The ancient system of Nada Yoga, which dates back to the time of Tantras, has fully acknowledged the impact of music on body and mind and put into practice the vibrations emanating from sounds to uplift one's level of consciousness. It is the Indian genius that recognized that ragas are not just mere commodities of entertainment but the vibrations in their resonance could synchronize with one's moods and health. By stimulating the moods and controlling the brain wave patterns, ragas could work as a complementary medicine.
What is a Raga?
Raga, we all know is the sequence of selected notes (swaras) that lend appropriate 'mood' or emotion in a selective combination. Depending on their nature, a raga could induce or intensify joy or sorrow, violence or peace and it is this quality which forms the basis for musical application. Thus, a whole range of emotions and their nuances could be captured and communicated within certain rhythms and melodies. Playing, performing and even listening to appropriate ragas can work as a medicine. Various ragas have since been recognized to have definite impact on certain ailments.
Historic References on Raga Chikitsa:
The ancient Hindus had relied on music for its curative role: the chanting and toning involved in Veda mantras in praise of God have been used from time immemorial as a cure for several disharmonies in the individual as well as his environment. Several sects of 'bhakti' such as Chaitanya sampradaya, Vallabha sampradaya have all accorded priority to music. Historical records too indicate that one Haridas Swami who was the guru of the famous musician in Akbar's time,Tan Sen is credited with the recovery of one of the queens of the Emperor with a selected raga.
The great composers of classical music in India called the 'Musical Trinity', - who were curiously the contemporaries of the 'Trinity of Western Classical Music, Bach, Beethoven and Mozart were quite sensitive to the acoustical energies. Legend has it that Saint Thyagaraja brought a dead person back to life with his Bilahari composition Naa Jiva Dhaara. Muthuswamy Dikshitar's Navagriha kriti is believed to cure stomach ache. Shyama Sastry's composition Duru Sugu uses music to pray for good health.
Raga Chikitsa: Raga Therapy in India:
Living systems show sensitivity to specific radiant energies be it acoustical, magnetic or electro-magnetic. As the impact of music could be easily gauged on emotions and thereby on mind, it can be used as a tool to control the physiological, psychological and even social activities of the patients.
Indian classical music can be classified into two forms: kalpita sangita or composition, which is previously conceived, memorized, practised and rendered and manodharma sangita or the music extemporised and performed. The latter can be equated to the honey-mooner's first night as it conceives both spontaneity and improvisation. It is fresh and natural as it is created almost on the spot and rendered instantly on the spur of the moment.
According to an ancient Indian text, Swara Sastra, the seventy-two melakarta ragas (parent ragas ) control the 72 important nerves in the body. It is believed that if one sings with due devotion, adhering to the raga lakshana (norms) and sruti shuddhi, (pitch purity) the raga could affect the particular nerve in the body in a favourable manner.
Some Therapeutic Ragas:
Some ragas like Darbari Kanhada, Kamaj and Pooriya are found to help in defusing mental tension, particularly in the case of hysterics. For those who suffer from hypertension, ragas such as Ahirbhairav, Pooriya and Todi are prescribed. To control anger and bring down the violence within, Carnatic ragas like Punnagavarali, Sahana etc. do come handy.
We experimenting on the impact of raga on mentally-retarded children and notice that it is the right combination of rhythms and tempo, which also affect the quality of a raga. Not only psychological impact, but also somatic or physiological impact of ragas has come to light in some recent works.