The 7 Shadows of Shadja

Miyan Himmat Khan Kalawant

Portrait of Miyan Himmat Khan Kalawant, a blind beenkar,
page from the Tasrih al-aqvam,by Ghulam Ali Khan (?), 1825
The 7 Shadows Of Sa

In this brief documentary the Rudra Veena Player Bahauddin Dagar demonstrates the seven shades of the basic note Shadja (C in western notation) The discussion of the shruti architecture in the music of India has been going on since Music philosophers invented a systematic mathematical approach to the rendering of a raga, as well as to classical music itself.

The melakarta system of South India reflects here an very old unique position in high level musical math related to the religious incarnations, synthesizing a historical step to an absolute system of Sound and religious philosophy.

As always Classical Music from India still seems to be a serious challenge even for the well educated western musicians and listeners.

Remarkable the comparison of the seven shades of Shadja to the different levels of daylight.


Origins of the Indian Scale – Saptak

Saptak means “gamut” or “the series of seven notes”. It denotes the set of swaras, Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni which comprise a musical scale in Indian classical music. In Sanskrit, saptak literally means “containing seven” and is derived from the Sanskrit word sapta which means “seven”. Indian classical music has seven basic notes, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni, with five interspersed half-notes, resulting in a 12-note scale. The Natya Shastra is an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music.

It was written during the period between 200 BC and 200 AD and is traditionally attributed to the Sage Bharata. While the term raga is articulated in the Natya Shastra (where its meaning is more literal, colour, as in mood), it finds a clearer expression in what is called ‘jati’ in the Dattilam. The Dattilam is an ancient Indian musical text ascribed to the sage Dattila. It is believed to have been composed between the 1st and 4th century AD. The Dattilam is focused on gandharva music, and discusses scales (swara), defining a tonal framework called ‘grama’ in terms of 22 micro-tonal intervals (sruti) comprising one octave. The seven notes of the scale (swaras), in Indian music are named shadja, rishabh, gandhar, madhyam, pancham, dhaivat and nishad, and are shortened to Sa, Ri (Carnatic) or Re (Hindustani), Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni. Collectively these notes are known as the sargam (the word is an acronym of the consonants of the first five swaras). Sargam is the Indian equivalent to solfège. Sargam is generally practised against a drone.

The tone Sa is not associated with any particular pitch. As in Western moveable-Do solfège, Sa refers to the tonic of a piece or scale rather than to any particular pitch. Shadja is the defining note of the scale. The word Shadja means ‘giving birth to six’, and refers to the fact that once this note is fixed, the placement of other notes in the scale is determined. Shadja’ is considered to be the one from which the other six notes emerge. Brihaddeshi is a Classical Sanskrit text on Indian classical music (6th – 8th century AD) attributed to Matanga Muni.

It is the first text that speaks of raga. It introduced sargam notation. Of the seven notes, “Sa” is the most firm note. Without sa, the entire saptak falls apart. The name for Sa is “sadja.” It comes from the Sanskrit “sad + aja.” In Sanskrit, “Sad” means “six”, while “aja” means creator of. the other six notes. These notes cannot have true definition unless Sa is defined, because the position of Sa will define where Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni fall. The next firm note is “Pa.” The union of “Sa” and “Pa” represents the perfect union, the perfect harmony.

Sa and Pa are immovable, this forms a perfect fifth. Every other note can move. Sa, Re/Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha/Da, and Ni is traditionally held to have originated from the sound of a different animals. Some sounds have additional meanings of their own. Each swara is associated with one of the seven chakras of the body. Sadja Sa Cry of the peacock Rishabha Re Lowing of the bull Gaandhaara Ga Bleating of a goat Madhyama Ma Call of the heron Panchama Pa Call of the cuckoo Dhaivata Dha Neighing of the horse Nishaada Ni Trumpeting of the elephant


Sa is derived from Shadja which means ‘giving birth to six’. Re is derived from Rishabha which means ‘Great One’ Ga is derived from Gandhar which means ‘sweet fragrance’ Ma derived from Madhyama which means ‘being in the middle’ Pa is derived from Panchama which means ‘the fifth note’ Dha is derived from Dhaivata which means ‘sixth note/divine’ Ni is derived from Nishad which means an ‘seventh note’ also ‘setting at rest’, ‘esoteric doctrine’, ‘secret doctrine’, ‘mysterious or mystical’ Singing the Swaras has a positive effect on the body, mind and the consciousness. The swaras also effect our feelings and emotions. The swaras are also associated with planets and colours – ‘sa’ (shadjam) – Mercury – green ‘ri’ (rishabham) – Mars – red ‘ga’ (gandharam) – Sun – golden colour ‘ma’ (madhyam) – Moon – white or yellowish tint ‘pa’ (panchamam) – Saturn – blue or black dha’ (dhaivatam) – Jupiter – yellow ‘ni’ (nishadham) – Venus – multi colour

Qualities of the Svara

Shadja – Means ‘father of the six svaras’ and the one which gives birth to the other six svaras. Rishab – Being the nearest to the Grâmni svara (Sa) it is strong as Vrishab (Bull). Gandhâr – Is associated with karunâ (sadness, longing). Madyam – This svara is in the middle of the saptak. Pancham – Is made up of the words panch (five) and mi (to measure). Is that note that is fifth from the Shadaj and is the tool to measure the svara intervals. Dhaivat – Is the overtone of the madyam svara and is heard by the Dhivân (sensitive minds). Nishâd – Is so called because the notes of the scale come to a close with it. The word is derived from Sanskrit root “ni+shâd” to come to a rest. Nishâd is full of karunâ (longing). Bild2

To listen to this remakable micro lesson, click button below



For a complete rendering on Rudra Veena by  Bahauddin Dagar
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About RAM Chandrakausika राम च 51

Ram51 is a researcher in the various fields of Musicology, Philosophy and History as well as old languages. One of his first topics is the wide scope of Indo-arabic cultures as represented in various art-forms religion and history. Below a list of selected Research topics which sum up partitionally the task of anthropological Frameworks in totaliter : Sanskrit Hinduism and Mythology Hindustani Music, The Muqhal Empire Gharanas from North India Kashmir Sufiyana The Kashmir Santoor Traditional Folk Music from USA Philosophy in Orient and Okzident Genealogy of musical instruments Ethnomusicology, Arabic Maqams, No Theatre fromJapan, North american poetry, Cultural heritage of mankind and Islamic architecture... View all posts by RAM Chandrakausika राम च 51

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