Sampradaya

About Sampradaya
(also known as Parampara)

The word Sampradaya (pronunciation: SUM-pruh-daa-yuh) is used in more than one sense, and both as a verb and a noun. In the context in which it is used here, it refers to a system of transfer of knowledge or skill from master to disciple where-
  • the master is a complete scholar in the subject (in both its theoretical and practical limbs)

  • the scholarly aspect of the master includes a comprehensive knowledge of the Shashtra (pronunciation: SHAA-sh-truh) or theoretical and practical knowledge as discussed or revealed in respected treatises on the subject, particularly treatises written in Sanskrit

  • the master is adept in the art of teaching

  • the master explains the subject matter to the disciple with the aid of and with references to the Shashtra

  • this process spans in a lineage from master to disciple, then by the disciple to the disciple's disciple and so on, in a Parampara (pronunciation: puh-RUM-puh-RAA) or tradition. The master was known as the Acharya (pronunciation: AA-chaar-yuh) or Guru (pronunciation: GU-ru, "u" as in "put") and the disciple was known as the Shishya (pronunciation: SHI-sh-yuh) or Chhatra (pronunciation: CHHAA-truh).
In the Sampradaya system of ancient times, the chief activity was the scientific investigation and acquisition of knowledge in any field. Thus there were Sampradaya in philosophy, politics, economics, and many other areas, including music.

In every age in the musical history of India (or any other region in the world for that matter), there have always been two classes of people associated with music:
  1. the theoreticians and teachers - these were educated persons with an inquiring and scientific bent of mind. They were the musicologists. Of course, because they deal in a practical performing art (music), they are practical musicians too, except that they do not choose to be professional performers. These were the Acharya. Among other things, they wrote valuable treatises on music.

  2. the performers - these are people who specialise only in the practical performing aspects of the art. They learn only so much of the theory, history and philosophy of music as is minimally necessary for them to excel in the demonstration of their skills. In ancient India they, along with other artists and artisans like dancers, painters, sculptors etc. were known as the Shailusha (pronunciation: SHUI-lu-shuh, the "u" in "lu" as in "put", all other "u" as in "but")
Thus there have always been at least two basic Sampradaya or Parampara - the Acharya (musicologist/teacher) Sampradaya on the one side and the Gayaka (pronunciation: GAA-yuh-kuh) or vocalist and Vadaka (pronunciation: VAA-duh-kuh) or instumentalist Parampara on the other.

The following chart describes the different types of Sampradaya and Parampara in existence in ancient and medieval times. Although in Indian musical theory dance is included as a branch of music, the chart below avoids dance to keep this article within managable bounds.

Each class of Sampradaya is explained below the chart.
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Classes of musicians (except dancers) in the ancient and medieval periods
Vedic
(1)
Extra Vedic (=Loukika)
(2)
Shikshakara
(Acharya)

(3)
Samaga
(4)
Gandharva Sangeeta
(5)
Deshi Sangeeta
(6)
  Shikshakara
(Acharya)

(7)
Anukara
(8)
Shashtrakara
(Pandita)

(9)
Acharya
(Nayaka)

(10)
Vaggeyakara
(11)
Gayaka, Vadaka
(12)
  Svaradi
(13)
Gandharva
(14)
Gayana
(15)
Vadana
(16)
  Kalavant
(17)
Kavval
(18)
Dhadi
(19)
Mirasi
(20)
Kathak
(21)
     
   
Ekaka
(22)
  Yamala
(23)
  Vrnda
(24)
 
Rasika
(25)
Ranjaka
(26)
Bhavaka
(27)
  Rasika
(25)
Ranjaka
(26)
Bhavaka
(27)
  Rasika
(25)
Ranjaka
(26)
Bhavaka
(27)
 
Uttama, Maddhayama or Adhama
(28)
 
