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The North Indian Tabla Drum as Saivite Hindu Religious Path

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  1. Introduction
  2. The mythological framework
  3. The Nada Brahman cosmology
  4. The congruence between cosmogenic and musical creation
  5. The practice of refining musical ability
  6. Conclusion

The traditions of Hindustani (North Indian) tabla drumming gather the various strands of culture that exist in India into a complex social tapestry. In order to understand the cultural phenomenon of tabla music, it must be heard within the context of an Indian heritage originating from a wide spectrum of influences. The tabla's syncretic patchwork brings together elements of Islamic, Karnatic, and Hindu musico-religious culture; from Sufi influences in musical pedagogy, to South Indian bhakti devotional culture, to the tantric worship of Siva in Kashmir, the lineages of tabla music in North India exist as a living amalgamation of the many divergent cultural forces at work in India. As the author of The Literatures of India observes, ?Religion in India is so interwoven with every other facet of lifethat it becomes indistinguishable? from other cultural institutions. Existing in such a context, the practice of music in India is often construed as a religious: the musician becomes the yogi.

[...] The North Indian Tabla Drum as Saivite Hindu Religious Path The traditions of Hindustani (North Indian) tabla drumming gather the various strands of culture that exist in India into a complex social tapestry. In order to understand the cultural phenomenon of tabla music, it must be heard within the context of an Indian heritage originating from a wide spectrum of influences. The tabla's syncretic patchwork brings together elements of Islamic, Karnatic, and Hindu musico-religious culture; from Sufi influences in musical pedagogy, to South Indian bhakti devotional culture, to the tantric worship of Siva in Kashmir, the lineages of tabla music in North India exist as a living amalgamation of the many divergent cultural forces at work in India. [...]


[...] The process of creating sound on the tabla can be seen as a parallel to the Saivite Hindu myth of creation in which Siva as Ishvara, the Lord of Yoga, is the cosmic percussionist. In the famous Dance of Siva, as told by the Unmai Vilakkam (v. 36) ?Creation arises from the drum: protection proceeds from the hand of hope: from the fire proceeds destruction: the foot held aloft gives release.?[viii] The beat of Siva's primordial damaru pioneer of the rhythmic instruments?)[ix] creates the vibration that brings forth gross reality from the unstruck sound. [...]

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