The Brhaddesi of Matanga, a ninth-century work, is among the earliest primary texts in
Sanskrit dealing with the music of the Indian subcontinent. As its name suggests, the work
takes cognizance of musical practices in various regions of the country. It is also the
first treatise to mention the solfa syllables in the music of India. For these and other
reasons, the Brhaddesi has engaged the attention of scholars in later periods, down to our
This volume contains the papers and discussions presented at the seminar on Matanga
and the Brhaddesi organized by Sangeet Natak Akademi at Hampi, Karnataka, in 1995. the
nineteen contributions by leading scholars cover various aspects of the study of the
Brhaddesi: its historicity and mythological aspects; citations found in and from the work in
earlier and later texts; the relationship between its prose and verse portions; elements of
ayurveda, yoga, and tantra in the work; its treatment of marga and desi, sruti and swara,
murchhana, tana, and alankara. Musical notations in Brhaddesi, raga-names found in the work,
and the names of musical bhasas (in connection with ragas) mentioned here, are among the
other topics dealt with in the papers. To researchers and scholars of India's musical
traditions, this book would provide an update and review of the current discourse on
Matanga's work not available elsewhere.
Professor Prem Lata Sharma (1927-98) was a renowned, versatile scholars, and a
musicologist and vaggeyakara. She had made important contributions to the study of Sanskrit
sources on Indian music. She prepared critical editions of various works including the
Rasavilasa (1952), the Sangitaraja (1963), the Sahasarasa (1972), the Ekalinga-mahatmya
(1976), the Sangita-ratnakara (English translation with R. K. Shringy, Vol. I and II, 1978,
1989), and the Brhaddesi of Matanga (1992, 1994, with English translation and comments). Her
lectures on Indian aesthetics, delivered in the Hirananda Shastri Memorial Lecture series,
were published under the title Rasa Siddhanta: Mula, Sakha, Pallava, Patajhada (1988). She
also translated several other notable works from Sanskrit and Bengali into Hindi. A student
of Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Professor Sharma headed the Department of Musicology in Banaras
Hindu University for a number of years. She was later Vice-Chancellor of the Indira Kala
Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh (1985-88). She was Professor Emeritus at Banaras Hindu
University after her retirement. From 1994 to 1998, Professor Sharma was Vice-Chairman of
Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi. She had been elected Fellow of the Akademi in 1992.
A seminar on Matanga and his Brhaddesi was organized by Sangeet Natak Akademi at Hampi,
Karnataka, in July 1995. The proceedings of the seminar are being presented in this volume.
All the scheduled papers were presented, excepting Prof. B.N. Saraswati's, who could not
attend and could not attend. Her paper also could not be read at the seminar and hence it
has not been included in this volume. In the place of Dr. B.N. Saraswati's contribution on
the anthropological aspect of Brhaddesi, a colloquium was held during the seminar, a summary
of which has been included. The treatment of raga in Brhaddesi was assigned to Dr. Mukund
Lath, but he could not prepare this paper on account of ill-health. Instead, he made an
extempore presentation on the historicity of Matanga which is included in the general
section. The treatment of raga was discussed in a colloquium which has been reported under
the section on topical survey of the contents. It is true that this discussion could not
duly cover the topic, and this is a lacuna. Thus, excepting the topics of jati and raga, all
the other topics have been duly covered. Discussions on all presentations have also been
There are nineteen papers in this volume out of which thirteen papers were presented
in English and six in Hindi. The Hindi papers have been included along with their English
summaries. The same policy was followed in the volume on the proceedings of the seminar on
'Sarngadeva and his Sangita-ratnakara', published recently. The proceedings of the seminar
on 'Rasa in the Arts', organized by Sangeet Natak Akademi at Varanasi in January 1997, will
also be published in due course.
The papers have been grouped under three headings: I Historicity, Nanuscripts, Style
and Citations; 2 Ayurvedic, Philosophical and Anthropoligical Standpoint; 3. A Topical
Survey of the Contents of Brhaddesi. A report on the introductory and valedictory sessions
has been given in the beginning and end.
Prof. Anna Radicchi, Director of the Institute of Linguistics I Cagliari, Sienna,
Italy, Dr. Allyn Miner of Philadelphia, USA, who is an accomplished sitar player, and Dr.
Urmila Sharma, Research Officer, Kalakosa, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New
Delhi, were the observers at the seminar. They contributed to the discussions. Dr. Allyn
Miner gave a performance on the sitar one evening.
In addition to the seminar sessions, two lecture-demonstrations were arranged in the
evenings, one by Dr. Nataraj Ramakrishna of Hyderabad, who demonstrated abhinaya on songs
that are known as Prabandhas, and the other by Sriram Bharati from Chennai, assisted by his
wife, Smt. Sowbhagyalakshmi, on divya-prabandhams, the name given in the 8th century A.D. to
poetic-cum-musical compositions of the Alwar saints, Apart from these
lecture-demonstrations, the following performances by rural and tribal groups were arranged
because Matanga has mentioned a few ethnic groups like sabara, pulinda, naga, etc. Although
tribal groups bearing these names could not be identified in the neighbouring areas of
Hampi, some of the groups available around this place were invited from performances of
music and dance in keeping with the spirit of Brhaddesi.
A Note from the Publisher
This volume presents the proceedings of the seminar, 'Matanga and his Unique Text,
Brhaddesi', organized by Sangeet Natak Akademi at Hampi, Karnataka, in 1995. This event,
which involved a number of distinguished scholars, was planned in its entirety by Dr Prem
Lata Sharma while she was the Vice-Chairman of the Akademi. Despite her failing health, Dr.
Sharma also took on the task of editing the proceedings for the purpose of this publication.
The work took time, as might be expected, but by My 1998 she had completed work on a
manuscript of over 500 typed pages. She also went through the first proofs of the
proceedings in relatively little time. Unfortunately, she did not live to see the book in
print; she passed away in Varanasi on 5 December 1998.
It was then left to Dr. Urmila Sharma, Prem Lataji's sister and collaborator in
several scholarly endeavours, to take over the work where the latter had left off. Dr.
Urmila Sharma devoted herself to the task with exemplary zeal and energy despite her sad
loss-which we have shared and was able to complete it late last year. To do this, she had
to take time off from several other projects in which she was then engaged. The Akademi is
grateful to Dr. Urmila Sharma for her willing and able assistance in the publication of
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