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INDIAN MUSIC : A THERAPEUTIC HERITAGE -1

by - Dr. T V Sairam

According to an ancient Indian text, Swara Sastra, the seventy-two melakarta ragas control the 72 important nerves in the body. It is believed that, if one sings with due devotion, adhering to the raga lakshana and sruti shuddhi, the raga could affect the particular nerve in the body in a favourable manner.

Certain ragas do have a tendency to move the listeners emotionally, as well as physically. An unintended nod of the head, limbs or body could be manifest when lilting tunes are played. The real impact of sound is more evident when there is a metallic screech which nails the nerves and makes the body undergo a sudden shiver!

Sample melodic structures, slow tempo, low-pitched notes which are repeated over and over again, as in bhajans and kirtans have been found to be soothing and relaxing. Such musical pieces are found to impart a sense of relaxed spaciousness, besides reducing stress, deepening breathing process, leading the listeners to consciousness frequencies akin to the Earth's electro-magnetic field.

While the descending notes in a raga (avarohi) is found to create inward-orienting or introvert feelings, the ascending notes (arohi) represent an upward or expansive mobility. Thus music played for the soldiers or for the dancers have to be more lively and uplifting with frequent use of arohi content. More as cending notes are found in war music or in joyous dance music all over the world. Similarly, melancholic songs should opt for 'smooth' avarohis. Although it may not be a rule as such, most of the Western tunes based on major keys play joyful notes, which those composed in minor keys tend to sound more melancholic or serious. Certain Indian ragas too have a direct impact on emotions, as they can create awe, joy, suspense or pathos. They can, depending on their form of gait, work even as a stimulant or a depressant.

Some recent experimenters in India

In India, music therapy is still in its infancy, though tremendous potential exists in its systematic study and application. In other words, Indians are sitting ona virtual gold mine of a great music traditions that promise curative results.

It is only in recent times that some psychologists (Dr. B N Manjula of NIMHANS), biophysicists (Srirama Bharathi of Chennai), neurologists (Dr. B Ramamurthy) and a few other scientists have started showing interest in this ancient art notably among them Dr. Raja Ramanna. They exist side by side with spiritual healers such as Ganapathi Satchidananda Swamy of Mysore, who for example, has developed his own system of music for healing, which he says soothes 72,000 nerves and 14 essential nadis. The Swamy himself plays a Roland synthesizer to this audience with accompanying musicians.

Music for Asthma Sufferers

Pandurangshastri Deshpande, a musicologist-cum ayurvedic practitioner from Pune has explored the beneficial impact of sounds of the mridangam and Pahadi ragas for those who suffer from breathing problems such as asthma. He has also carried out various experiments with ragas such as Bhairavi. Records of the raga, sung by nine different maestros were in experiments, played before nine potted 'touch me not' plants daily for a month to observe their impact. The plant that was exposed to Abdul Karim Khan's Bhairavi was found to exhibit a record growth of 430 percent compared to others.

Music to relieve Anxiety Neuroses

Dr B.M. Manjula, a psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) is reported to have used music (an hour of listening to sitar everyday and bhajans at night), along with minor doses of anxiolytic drugs to cure anxiety neuroses effectively. It is reported that this form of therapy can be of great use in aiding de-addiction.

Music and Herbs of Srirama Bharathi of Chennai

The biophysicist-turned therapist Srirama Bharathi of Chennai has conducted a unique experiment with' sound and herbal therapy', in which patients were made to simultaneously view a picture, eat a herbal paste and listen to music. According to him music by it-self may not be therapeutic unless combined with other forms of medicine. He follows a traditional form of music therapy called 'arayar sevai' in which the traditional songs traditionally used in the temple rituals are sung.

Stress Relief Programmes for Police and Enforcement Personnel

It has been on record that the police personnel in Maharashtra found listening to music aids in relieving stress.

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Dr T V Sairam, is from F/48B, Hari Nagar,New Delhi 110064
For any doubts you can contact him at - tvsairam @ gmail.com