Folk Music of the Himalayas is a comprehensive book on the music of the Himalayas.
Music transcends all barriers and thus it will not be very difficult for any one to appreciate
the most unfamiliar sounds and tones from a more unfamiliar world. At one side of the mighty
Himalayas, the Kashmiri women ignoring the sound of guns across the border still sing in the
fields, on the other side the Tibetans preserve their age old faith and tradition ignoring
threat and oppression. Still for both the, Himalayas spread tranquility and both inherit the
mountains and its music.
The book is a document of hopes, aspirations, misery and economic plight of the Himalayan
Folk-music of the Himalayas impresses the mind. Just as a white sheet can be tinged with many
shades exactly in the same manner the music of rustics tings hues to the melancholic mind of
men and women and this book is indeed a record of that dying music. Modern music is more noise
and it is indeed an uphill task to record the melodies of the simple people. Still there is a
need to reserve the music accompanied by the eco-friendly folk instruments against the sound
of Jazz and band.
The author believes that all men and women of the mighty Himalayas must be credited to keep
the music alive and eternal.
The Author: Mandira Ghosh is a post graduate in English literature. She has already
few published works of verse to her credit. She has received many awards for her contribution
to poetry in India as well as abroad.
Through this work Mandira Ghosh has tried to arrive at a point where science meets philosophy
and other branches of Humanities.
She has also tried to immortalize folk music of the Himalayan ranges since the centuries. She
has collected the various verses form different arranges of the Himalayan belt and concludes
that the music unites both hearts and soul.
The exactness of science and the fantasy of poems do not usually go together. But Mandira
Ghosh has experimented with both, interspersing poetic diction with mathematical terminology.
She uses scientific balance and poetic language to express her thoughts.
As a young girl I used to read with keen interest traveller’s memoirs, particularly those
about the Himalayas. If my health had permitted, I would have trekked the entire Himalayas-
but destiny was not altogether harsh on me. My publisher, Mr. Sanjay Arya, entrused me with a
subject on which I always wanted to work. Traveling from Kathmandu to Pokha, enjoying the
picturesque beauty of the virgin mountains, I never imagined that one day I would be writing
about the music of these mountain ranges.
Indians should be grateful to Kashmir for its gift of ‘Shaivasm’. With a Damaru in his hands,
Shiva dances the cosmic dance, to the reverberating Om. The sound, Om or Aum, is the seed of
reaction for both Hindus and Buddhists. Long before the Big Bang was discovered and proclaimed
as the origin of the universe, Indians knew of the power of Om. Long before the string theory
(the physicist’s latest hearthorb), Indian music masters discovered the rhythm of sur, tal and
lai as the harmony of the universe. Every expression can be comprehended through sound, and
the harmony of nature can be expressed through music. The underlying expression for the
unification of man and man, man and nature, and man, nature and the universe can be expressed
through music. In a violence-torn earth let the folk music of one of the most beautiful places
on the earth bring the message of peace and tranquility. Music emerges from nada. The goddess
Saraswati holds a Veena, an Indian musical instrument, in her hand, and is considered the
goddess of learning in Hindu mythology. She is considered as the Vak Devi, Vak, in Sanskrit,
can be translated as ‘speech’ or ‘sound’. ‘Sound’, an important aspect of modern physics, was
given great importance by the ancient sages. The universe is the result of Shabda Brahma and
Nada Brahma. The goddess of learning, Saraswati, always portrayed with a Veena in her hands,
proves that the Indians gave great importance to music ancient times.
There is a scientific approach to Indian music. Om or Aum, the mystical sound, denoting the
Hindu trinity, is the origin or root of all sound. It is the symbol representing the Supreme
Being. It the universe is the result of the Big Bang, Aum is the origin of that sound. The
universe is indeed a union of verses, an amalgation of sur, tal and lai that Indian musicians
mastered ages ago. Even if the String Theory presents a solution that unifies all interaction
of nature, it could still not parallel the profound observations of the sages in the
Upanishads; and ultimately it might be the Indian system of music set on strings that may help
to solve the mystery of the universe, based of sur, tall and lai.
