural Northern India. Hess 2009 studies the popular devotional music of Kabir. Widdess 2013 is a rare study of Hindu-Buddhist devotional music in Nepal.

  • Gaston, Anne-Marie. Krishna’s Musicians: Musicians and Music Making in the Temples of Nathdvara, Rajasthan. New Delhi: Manohar, 1997.

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    An excellent and detailed ethnography of the hereditary kirtankars (kirtan musicians) who perform in the Vallabha Sampraday temples in Nathdwara, Rajasthan. In addition to studying the larger context of the Shrinathji Temple, a specific focus is the lineage of pakhavaj drumming in this temple community.

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  • Graves, Eben. “Padāvalī-Kīrtan: Music, Religious Aesthetics, and Nationalism in West Bengal’s Cultural Economy.” PhD diss., University of Texas at Austin, 2014.

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    Examines the devotional musical genre of padāvalī-kīrtan in historical and contemporary Bengal with a focus on the relationships between religious aesthetics, Bengali cultural nationalism, and the genre’s relationship with economic exchange. Uses analysis of musical performance and ethnography to study shifts in musical style and media production among contemporary professional padāvalī-kīrtan musicians.

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  • Henry, Edward O. Chant the Names of God: Musical Culture in Bhojpuri-Speaking India. San Diego: San Diego State University Press, 1988.

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    Henry studies a number of secular and religious-themed song texts from the Bhojpuri-speaking region of Northern India and their relationship to issues of caste and gender. Appended material includes Western staff transcriptions of a number of songs.

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  • Hess, Linda, ed. Singing Emptiness: Kumar Gandharva Performs the Poetry of Kabir. New York: Seagull, 2009.

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    Hess combines a number of histories, engaging anecdotes, and personal reflections to a project that is, at its core, a collection of Kabir song translations with accompanying CD that features the performances of Kumar Gandharva. The combination of these various approaches results in a text that is suitable as an excellent introduction to the music and poetry of Kabir for undergraduate- and graduate-level courses.

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  • Ho, Meilu. “The Liturgical Music of the Puṣṭi Mārg of India: An Embryonic Form of the Classical Tradition.” PhD diss., UCLA, 2006.

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    Takes an ethnographic perspective on the use of the devotional musical genre of kīrtan in the Vallabh Sampradāy temples of the Vraja region in Northern India. The central framework for this wide-ranging and excellent study is the relationship between the liturgical sphere of image worship and musical performance. Includes three CDs (archived in the UCLA Music Library) and numerous musical transcriptions.

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  • Sanford, A. Whitney. Singing Krishna: Sound Becomes Sight in Paramānand’s Poetry. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008.

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    Though not focusing on the performance context, Sanford offers a thorough study of the song texts of the poet Paramānand, whose compositions are part of the daily liturgical and musical performances of the Vallabha Sampradāy. An excellent introduction to concepts that underpin the relationship of liturgy to devotional aesthetics.

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  • Slawek, Stephen. “Kīrtan: A Study of the Sonic Manifestations of the Divine in the Popular Hindu Culture of Banāras.” PhD diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1986.

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    An ethnographic and performance-based study of devotional musical practice that studies various contexts of the genre of kīrtan in Banaras. Author studies the relationships between social context, the devotional belief system, and musical performance. Includes extensive transcriptions of song texts and melodies.

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  • Thielemann, Selina. Musical Traditions of Vaiṣṇava Temples in Vraja: A Comparative Study of Samāja and the Dhrupada Tradition of North Indian Classical Music. 2 vols. New Delhi: Sagar, 2001.

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    The first volume of this two-volume study focuses on the music of five different Vaiṣṇava traditions in the Vraja region of Northern India, four of which go by the name samāja-gāyana (congregational singing). Author includes ethnographic and music-analytical approaches that are discussed in reference to the textual repertoires of each musical sampradāya (lineage). Volume 2 goes on to compare these devotional musics with the classical Dhrupad style.

