Tarjuma-i-Månakutĩuhala & Risåla-i-Rågadarpaƒa,

by Faqirullah (Nawab Saif Khan) is the first Persian text on Medieval Indian Music

Newsletter | List of Newsletter

The Tarjuma-i-Månakutĩuhala and Risåla-i-Rågadarpaƒa compiled during the 17th century A.D. is a combined text on music. The fact of its being a combined text has gone unnoticed till recently. This is the first Persian text brought out in Kalåmĩula‹åstra under the series no 21. This work is important from various points of view. It is through the first part of this text i.e. upto chapter two that an important compilation on the identification of rågas accomplished under the supervision of Råjå Måsingh Tomar of Gwalior entitled Månakutĩuhala is preserved for posterity in Persian translation, which was till now considered lost in original. The appended treatise incorporates further details on the development of contemporary music.

It is undoubtedly one of the few important texts which sheds significant light on the music of the Mughal period. A unique feature of this work is that it covers the period during which the internal and the external forces worked together resulting in a new synthesis. In this configuration music played a significant role to integrate diverse views. A fresh perception is an evidence. The compendium depicts the expositions of the art as practiced in the whole of India alike. During the same period the foreign tunes of Central Asian, Turko-Iranian and Perso-Arab origin as also the folk tunes were incorporated in the Indian system of standard melodies. Almost all these melodies which survive until today find mention in this work. On the basis of this work one can also trace the history of the development of the outstanding forms viz. Dhrupada and Khayål from their inception to their fully developed stylised forms. It is also obvious that these styles enjoyed popularity over a large cross section of society. This work also confirms that there was no distinction between the music of the north and south till 17th century A.D.

Short descriptions of outstanding forms, leading musicians and major instruments of the time provide a clue of certain important developments that were taking place. For instance we come to know of Fårs? among De‹i song-forms; tarånah and tillalånah originating from Iran and Arab became Indianized; Fårs? Ghazals which initially concentrated on religious gatherings of the Sĩuf?s (samå) adopted Indian themes. The text also throws interesting light on the development of various stages of the Ghazal. Thus the Ghazal and Dhyåna-målå have a direct co-relation. In the same way it is known that many instruments became part of Indian system. Note worthy among these, are Tamburah and Rabåb. Tansen has been described as one of the exponents of Rabåb-playing. From the biographical sketches of outstanding musicians both vocalists and instrumentalists it is known that they represent both Hindus and Muslims, belonging to all walks of life and performing as professionals and amateurs.

The presence of traditional concepts mainly based on earlier aesthetic theories is also evident. It is well known that Mata?ga in his Bæhadde‹? describes the origin of råga from the concept of rasa. At that time the råga had two levels known as Mårga and De‹?. With the passage of time the rågas were classified into various categories viz. Janya-Janaka or major-minor (15th cen. A.D.); main and subordinate rågas; råga-rågin? (16th cen. A.D.). By the time of Rågadarpana (17th cen. A.D.) the classification of rågas was also based on the nåyakå, nåyikå and sakh?. The classification on the basis of male-female also began to be co-related with the metaphysical terms i.e. puruķa-›åkti or even the tantric cult of ›iva and ›akti. Also the number of major rågas mainly fixed at six and some considering them to be twelve, was co-related with the theory of time. Six rågas representing the six seasons of a year and the number twelve representing the twelve zodiac signs or twelve months of a year. A vast system of correspodance of rågas with time, astronomical annual calendar, seasons, genders, herĩo heroine types, moods and colours was evolved. This was a gradual but sure development of seeds contained in the aesthetic theory first enunciated by Bharata in the Nåtya‹åstra.

The correspondence of rågas is apparent also in the Råga Dhyåna descriptive of the images of rågas and Råga-målås -the pictorial versions of rågas which received significant emphasis during the Mughal period. Through further developments, the råga became known as Khayål. The term Khayål in Persian is also identified with the Ultimate Truth. In fact the references to religious gatherings of Ūĩufis (Persian samå) ; Am?r Khusrau’s devotion to music; promotion of music by Ūĩufi saints; besides music being patronized by almost all the Mughal kings and contribution towards the promotion of music by other people of the community; point towards the fact that music has been universally recognised as being linked with the Supreme and as one of the vehicles for the realization of the Ultimate Truth.

One more feature of this work worthy of note is that this is one of the rare works in which Aurangzeb is stated to have evinced personal interest in some musicians. Also, there were many known personalities in his court who were devoted to music and they also helped many musicians to carry on their researches in music as knowledge (‘ilm) and as occupation (shaghl). The author of the Rågadarpaƒa was one amongst them.

Tarjuma-i-Månakutĩuhala & Risåla-i-Rågadarpaƒa,

Edited & Annotated by Shahab Sarmadee, IGNCA and Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. ltd. pp xviii + 314, Rs. 500/-


Dear Kapila,

I read the beautiful book brought out by IGNCA on music : Tarjuma-i-Manakutuhala and Risala-i-Ragadarpana and I must congratulate

I have always admired your effort of digging and bringing to the public our heritage, through seminars, publications and exhibitions.

The younger generation at the moment is
fascinated by and copying the worst of cultural features of Europo-American trends. Can we
make an effort to reach them and make them aware of our culture as a bedrock of our future
development. This may require a major effort at various levels. Could you, if you think it
worthwhile, bring people together to think about it and promote some programmes.

With warm personal regards,

Sincerely yours,


(The letter has been written by Prof. A.
Rahman, a distinguished scientist)