Brahmins as Musicians

Walter Slaje slaje at T-ONLINE.DE
Sat May 8 13:24:01 UTC 2010

Śrīvara, the Kashmirian court Pandit of Sultan Zayn (r. AD 1418/20-1470), 
was a noted Brahmin musician. His Rajatarangini (ed. Kaul 1966) abounds in 
references to musical performances, of which the one quoted below 
(1.4.34-36) deserves particular attention:

[34][Being myself] an expert in music of all kinds, I took an [ordinary] 
gourd lute in my hand [and] by playing it displayed my skills in new musical 
modulations. [35]Others such as Ǧa‛far [joined in] also and sang difficult 
Turkish tunes with me accompanied by the lute, in front of the Sulṭān. 
[36]While we were singing a song in twelve [different] modes in the 
assembly, the tones [formed] from strings and voices seemed to reach perfect 
harmony out of [mutual] affection.

As to the Gitagovinda, cp. 1.5.99f:

[99]He then embarked on a boat surrounded by five or six boatswains and 
sailed out to Lake [Kramasaras], taking Bhaṭṭa Siṃha and me along with him. 
[100]When I sang the Sulṭān songs from the Gītagovinda [there], he became 
immersed in love for Kṛṣṇa on listening to them, overcome with the 
particular sentiment [corresponding to my recital].

Lake Kramasaras is mod. Konsar Nag (elevation c. 15,000 feet) below 
Naubandha Peak on the Pir Pantsal.

Best, WS

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan" <palaniappa at AOL.COM>
Sent: Saturday, May 08, 2010 2:50 PM
Subject: Brahmins as Musicians

Dear Indologists,

I am interested in the history of orthodox Brahmins performing as musicians. 
Today the field of Carnatic music is dominated by South Indian Brahmins. 
South Indian Brahmins' involvement in music is traceable at least up to 
Madhava Vidyaranya. An early epigraphic record praising the musical ability 
of a Brahmin is that of the Western Chalukya king Somesvara of 11th century 
in Yewur in Karnataka . However, there does not seem to be any widespread 
brahmin participation in musicmaking at that time. Jayadeva comes a century 
later. I would like to know if the Bhagavatapurana and especially the 
Gitagovinda have anything to do with increasing Brahmin participation in 

Thank you in advance for any comments or references.

Prof. Dr. Walter Slaje
Hermann-Löns-Str. 1
D-99425 Weimar

Ego ex animi mei sententia spondeo ac polliceor
studia humanitatis impigro labore culturum et provecturum
non sordidi lucri causa nec ad vanam captandam gloriam,
sed quo magis veritas propagetur et lux eius, qua salus
humani generis continetur, clarius effulgeat.
Vindobonae, die XXI. mensis Novembris MCMLXXXIII. 

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