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  1. Vedic musicians - By Vedic music is meant the performing of Vedic chants to tune. These were hymns from the Veda, specifically the Sama Veda. The hymns were sung with the accompaniment of a lyre-like lute known as Vana Veena (pronunciation: Vaa-nuh VEE-naa). Veena was the generic name for a stringed instrument and Vana meant a bow, so the name is self explanatory. Initially there were three strings on this Veena, to correspond with three notes used in Samagana (pronunciation: SAA-muh-gaa-nuh), the music used in Vedic rituals. Later a fourth note was used, and still later a fifth. Vedic music was religious in character. There were two classes of people associated with this music - the Acharya cSampradaya known as the Shikshakara and the practical musicians known as the Samaga.
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  2. Extra-Vedic musicians - The category of Vedic music comprised only religious music, i.e., Samagana. This music used only three notes at first, called Udatta (pronunciation: u-DAAT-tuh), Aundatta (pronunciation: un-u-DAAT-tuh) and Svarita (pronunciation: SVUH-ri-tuh). Subsequently another note called Svarantara (pronunciation: svuh-RAAN-tu-ruh) and still later yet another note called Mandra (pronunciation: MUN-druh) began to be used. In course of time, all seven notes began to be used in Samagana.

    However, in the secular world outside Vedic rituals, music used all seven notes. This was Loukika (pronunciation: LOU-ki-kuh) music, meaning secular or non-religious music. Here it is post-Vedic music that is being referred to. The reason is that in Vedic times, the music that was not within the Yajna set-up, that is to say, the music that was not Samagana, is too obscure for reasonable conjecture today. All that may be hypothesised of the extra-Samagana music of the Vedic period is that there certainly was some musical art form. From the names of the Raga mentioned in a 5th century AC musical treatise - the Brhaddeshi - it can be conjectured that the Raga belonged to very ancient people.

    Be that as it may, the post-Vedic Loukika music was of two kinds - one that was practised in the temples and the other that was practised outside the temple set-up. The former was Gandharva music and the latter was Deshi music. See items 5 and 6 below for explanations regarding these.
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  3. Shikshakara (pronunciation: SHI-kshaa-kaa-ruh)- The musicologists and teachers of the Vedic period. They were the Acharya (pronunciation: aa-CHAAR-yuh). The qualities of an Acharya have been described in our ancient texts (like the Natyashashtra) as being sixfold, as follows:

    • Jnana (pronunciation: JNAA-nuh) - Knowledge of the Shashtra, i.e., knowledge as embodied in the treatises or technical literature.

    • Vijnana (pronunciation: vi-JNAA-nuh) - The specialised knowledge necessary for proper practical presentation of the particular area of expertise.

    • Karana (pronunciation: KUH-ruh-nuh) - Skill in the use of the voice or the instrument of choice.

    • Vachana (pronunciation: VUH-chuh-nuh) - Ability to locate or identify and quote references from the Stashtra or treatises.

    • Prayogasiddhi (pronunciation: pruh-YO-guh-sid-DHEE) - Practical performance skill. This goes beyond Karana: Karana is the command over the medium (voice or instrument) per se, Prayogasiddhi is the ability to use the medium skillfully in a public performance.

    • Nishpadana (pronunciation: nish-PAA-duh-nuh) - Ability to efficiently transfer one's pool of knowledge and skill to deserving students.
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  4. Samaga (pronunciation: SAA-muh-guh) - The Samaga sang Samagana during Yajna (pronunciation: YUH-jnyuh) which was the chief Vedic ritual of a communal nature. There were Sampradaya within the Samaga, these Sampradaya were known as Shakha (pronunciation: SHAA-khaa), literally meaning "branch". Examples were the Ahrak (pronunciation: UH-ruk) Shakha, the Shandilya (pronunciation: SHAAN-dil-yuh) Shakha and so on.
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  5. Gandharva Sangeeta (pronunciation: GAAN-dhur-vuh sun-GEET-uh) - This was temple musical culture. After the fall of the Vedic period (during which period there were no towns or temples) the extra-Vedic culture grew around temple towns. Towns were either military cantonments or fortresses, trading towns or temple towns. Life in a temple town centred around the main and the subordinate deities in the temple. The temple had a large hall known as the Nata Mandira (pronunciation: NAAT-uh MUN-di-ruh) where musical and dramatic performances took place during important festivals and occasions. The music practised here was Gandharva Sangeeta. In this traditions, musicians were not paid a fee by those who enjoyed the fruits of musicians' expertise. Musicians were supported by the ruler of the temple town, just as all temple activities were.
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  6. Deshi Sangeeta (pronunciation: DE-shee sun-GEET-uh) - This was the music that was practised outside the temple set-up. The musicians in this tradition were "professional" musicians who performed for a fee paid by the the person booking or hiring the musician's services. This was regional music, that is to say, the music in this tradition varied from region to region (The word "Deshi" means "regional").