Sur is the tone, note or pitch, tal is the beat or keeping of musical time. Lai is
dissolution, or fusion into a greater ease merging, fusion, destruction, annihilation; the
ultimate destiny of any living being.
I must write about an interesting account of Andhra Pradesh scientists who noted that the cow
s produce more milk while listening to melodious Carnatic music.
Animals can’t express themselves, but as humans, we can well appreciate the power of music.
Jazz, pop bands, and hi-tech casios create noise but he eco-friendly instruments of the
Himalayas brings the message of peace and rhythm. Through the wind instruments, such as the
Bansuri, or flute, blows the cool wind of the mountains and through the Sankh, or Conch shell,
blows the sound of the waves of water.
Nature may have showered the people of the mountains with her wealth, but for the inhabitants
of the hills life is very hard. The most poignant but silent suffering of the women finds
voice in the beautiful verses and music of the mountains. As P.B. Shelly wrote: “Our
sweetest songs are those that telleth of some saddest thought.”
But alongside the sorrow, the songs also speak of their determination to fight hardships: of
nature, and manmade. Tourists may enjoy the benevolent beauty of these mountain ranges,
escaping from the intolerable summer of the plains, but the Kashmiri girls who sing in the
fields must brave the devastating snow and storms, and the chilling echoes of guns across the
India-Pakistan border. As the famous Kashmiri poet writing the English, Dr. H.K. Kaul aptly
wrote on the famous Kashmiri poet an writer Habba Khatoon in his well-known epic poem,
‘Firdaus in Flames’:
So I must add the following lines to conclude about the singers of the mountains:
Hills are alive with the sound of music. How aptly this sung in the famous Hollywood movie,
“The sound of music”. But this was written with the beauteous Alps in mind. The mountain
ranges of Switzerland and Austria come vividly to mind when we listen to wonderful songs from
“The sound of Music”.
“Among the immovables, I am the Himalayas,” said Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. Indeed
here, on the foothills of the Himalayas, in quest of the spirit, which remains the supreme
effort of mankind, came the great teachers of mankind to receive in that rarified atmosphere
above the turmoil of life, some of the greatest revelations explaining the mysteries of
nature, long before science was able to explain them; long before the atomic theory or the
theory of relativity and vibration. Maya and Tattavams, proclaimed telepathy long before the
human brain was found to emit waves. Enclosed in the folds of these mighty ranges are memories
of the great Gautama Buddha in search of salvation for mankind. Here were the rishis or sages
Vyas, Narada, and Agastya seeking inspiration to carry down to the struggling humanity, while
from Europe came the great Pythagoras and Apollonius of the Tiana, who certainly contacted
these illumined men when they came to India in search of wisdom. Along the winding valleys and
gorges Guru Charaka gathered the precious Himalayan herbs described by Huen Tsang in 1300 A.D.
in his travelogue on his sojourn in India, whose qualities till date are unmatched, Indeed God
is kind to India, as he has gifted her the entire Himalayan range.
Here in this range, where India’s holiest rivers begin, pilgrimages and the temples of the
Lord soar into the cosmic blue, men and women sing songs centuries old near the dizzy beauty
of eternally frozen lakes, majestic waterfalls, meandering rivers, undulating meadows, and
incredibly lush, green mountain valleys, and a large variety of exotic flora and fauna
willingly surrender their souls to the Absolute Being. It is true that the hills are alive
with the sound of music. Indeed, there is music reflected in their daily lies too. The day
breaks with he sun smiling over the mountain peaks, and women lighting the fire to start the
day. Their lives are programmed to the rhythm of the sun’s activity. They play the flutes near
the frozen lakes, while animals graze in nearby meadows. The men of the hills don’t have much
of a role to play, since the women carry most of the burden on their fragile shoulders. But
the music of their centuries old folk instruments vibrates on the hills and the echoes they
produced catch my ears even today.
