Who does not like the melody of music? Whose emotions do not vibrate and flow with the sonorous tunes and rhythm of music? Indeed, we all experience the enchanting effects of good music in some form or the other. The classical compositions (ragas) of music create deep impact on our mind and emotions. The melody of vocal and instrumental music soothes our mind and heart. Not only that, the sonic vibrations of its specific compositions also heal psychological disorders. Moreover, depending upon its nature, music can awaken or intensify specific kinds of emotional streams and mental tendencies and thus influence the habits and nature of the engrossed singers/players and audiences.
The immense potential of the power of Shabda (cosmic flow of sound) hidden in music was well recognized by the ancient Indian sages and they had devised several musical patterns emanating from the “Omkara” for chanting of the Vedic hymns and for distinct spiritual effects. The Shastric schools of music discovered musical octave (sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni, sa) indwelling in the subtle sounds of Nature and invented the basic classical ragas for activating specific streams of natural powers and effects; a wide variety of musical compositions were generated consequently. Ever since then music has been an integral part of human culture with varied applications and forms. Despite its degeneration into the noisy and destructive kinds of so-called ’modern music’, the creative and soothing role of music has not lost its prominence. The last few decades have seen revival of classical Indian and western music in a big way through increasing interest of researchers in music therapy.
The seven basic swaras (musical notes) of the musical octave have a one-to-one correspondence with these chakras (nuclei of subtle energy). The lower most (in the kava equina region along the erect endocrine column), viz., the Muladhara Chakra is associated with the swara “sa”; that means, the practice of chanting this particular musical note will have impact on awakening or activation of this particular chakra. Similarly, the chakras successively upwards in this direction namely, the Swadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha, Agya and the top-most Sahastrara Chakra… have correspondence respectively with the swaras “sa”, “re”, “ga” “ma”, “pa”, “dha” and “ni”. Significantly, the order of the compositions of these swaras in the “aroha” (ascending) and “avaroha” (descending) patterns of the Shastric musical tunes also match with the top-down (from Sahastrara to Muladhara) and bottom-up (from Muladhara to Sahastrara) directions of the flow of energy.
Some of the sounds naturally produced inside the human body are easily perceivable if one sits quietly at a calm place. Usually these are felt in the heart (beat), throat and head (cerebral region). In the state of deep meditation, while concentrating on the internal sounds of the body, one can distinctly feel these and several otherwise non-audible sounds; their rhythmic compositions are also said to be in tune with the musical octave. The subtler sounds of the heart are said to be musical expressions of the emotions. Also, it is said that humans feel, recognise, create and express music only because of the emotional sensitivity of the human heart. Moreover, music also happens to be the best means for expressing the inner feelings. This is why good music is often described as the voice of the heart.
The original ragas of the Indian classical music (Shastric Music) are created according to the deep knowledge of harmonious consonance between the seven swaras and chakras. This is why shastric musical compositions are found to have significant positive effect on the mind-body system and also have the potential to awaken the otherwise dormant faculties. There are several historical examples of the immense remedial power of the shastric ragas. For instance, in 1933, when the Italian dictator Mussolini was terribly suffering from insomnia, no medicine or therapeutic mode could help him get sleep. Pt. Omkarnath Thakur, a great shastric musician was visiting Europe around that time. When he heard of Mussolini’s affliction, he agreed to perform remedial musical programme to allay the latter’s sufferings. His performance of the raga puriya indeed worked magically and Mussolini went into deep sleep within half-an-hour. This and similar incidents attracted the attention of many contemporary musicians, scientists and physicians and triggered research in music therapy.
A group of London based physicians has scientifically experimented on different aspects of music therapy. In their views, the shastric ragas could induce healing of all kinds of ailments. They argue that the immediate benefits these ragas offer is mental peace by alleviating tensions and providing an enchanting and creative diversion to the mind. Interpretation of the Vedic scriptures on Nada Vidya implies that Shastric Music helps synergetic augmentation of the panch pranas (the five major streams of vital energy in a human being). In concordance, research in energy medicine (pranic healing) and classical music shows that specific shastric ragas enhance the level of vital energy. It is the deficiencies and disorders in the vital energy distribution in the mind body system, which is the root cause of its ailing state. The smooth and increased flow of vital energy rejuvenates the mind and empowers the immune system as well as the auto-regulatory healing mechanism of the body. This is how classical music generates new hope, joy and enthusiasm in the otherwise dull or depressed mind and removes the disorders and relieves one of the untoward pressures and excitements of inferiority, despair, fear, anger, etc. Because of its fast remedial effects, which lead to eventual cure of the psychosomatic disorders, music therapy based on classical ragas is being used or advised these days for the treatment of insomnia, migraine, hypertension, chronic headache, anxiety, etc. and empowers the immune system as well as the auto-regulatory healing mechanism of the body. This is how classical music generates new hope, joy and enthusiasm in the otherwise dull or depressed mind and removes the disorders and relieves one of the untoward pressures and excitements of inferiority, despair, fear, anger, etc. Because of its fast remedial effects, which lead to eventual cure of the psychosomatic disorders, music therapy based on classical ragas is being used or advised these days for the treatment of insomnia, migraine, hypertension, chronic headache, anxiety, etc.