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  • Widdess, Richard. Dāphā: Sacred Singing in a South Asian City: Music, Performance and Meaning in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013.

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    Part ethnography, part history, and part musicological analysis, Widdess’s excellent study of Nepali dāphā devotional song provides an overview of this understudied and syncretic genre that straddles Hindu and Buddhist religious spheres. Includes a detailed analysis of ten dāphā song performances, eight of which are on the book’s accompanying CD.

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  • Wulff, Donna. “Internal Interpretation: The Ākhar Lines in Performances of Padāvalī Kīrtan.” Journal of Vaishnava Studies 4.4 (1996): 75–86.

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    A detailed investigation of the use of textual interjections used in Bengali padāvalī-kīrtan performances and their role in the process of elaborating on devotional themes in poetry. Author compares original padāvalī-kīrtan song texts with textual interjections (ākhars) used in performance.

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Southern Area

Many devotional song texts in the southern area are used in Karnatak musical performance (Karnatak Music), thus making the division between Karnatak and devotional music in the Southern Area porous and somewhat arbitrary. Nevertheless, one distinct research focus on devotional music in the southern area has been the so-called bhajana sampradāya and its relationship to social structure. While Singer 1963 suggests that Smarta Brahman communities in Southern India used multilingual devotional performances to integrate various caste-based and regional identities, Soneji 2013 argues that these multilingual texts are more representative of a caste- and class-based multilingual milieu of the earlier Tanjore Maratha courts. The important Divya Prabandham song texts of the South Indian Āḻvārs are studied in Narayanan 1994 in the context of temple worship in Śrīvaiṣṇava communities.

  • Narayanan, Vasudha. The Vernacular Veda: Revelation, Recitation, and Ritual. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.

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    Comprehensive study of the Divya Prabandham song-poetry repertoire of the Śrīvaiṣṇava community with a specific focus on the Tiruvāymoḷi of Nammāḷvār. Though not exclusively a study on music, the author offers valuable historical and ethnographic information on the hereditary musicians who perform the repertoire of the Divya Prabandham. Includes a translation of the Tiruvāymoḷi songs.

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  • Singer, Milton. “The Radha-Krishna ‘Bhajans’ of Madras City.” History of Religions 2.2 (1963): 183–226.

    DOI: 10.1086/462461Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the role of congregational devotional music, or bhajans, in the context of Smarta Brahman communities in the urban center of 21st-century Tamil Nadu. A central point in Singer’s analysis is that Smarta Brahmans used multilingual texts in performance as part of an integrative function to reduce differences of caste, sect, and regional identity.

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  • Soneji, Davesh. “The Powers of Polyglossia: Marathi Kīrtan, Multilingualism, and the Making of a South Indian Devotional Tradition.” International Journal of Hindu Studies 17.3 (2013): 339–369.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11407-014-9147-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reexamines the phenomenon of the South Indian bhajana saṃpradāya studied in Singer 1963. Author suggests that the multilingual nature of these devotional performances is more influenced by the polyglot nature of the Maratha court in the 18th and 19th centuries than later Smarta Brahman innovations.

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Ritual Music

Studies on ritual music in Hinduism have focused on music in Hindu temples or the role of music in a variety of life-cycle rituals. The shift from Devotional Music to ritual music is further signaled by a diminishing importance on song texts in performance, as a significant amount of ritual music is instrumental. To date, the majority of research on ritual music has focused on various temple music genres in South India. Groesbeck 1999 and Killius 2006 study the genre of kṣētram vādyam in Kerala. Bhalla 2006 examines the under-studied performance of sopana sangit. Terada 2008 examines instrumental temple music in Tamil Nadu. Guzy 2013 studies life-cycle rituals with a focus on social identity in Orissa, while Alter 2008 is an examination of music and ritual in the central Himalayas.

