History & Culture

Harnessing the powers of Indian Classical Music for Millennials

It’s an age of instant gratification, fast food, social media and reality shows.

The tapestry of life as we knew it, has changed dramatically over the last few years. We connect with family and friends through Facebook or WhatsApp, network professionally on LinkedIn, and do our client meetings over video conference calls. We find our dates on Tinder, order our food through Swiggy and call for cabs through the Uber App. While all this has made life immensely easier in many ways, some serious questions are now begging to be asked.

Has the instant access to information compromised our youth’s resolve to persist with problems till they find a solution, now that they have Google and virtual assistants as their 24-hour helpers? Has the allure of instant gratification through social media validation weakened their wills? Has the fact that they don’t connect one on one with people as much anymore made them lonelier? Gone are the times when students would have to travel to a library to find that one book that might contain information for that impending school project. It was in that arduous search that life taught them many things; such as patience, the propensity to deal with uncertainty, the ability to face failure and handle disappointment, and just the good old ability to walk miles, literally and figuratively. Social media has deprived them of the wonderful feelings that accompany the warmth of face-to-face human contact and the opportunity to enjoy and cherish company of people, in person. The definition of teamwork has moved from meetings at college and school canteens to Skype calls and video chats.

Having witnessed this dramatic transition from up close, I worry that while we now see a more empowered generation with staggering possibilities, we also are at a juncture where we need to brace for serious detrimental impacts on its psyche. Modern psychologists attribute the increase in instances of depression, anxiety and stress among the youth to the substitution of the warmth of human bonding and friendships by social media and time spent online. Research data is reporting increasing instances of loneliness and inexplicable restlessness, while teenagers and young adults struggle with alienation, lack of focus and stunted social development. Increasing numbers of parents are resorting to anti-anxiety medication and quick-fix remedies in the hope of a solution for their children.

One of the ways, these new challenges can be addressed, is with a journey back to our roots, a reversion to the building blocks of creation, the stuff that made life possible. Just as pure natural water and food made from organic produce can nourish the body, exposing our youth’s minds to indigenous fine arts, like Indian classical music, can heal the mind. Why?

Because, Indian Classical Music owes its organic roots to nature, to the magic of the sounds of creation itself. The Sama Veda is believed to the source of Indian Classical Music. The seven notes that are the rudimentary notes of the Indian Classical Music scale, Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni, are also believed to mirror sounds of animals and birds. It is no wonder that recent research has confirmed the therapeutic powers of Indian Classical Music for the mind and body.

There are many things about Indian Classical Music and its practice that embody creativity, harmony and peace. Any exposure to this form can take a person on a journey of self-discovery, something that millennials, especially students can benefit from, as they seek their moorings in a chaotic world.

So what can exposure to Indian Classical Music do? The answers to this question lie in the attributes that define this musical form. The inherent nature of Indian Classical Music is peaceful, devotional and emotionally cathartic. Derived from Vedic heritage and embellished by newer influences over the centuries, the forms of Indian Classical music contain precious links to our history and culture, which is diverse yet pious and rooted. In addition, the practice techniques required to learn or even engage in this musical form require focus, dedication and patience. Moreover, the spiritual underpinnings of this form of music are immense, from encouraging mindfulness, awareness and compassion to being a socio-economic leveller.

Students can learn, practice and be sensitized to this form of music to harness its inherent powers. Engaging in listening, singing and playing Indian Classical Raagas, especially if done in a milieu of authenticity and purity, can provide today’s youth with precious tools of patience, rootedness and internal states of peace and joy. Techniques of Riyaaz, or practice, encourage meditative states and mindful awareness of one’s emotions, which is a pleasant counter to the distracted and disconnected state that social media creates. Indian Raagas evoke emotional catharsis or transformation, both of which lead to peaceful states of mental wellbeing. This encourages creative processes to kick start in the human brain. Whether it is the joyfulness of Raag Yaman, the longing in Raag Kalavati or the pathos in Raag Todi, the powerful emotive states encouraged by Classical Raagas are an easy and effective mind tonic.

The pursuit of ‘Sur’ or the ultimate sound of the divine is often rewarded with an ability to surrender to the divine forces of creation, in tune with the eternal concept from the Bhagavad Gita of ‘Karmani eva adhikarasthe ma phaleshu kadachana’. Music also unites audiences and creates an emotion of oneness through the collective experience of beauty and joy that listeners experience.

Lastly, but most importantly, Indian Classical music is just plain beautiful. It is no less therapeutic than facing a beautiful valley with lovely flowers, a rainbow and a dramatic view of the sunrise, or just walking on fresh green grass on a beautiful spring morning.

Today’s students need these attributes desperately. They need a calm, collected mind, and a better grip on their emotions. They can benefit from patience and persistence, from emoting more freely and connecting better with their fellow beings. They need to be inspired by beauty, and they need to be able to join hands happily and willingly to create a better future for the generations to come. And what better way than to turn to our musical roots for that?

 

Nithya Rajendran

 

Nithya Rajendran is a classical vocalist trained in Carnatic and Hindustani music, and is the founder of ‘Music Vruksh’ TM – an initiative which focusses on teaching, educating and awakening people to the potential of Indian Classical music to pleasure, heal and awaken one’s spiritual potential. Read more about her and ‘Music Vruksh’ here.

 

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