Because of its impact on the chakras (and hence on the pranas), shastric music not only vibrates and soothes the mental strings, but also energises and balances the organs of the body. According to Dr. W. H. J. Wales, the Indian classical music can cure the problems of the digestive system, liver including the diseases like jaundice. Dr. Jane remarks that this music rhythmically vibrates the tissue-membranes of the ear and, relaxes the nerves and muscles beneath the temple and in the brain; as a result of which the sensory and motor systems are energised and activated.
The empirical studies on therapeutic evaluation of the classical ragas have shown interesting results. Singing or engrossed listening of Raga Bhairavi has been found to uproot the diseases of kapha dosha e.g. asthma, chronic cold, cough, tuberculosis, some of the sinus and chest related problems etc. Raga Asavari is effective in eliminating the impurities of blood and related diseases. Raga Malhar pacifies anger, excessive mental excitements and mental instability. Raga Saurat and raga Jaijaivanti have also been found effective in curing mental disorders and calming the mind. Raga Hindola helps sharpening the memory and focussing mental concentration. It has been proved effective in curing liver ailments.
Apart from the classical ragas played on musical instruments, the rhythmic sounds of temple bells and shankha (conch shell or bugle) produced during devotional practices have also been found to have therapeutic applications. A research study in Berlin University showed that the vibrations of the bugle sound could destroy bacteria and germs in the surroundings. More specifically, it was found that if the shankha is played by infusing (through the mouth) twenty-seven cubic feet of air per second, within a few minutes it will kill the bacteria in the surrounding area of twenty-two hundred square feet and inactivate those in about four-hundred square feet area further beyond.
Dr. D. Brine of Chicago had treated hundreds of cases of hearing impairments/ deficiencies by making the patients play or listen to the sounds of shankha played rhythmically at appropriate (as per the case) pitch and intensity. Several research experiments on music therapy in general and on the sounds of temple-bells and bugles are going on in the Moscow Sanatorium and some research centres in Germany, Holland and Australia. The results are very positive and encouraging towards developing suitable courses on music therapy that could be an integral part of medical practices. The need and importance is especially felt and emphasized for healing of psychosomatic disorders. According to Dr. Hacken, although western classical music is also being used in some studies, its applications are limited to certain kinds of diseases/disorders and are also of much lesser significance in terms of the intensity and impact of positive effects as compared to the Indian classical music.
Rock, pop, jaz, rap and disco types of western music have become quite popular in the modern times especially among the teenagers and youth. But these and other varieties of fast and high-beat music are found to have detrimental effects on health in general. Dr. Balaji, who has been a part of music therapy research teams in Sweden and Germany, has shown that although, listening to such a music for five-ten minutes removes lethargy and instantly generates new alacrity, listening to it for longer periods and frequently has damaging effects on the ear drums and the spinal column. The smooth and balanced flow of several important physiological fluids also gets disturbed and leads to different kinds of physical ailments. Further, as this kind of music induces sexual and other kinds of negative and unnatural excitements, its harms on mental health are far more serious; apart from its debauching effects on spiritual well being.
As mentioned earlier, the scope and utility of music therapy should be viewed, considering its intimate and delicate connection with the inner emotions. These and the core of consciousness force in the inner mind are most sensitive to the musical currents and corresponding vibrations in the sublime expansion of cosmic sound. The next is the nervous system and brain functions. The corresponding effects on the organs and the physiological system of the body as a whole are obvious consequences. From its very origin, the Indian classical music is most suitable and beneficial in this respect and also for spiritual elevation because of the soothing and harmonising impact of the shastric ragas on the sat chakras and the pranas. The findings of research laboratories on immense potential of the shastric ragas in music therapy scientifically support these theories. The results and well-tested applications should be propagated by the researchers for the benefit of large number of patients suffering from varieties of psychosomatic disorders these days.
Deeper research on the spiritual aspects of the Indian classical music and compositions of the shastric ragas might also give some clues about the lost links of the knowledge of the Vedic Science of mantras. This might also open new avenues of reviving the applications of mantra-therapy, as elaborated in the Scriptures.