  • Alter, Andrew. Dancing with Devtās: Drums, Power and Possession in the Music of Garhwal, North India. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Alter offers an ethnographic and musically astute study of the role of music in various religious and life-cycle rituals in the central Himalayan region. Though several chapters contextualize the musical case studies, the focus of the book is musical performance. Contains numerous musical transcriptions in Western staff notation and CD with relevant examples.

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  • Bhalla, Deepti Omchery. Vanishing Temple Arts: Temples of Kerala & Kanyaakumaari District. Gurgaon, India: Shubhi, 2006.

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    Though many of the historical discussions in this text are cursory, Bhalla studies the mostly undocumented performance genre of sopana sangit, a genre of temple music in Kerala. Discussion is confined to brief descriptions of performance and lists of musical terminology.

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  • Groesbeck, Rolf. “‘Classical Music,’ ‘Folk Music,’ and the Brahmanical Temple in Kerala, India.” Asian Music 30.2 (1999): 87–112.

    DOI: 10.2307/834314Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Groesbeck suggests that the performance practices of the temple music genre of kṣētram vādyam defy categorization in a folk-classical dichotomy through comparisons with Karnatak music and other temple performance genres in Southern India.

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  • Guzy, Lidia. Marginalised Music: Music, Religion and Politics from Western Odisha, India. Zürich: Lit, 2013.

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    An ethnographic overview of several genres of ritual-related music in western Odisha (Orissa) that discusses issues of caste identity and trance. Though some of the musical notations are difficult to understand, Guzy’s study offers a wealth of information on an understudied area in South Asia. Originally published as author’s postdoctoral thesis from Freie Universität, Berlin in 2011.

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  • Killius, Rolf. Ritual Music and Hindu Rituals of Kerala. Delhi: B.R. Rhythms, 2006.

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    Though not a theory-driven text, Killius’s study of the genre kshetram vadyam, the ritual music performed at Hindu temples in Kerala, offers abundant information on this understudied performance genre. Examines a variety of ensembles and musical instruments connected with Kerala temples. Sound recordings related to this book can be found online.

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  • Terada, Yoshitaka. “Temple Music Traditions in Hindu South India: ‘Periya Mēḷam’ and Its Performance Practice.” Asian Music 39.2 (2008): 108–151.

    DOI: 10.1353/amu.0.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Terada analyzes iconographical and historical evidence in order to suggest the historical emergence of this ensemble, which is augmented with an overview of how the ensemble accompanies worship at various temples in South India.

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Music and Dance

Despite the central role of dance in the composite definition of saṅgīta (see Introduction), there are limited studies that explicitly focus on music in relation to dance. Higgins 1993 is an overview of the dance style of Bharata Nāṭyam, while Allen 1992 focuses on the specific genre of padam used in the same dance genre.

  • Allen, Matthew Harp. “The Tamil ‘Padam’: A Dance Music Genre of South India. (Volumes I and II).” PhD diss., Wesleyan University, 1992.

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    A comprehensive study of the padam genre of song used in Bharata Nāṭyam dance. Offers a historical and analytical study of thirty songs, contextualizing the social context of their performance in the 20th century.

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  • Higgins, Jon B. The Music of Bharata Natyam. New Delhi: American Institute of Indian Studies, Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology: Oxford and IBH, 1993.

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    A study of the musical aspects of a Bharata Nāṭyam performance. Higgins organizes the book’s chapters according to the structure of a dance performance, with each chapter presenting detailed transcriptions of music and dance. Originally presented as the author’s PhD thesis in 1973. Includes cassettes of transcribed examples found in Part 2 of the book.