A journey an gaining knowledge of the artistic achievements of the people of these vast ranges
holds promise of deep and refreshing communion with nature in all its varying beauty, and with
its beautiful people. The bountiful river, the villages surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the
fruit laden orchards, gurgling streams and dense forest echoing with bird song (these
themselves constitute natural music) are enchanting and wondrous.
The most famous Indian poet Kalidasa wrote of the beauties of Himavat in the 2nd century in
his incomparable plays, Meghdoot and Shakuntalam. To Kalidas Himavat was the holiest of
holies. Silent, serene, sentinels of India, the Himalayas was the holiest of holies. Silent,
serene, sentinels of India, the Himalayas have attracted the poet’s imagination since time
immemorial, and the greates Indian muse thought that he mountain stretched from the east to
the west of the entire. Thus the greatest jewel in the court of Gupta dynasty had written:
“There is a mountain in the north ensouled by divinity, named Himalayas, the king of all
mountains. Stretching from the east to west coast, it is located on the earth as a measuring
rod.” To describe the Nandan Kanan or the bewitching region where over a thousand varieties o
floweres bloom, Mr. P. Barron, a European traveler who was also the founder of Nainital wrote”
“We had a view of the great snowy from the Pavali Pass in Tehri Garhwal, the parallel of
which, I suppose, the world could not produce. We saw before us, like a turreted wall of
marble of which the dimensions seemed immeasurable, the mass of mountains from which the
Yamuna has its source, called Yamunotri also Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath and the peaks
beyond them to eastward; all these we saw spread out like panorama and under peculiarly
favourite circumstances, repeated falls of snow having clothed them in their winter raiment of
the most dazzling white.”
Famous foreign scholar, Paul Brunton, in his book, A Hermit in the Himalayas wrote on
Pratapnagar in Tehri Garhwal:
“The first few days are the days of delightful discovery and pleasant realizations. I can
explore my environment in an unmethodical carefree manner, content to find that nature can be
so beautiful and man’s improvement upon it so comfortable… Nature has simply run riot in
profusion which she has strewn for dozens of miles in each direction, certainly more
attractive to me than the sanguineous riots in which I have seen human beings engaged.”
Geologists attribute the structure of he Himalayas to tectonic forces, but the Indian mind cab
be forgiven if it sees a supernatural hand in the design of a bow tensed between the matchless
beauty of two of its greatest mountains. The comparison with a bow can be extended further,
for the immense mountain system consists of three distinct laminations, so to speak,
consisting of paralled longitudinal ranges. They were formed by three successive thrust
movements that heaved them up from the Tethyan Sea. In geological time, the earliest and the
higher are the Great Himalayas, with an average altitude of about 6,000 metres, Along it are
strung no fewer than thirty peaks soaring above 7,300 metres, and 5,220 glaciers. This
towering range is an effective barrier against witheringly cold blasts blowing across the
Tibetan plateau; moderating in turn the winters in northern India and creating the monsoonal
system which is the lifeblood of its agriculture. The great Himalayas thus divide two
strikingly different climatic systems from each other- the steppe and cold deserts of
Euro-Asia and the monsoon-fed plains of the Indian subcontinent.
Along the edge of the Great Himalayas formed by the central thrust is the broader band of the
Middle Himalayas, a tangled mass of valleys and ranges, with major rivers cutting through in
deep gorges. The middle Himalayas range in height between 2,500 and 4,000 metres. Between them
and the plains are the outer Himalaya, or low foothills known as the Siwaliks are broader and
more distinctly formed in the west, and virtually disappear in Eastern Nepal and Sikkim only
to reappear in Arunachal Pradesh.
Rivers originating in the southern face of the great Himalayas and intermediate ranges, such
as the Dhauladhar in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, descend at a greater speed till they
broaden out through the Siwaliks. The immortal Ganges flows down from the past of eternity.
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