Raga Chikitsa and Raga Ragini Vidya – Bill Osmer

An exploration into the use of Music for the purpose of Healing by Bill Osmer, December, 2006
The purpose of this paper is to introduce and explain the concepts and methodology of Indian music known as Raga Chikitsa and Raga Ragini Vidya as revived and developed by my guru, Sri Ganapathi Sachchidananda Swamiji of Avadhoota Peetham, Mysore, India, and to show how music fits in with Ayurveda as a healing modality. First a look at the principles and origins of Indian and Western music.


The purpose of this section is to give a brief summary of the origins and development of Indian musician to its present day form and also to show that its history is inseparable from spirituality. Indian music is probably the most complex musical system in the world, with a very highly developed melodic and rhythmic structure. This includes complicated poly-rhythms, delicate nuances, ornamentations and microtones which are essential characteristics of Indian music. Indian music had its origins in the Vedas (4,000 B.C. to 1,000 B.C.). Four in number, the Vedas are the most sacred texts of India, containing some 1,000 hymns. They were used to preserve a body of poetry, invocations, and mythology in the form of sacrificial chants dedicated to the Gods. Great care was taken to preserve the text, which was passed down by oral tradition, so much so that both the text and the rituals remain unchanged to this day. The literature of the Vedas, is divided into 4 parts: Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharvana Veda. The oldest, the Rig Veda, dates back to about 4,000 B.C. it was recited, at first, in a monotone and then later developed to 3 tones (one main tone and two accents, one higher (uddatta) and one lower (anudatta), respectively. This was done to
accentuate the words, since the text was of primary importance. The Yajur Veda, which mainly consists of sacrificial formulas, mentions the “veena” as an accompaniment to vocal recitations during the sacrifices. By this time, the chants had evolved to two main notes with two accents, which formed the first concept of the tetrachord (4 note chord).

The Sama Veda laid the foundation for Indian Music. The origin of Indian music can be traced back to this Veda. Three more notes were added to the original tetrachord, resulting in the first full scale of seven notes. These original seven notes used in reciting the Sama Veda became the first ragas and according to Sakuntala Narasimhan in Invitation to Indian Music, it later became known as the Kharaharapriya raga of the Carnatic (South Indian) system of music.

As mentioned before, Indian music developed from the Sarma Veda. This music, which was prevalent throughout the entire length and breadth of India, became more and more advanced every century due to the contributions of scholar-musicians like Bharata, Matanga, Sarangadeva, and Venkatarnakhi. All of these musicians made great contributions to both Sacred and Art music and are collectively responsible for the modern styles of bhajans, kirtans, concert formats, training techniques, etc., still used today.

Around the 12th and 13th centuries A.D. there was a bifurcation into the two distinctive systems of South Indian (Carnatic) and North Indian (Hindustani) music. This happened as follows: In the 12th and 13th centuries A.D., the northern part of India went trough a series of invasions by Muslim rulers from Asia minor, who were on a crusade to spread their religion Islam. These rulers settled in the North and due to the interaction between the invaders and the local people, changes began to take place socially. The music was highly influenced by the Arabic and Persian styles, resulting in a totally new style of music, namely Hindustani music. This literally means the “Music of India,” Hindustan being the Hindi word for “India.” In the South, the music continue to develop along tbe same lines, without any external influence and came to be called “Carnatic” music which means “traditional” in Tamil language.

Below is a chart summarizing and highlighting the scriptural lineage and history of Indian music. The history is divided into the Ancient period (4,000 B.C to 400 A.D.), medieval period (5th century A.D. to 15th century A.D.) and the Modern Period (16th century A.D. onward).

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