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Nationalism and Modernity

The most active area of recent research has been a collection of studies that focus on issues of nationalism and modernity and their relationship to the social structures and religious practices of Hinduism. Although the various studies in this section could be categorized under Classical Music or Devotional Music, their primary focus is the relationship between musical discourse and processes of nationalism, Orientalism, and modernity more generally. A central debate in scholarship on Hindustani music has considered the relationship between Hindu nationalists and hereditary Muslim musicians in the process of reforming Hindustani music in the early 20th century. Bakhle 2005 argues that the discourse surrounding Hindustani music in the late colonial period marginalized Muslim musicians, while Kobayashi 2003 suggests that Hindu-Muslim social identity had less of an impact on the musical and social landscape of early 20th-century musical performance and discourse. A pair of studies consider the role of nationalism and Hindu social structures in the discourse surrounding Karnatak Music: Subramanian 2006 is a historical study that traces Karnatak music and musicians from the Maratha court to the urban center of Madras, while Weidman 2006 considers ethnographic and historical evidence in a study of classical music in South India and its relationship to the concept of voice. Dennen 2010 is a focus on Orissa’s claim to classical music—Oḍiśī saṅgīta—in a study of Oriyan regional nationalism. Schultz 2013 offers an analysis of musical discourse and performance in her study of Marathi devotional music and its relationship to nationalism and modernity in western India.

  • Bakhle, Janaki. Two Men and Music: Nationalism in the Making of an Indian Classical Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195166101.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A cultural history that focuses on two important figures of Hindustani musical reform in the late colonial period: Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande and Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. Bakhle analyzes the relationship between Hindustani music and the concept of classicism in light of processes of modernity and nationalism in India, arguing that Hindustani music’s transformation into a national form of cultural expression simultaneously marginalized hereditary Muslim musicians in Northern India.

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  • Dennen, David. “The Third Stream: Oḍiśī Music, Regional Nationalism, and the Concept of ‘Classical.’” Asian Music 41.2 (2010): 149–179.

    DOI: 10.1353/amu.0.0063Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Dennen offers an introduction to the musical genre of Oḍiśī saṅgīta, including an investigation of the discourse surrounding this genre in relation to the larger debates of Oriya regional nationalism.

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  • Kobayashi, Eriko. “Hindustani Classical Music Reform Movement and the Writing of History, 1900s to 1940s.” PhD diss., University of Texas at Austin, 2003.

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    A historical study of the reformist movement surrounding Hindustani music in the early 20th century. In addition to studying textual materials, Kobayashi uses interviews with those involved with the movement for musical reform to suggest that the dichotomy between Hindu and Muslim musicians during this period was not as rigid as suggested in other research.

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  • Schultz, Anna C. Singing a Hindu Nation: Marathi Devotional Performance and Nationalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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    An excellent study of the relationships between musical performance and cultural nationalism in Maharashtra through a study of several genres of Marathi Devotional Music. In addition to historical analysis, Schultz offers a detailed study of several performances of Marathi devotional music to demonstrate how performers translate religious emotion into nationalist sentiment. Suitable for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses that study music and nationalism.

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  • Subramanian, Lakshmi. From the Tanjore Court to the Madras Music Academy: A Social History of Music in South India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    A cultural history of Karnatak music in the late-colonial period that focuses on how the concept of classical became solidified around concepts of Orientalism, nationalism, and shifting modes of patronage. A specific focus of the author’s analysis are the various initiatives of the Madras Music Academy in the early 20th century that aimed to systematize Karnatak performance, while also marginalizing the hereditary devadasi performers who had previously performed many types of Karnatak music.

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  • Weidman, Amanda J. Singing the Classical, Voicing the Modern: The Postcolonial Politics of Music in South India. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822388050Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An ethnographic and historical study of the emergence of Karnatak music as a form of classical music in colonial and postcolonial South India. Through a specific focus on the voice as a theoretical category, Weidman focuses on how issues of aurality informed the discourse surrounding Karnatak music.

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Music and Media

Studies of the relationship between Hinduism and media in South Asia have proliferated in the early 21st century, including books and articles that study the intersection of cinema, television, and Hindu nationalism. Research on music, media, and Hinduism is a relatively new development, as evidenced by the somewhat small but growing number of publications that study this topic. Manuel 1993 is a study of popular Hindu devotional music and its relationship to regional media industry with a focus on the now somewhat dated cassette medium. Booth and Shope 2014 includes essays that discuss music and Hinduism in the context of Indian popular music.