    However, it is important to note that this was not either tribal music (i.e., music of people whose lives were based upon jungle economy) nor folk music (based upon an agrarian economy). Deshi music was music that followed the Gandharva rules of music, unlike tribal or folk music. Deshi music was faithful to the grammar developed by the Gandharva (pronunciation: gun-DHUR-vuh) people. It adapted and metamorphosed that part of the local music practised in the region - the local folk music - that could be brought within the grammatical fold of Gandharva Sangeeta (5 above). The result was a musical tradition that was as formal as any in the Gandharva tradition.

    Deshi music was used in several places outside the temple complex - in courts, in local theatrical productions, in private functions celebrating or observing landmarks of life like birth, marriage, death, etc. and indeed wherever formal and "learned/respected" music was needed outside the temple complex.

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  7. Shikshakara (pronunciation: SHI-kshaa-kaa-ruh) - These were the musicologists and teachers of Gandharva Sangeeta. They were the Acharya Sampradaya. (See above for the qualities of an Acharya.) It was part of the calling of the Acharya to publish tracts and treatises.

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  8. Anukara (pronunciation: UH-nu-kaar-uh, the second "u" as in "put") - These were the practical musicians - the performers - in the temples. The word "Anukara" means "follower". The Anukar followed the music formalised and taught by the Acharya - the temple Shikshakara. The Anukara were of three kinds - vocalists, instrumentalists and dancers. Dancers are not considered for the purposes of this article. The other categories will be discussed below (boxes 15 and 16).

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  9. Shashtrakara (pronunciation: SHAA-struh-kaar-uh) -

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  10. Acharya (pronunciation: aa-CHAAR-yuh) -

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  11. Vaggeyakara (pronunciation: VAAK-ge-yuh-kaar-uh) -

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  12. Gayaka, Vadaka (pronunciation: GAA-yuh-kuh, VA-duh-kuh) -

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  13. Svaradi (pronunciation: svuh-RAA-di) -

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  14. Gandharva (pronunciation: gun-DHUR-vuh) -

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  15. Gayana (pronunciation: GAA-yuh-nuh) -

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  16. Vadana (pronunciation: VAA-dun-uh) -

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  17. Kalavant (pronunciation: kuh-LAA-vunt) -

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  18. Kavval (pronunciation: kuv-VAAL) -

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  19. Dhadi (pronunciation: DHAA-dee) -

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  20. Mirasi (pronunciation: mi-RAA-see) -

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  21. Kathak (pronunciation: kuh-THHUK) -

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  22. Ekaka (pronunciation: E-kuh-kuh) -

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  23. Yamala (pronunciation: YAA-muh-luh) -

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  24. Vrnda (pronunciation: VRN-duh) -

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  25. Rasika (pronunciation: RUH-si-kuh) -

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  26. Ranjaka (pronunciation: RUN-juh-kuh) -

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  27. Bhavaka (pronunciation: BHAA-vuh-kuh) -

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  28. Uttama, Maddhyama, Adhama
    (pronunciation: Ut-tuh-muh, Muh-dhyuh-muh, uh-DHUH-muh, the first "U" of Uttama as "u" in "put")
    -

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