Indian Music During British Period!

Music and dancing which greatly flourished under the Mughals also suffered a great setback after decline. Even the last Mughal ruler Mohammed Shah was a great patron of music.

A number of outstanding musicians flourished at his courts the most prominent among them being Adarang and Sadarang. During his times the Indian music was greatly enriched as a result of the mingling of the Hindu and Persian music techni­ques.

After Mohammed Shah the rich music tradition died. No doubt, a number of outstanding musicians took shelter in the courts of native princes, but they could not produce any outstanding com­positions. In fact, by now music had been degraded to a medium of sensual gratification and the general masses began to abhor it.


During the initial period of their stay in India, the British showed complete indifference to the Indian music and dances, because they were hardly able to appreciate its richness and variety. Some of the Indian princes however, rendered meritorious services to the enrichment and popularity of the Indian music.

Maharaja Pratap Singh Deva of Jaipur started the practice of holding conference of musicians, which culminated in the production of Sangit Sagar, a monumental work on Indian music.

Certain individuals also made valuable contribution to the production of literature on music. Some of the prominent works on Indian music produced during the British rule include Mohammed Raza Khan’s Nagmat-e-Asaphi (1813),. Krishnanand Vyas’s Sangit Kalpadrum (1842), S.M. Tagore’s two outstanding works viz. Sangit Sar and Kanthakaumudi.

Encouraged by the efforts of the Indian artists, some of the Europeans also slowly developed taste in Indian music and produced some works. The prominent European scholars who took lead in this direction included Willard, Wilson, Clements etc.


Throughout the eighteenth century music continued to flourish in the South. Raja Taljaji of Tanjore (1763-1787) not only encouraged and patronized a number of musicians, but was himself also a well- versed musician. He composed the famous Sangit Saramrit, an outstanding work on music.

The other outstanding works of music produced in the South included Ragtatva Navbodh by Srinivas and the compositions of Tyagraj (1800-50). The devotional songs composed by Tyagraj are very popular in southern India till this day. The rulers of Cochin also patronised music and Perumal composed outstanding songs in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam and Marathi.

In the wake of Indian Renaissance, in the nineteenth century, voluminous literature was produced in Indian vernacular, which also provided an impetus to the development of music. The vernacular literature produced during this century also included a number of dramas, which naturally provided to a fillip to the production of music. In Bengal Surendra Mohan Tagore wrote a history of the Indian music. Efforts were made to associate music with the various religious rites and celebrations. For example the Brahmo Samaj leaders used music performances even on simple religious ceremonies.

The scholars who rendered valuable contribution to the popularization of music in Bengal included Maharaja Jatindra Mohan Tagore, Jyotindranath Tagore, etc. But probably the most outstanding contribution to the transformation of the Bengali music was made by Rabindranath Tagore. He developed a new type of music which laid great emphasis on background music and is popularly known as Rabindra Sangeet.


With the advent of the twentieth century greater attention began to be paid to the development of Indian music. A number of associations and societies sprang up in various parts of the country with a view to popularize and develop the Indian music.

These societies known as Sangeet Samaj or Sangeet Mandals not only imparted teaching in instrumental and vocal music but also organised cultural and music programmes. Gradually similar societies also sprang up at Poona, Lucknow, Gwalior, Indore and other prominent towns of India.

In addition to these societies, certain individuals also made valuable contributions to Indian music. The most outstanding amongst them were Vishnu Narayan Bhatktanda and Vishnu Digambar Palsikar. While the former composed Lakshya Sangitam (1910), in which he not only classified the various ragas but also explained the theory of Indian music in details. He introduced scientific methods for the teaching of Indian music and organised the first All India Music Conference at Baroda in 1916.

These conferences subsequently began to be held regularly and provided a forum to the outstanding musicians to let other musicians know about their innovations. Ultimately it also resulted in proper classification of the various ragas, and encouraged scientific education of music. With the popularization of Indian music the taboos which were attached with the music and dancing also slowly died down.