  • Booth, Gregory D., and Bradley Shope, eds. More than Bollywood: Studies in Indian Popular Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    Collection of essays on popular music in India that intersects with relevant topics of music and Hinduism. In particular, Stephen Hughes’s essay studies how Hindu iconography and musical traditions were incorporated into the commercial gramophone industry in South India.

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  • Manuel, Peter. Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

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    A study of the relationship between cassette technology, regional media production, and the popular music industry in North India. Offers a study of rise of various popular Hindu bhajan (devotional song) styles connected with regional musical production.

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Outside South Asia

Research on musical genres with ties to Hinduism outside of South Asia has focused on the areas of the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and, more recently, North America. Myers 1998 is the most comprehensive study of music among the Indo-Caribbean diaspora, while Manuel 2009 focuses on one genre from Northern India that has been brought from India to the United States via the Caribbean and Fiji. Despite the long history of Hindu kingdoms in Southeast Asia, and the transplantation and continued relevance of Hindu epics in the shadow-puppetry traditions of Java, Harnish 2006 is a rare example of research in Southeast Asia that focuses on Hindu religious practices. In North America, the main focus has been the recent popularity of Hindu-derived devotional singing or kirtan in yoga studios and commercial recordings. Johnsen and Jacobus 2007 is a collection of edited interviews with some of the most popular singers in this new phenomenon, while Cooke 2009 questions why this genre has recently become so popular among non-Hindu audiences. Hansen 1996, also a study in North America, studies the phenomenon of music festivals among the South Indian diaspora in various locales in the United States that are held in honor of the Karnatak musician, Tyāgarāja.

  • Cooke, Jubilee. “Why has Kirtan Become so Popular in the West?” Journal of Vaishnava Studies 17.2 (2009): 185–212.

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    Drawing from interviews with kirtan musicians and ethnographic research, Cooke investigates the recent rise of interest in devotional kirtan singing in a variety of performance contexts in North America.

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  • Hansen, Kathryn. “Performing Identities: Tyāgarāja Music Festivals in North America.” South Asia Research 16.2 (1996): 155–174.

    DOI: 10.1177/026272809601600203Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent study of the rise in popularity of annual music festivals held in North America to honor the Karnatak composer and musician, Tyāgarāja. Hansen describes one such festival in Cleveland, Ohio, while also offering an analysis of how this event functions to establish conceptions of devotional religious and diasporic identity abroad.

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  • Harnish, David D. Bridges to the Ancestors Music, Myth, and Cultural Politics at an Indonesian Festival. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006.

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    A detailed ethnography and musical analysis of an annual religious festival in Lombok, Indonesia. Harnish studies the religious and social encounters between the Balinese Hindu and indigenous (Sasak) communities in the context of the festival’s history and performance.

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  • Johnsen, Linda, and Maggie Jacobus. Kirtan!: Chanting As a Spiritual Path. Saint Paul, MN: Yes International, 2007.

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    Though not a scholarly study, the authors offer interviews with kirtan musicians who have popularized the singing of devotional songs in 21st-century North American yoga studios and communities.

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  • Manuel, Peter. “Transnational Chowtal: Bhojpuri Folk Song from North India to the Caribbean, Fiji, and Beyond.” Asian Music 40.2 (2009): 1–32.

    DOI: 10.1353/amu.0.0025Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A multisited study of the seasonal musical genre of Chowtal that features songs on the episodes of Radha and Krishna’s vernal episodes (Holi). In addition to offering an overview of the genre’s main characteristics, Manuel discusses striking similarities between performances in North India and Indian diasporic communities in the United States.

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  • Myers, Helen. Music of Hindu Trinidad: Songs from the India Diaspora. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

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    A study of the music of the Indian diaspora in Trinidad, with a significant focus on devotional song texts transplanted from Bhojpuri-speaking regions in North India. The author’s analysis includes musical transcriptions, song text translations, and CDs.

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