THIRTY SONGS FROM THE PANJAB AND
KASHMIR is the eighth in the series of the Col-
lected Works of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy in the
IGNCA's publication programme. It was originally
published by Luzac and Novello, in London in
1913. The songs were recorded by Mrs. Alice
Coomaraswamy, who used the Indian name Ratan
Devi professionally, with Introduction and translation by Ananda Coomaraswamy, and a Foreword
by Rabindranath Tagore.
The Coomaraswamys stayed in a houseboat in
Srinagar (Kashmir) in 1911, along with Ratan
Devi's guru, Usaid Abdul Rahim of Kapurthala.
There she studied and did riyaz under the guidance of her ustod. She later transcribed with mu-
sic and words some of the songs - both classical
and folk - she had learnt. The thirty songs documented by her in staff notation are compositions
of genres like Dhrupad, Khayal, Thumri, Dadra, etc.
as well as folk songs in Panjabi, Dogri, Kashmiri
etc; also sufi songs in Urdu, Persian and Kashmiri.
The present volume reproduces the above compilation as Part I, and Part A contains a transcription of the staff notation into Sarigama notation
in Devanagari, a Hindi translation of the non-
Hindi texts of songs and notes in Hindi and
English on raga, tala, and text. Prof. Prem Lata
Sharma, an eminent musicologist, has very painstakingly prepared the text of Part A.
The value of this volume lies in its great historical importance and vast expanse of musical
genres brought under one fold by the great visionary that Coomaraswamy was. His prophetic
remark - "Indian music is the most significant
of surviving Indian arts; if it dies, it will be of
starvation rather than of inherent weakness. It has
been, perhaps, the greatest aesthetic achievement
of Indian civilisation, the art in which that
civilisation has most perfectly expressed itself",
deserves serious attention.
It is hoped that students of Indian music and
its history will benefit immensely and use this
edition to their interest and profit.
Prof. Prem Lata Sharma, a distinguished scholar
of Musicology, Sanskrit and Hindi, secured Doctorate in Sanskrit from the Banaras Hindu University. Having received advanced training in vocal music from the illustrious Pandit Omkar Nath
Thakur, she started her career as teacher of music, its theory, history and philosophy, and held
the post of Professor and Head of the Department of Musicology at the Banaras Hindu University. She was the Chairman of U.P. Sangita
Nataka Akademi, Lucknow (1983-86), and Vice-
Chancellor of the Indira Kala Sangita
Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh (M.P.), (1985-88).
She was selected as Fellow of the Sangeet Natak
Akademi, New Delhi, in 1992.
Author of several books, including the critical
edition of Rasavilasa (1952), Sangitaraja (1963),
Sahasarsa (1972), Ekalingamahatmysa (1976),
Brhaddesi Vol. I and A (1992, 1994). She also
translated many notable works in Hindi from
Bengali; supervised the English translation of
Sangita Ratnkara (two volumes of which have al-
ready been published). She is at present working
on a critical edition of 'Nanyadeva's Bharata-Bhasya
and the chapters of Natyasastra dealing with music. She is also preparing a comprehensive glossary of technical terms of music and dance occurring in the important texts on Sangitasastra:
Prof. Sharma is widely acclaimed as a poineer
in initiating and establishing serious study of
primary (Sanskrit) sources on Indian music.
Amongst Ananda Coomaraswamy's several early callings was Indian
music. He was amongst the very few who endeavoured to look at this art
as a major contribution to the world heritage. His fascination and
admiration was so great that he did not hesitate to present, in early decades of
the 20th century, its basic structures to the Western audiences. He married Alice
Richardson, whom he had met at a recital given by the pupils of Cecil Sharp, a
musician and writer engaged in the revival of English folk songs, in London in
about 1910. Alice and Ananda Coomaraswamy travelled to India in 1911 and
settled in a houseboat at Srinagar in Kashmir, Ustad Abdul Rahim of Kapurthala
stayed with them in Srinagar for about ten weeks and Mrs. Alice Coomaraswamy
became his Sisya in the traditional Guru-Sisya Parampara, with all due solemnity
She now used the Indian name Ratan Devi professionally and studied and did
riyaz under the Ustad daily. The songs were first learnt by repetition, and studied
until they could be sung to the Ustad's satisfaction, which was according to
Coomaraswamy, no easy matter, by reason of the extraordinary elusiveness of
Indian songs when first heard, "and the exacting standard of the teacher. Only
after the song had been thus learnt, was an attempt made out by Ratan Devi to
write out a complete version in staff notation, although, of course, notes were
made all the time. With her exceptional native talent, she learnt Indian classical
music with extraordinary facility. She later transcribed with music and words some
of the songs she had learnt, which Coomaraswamy translated into English and
were brought out in the book Thirty Songs from the Panjab and Kashmir in 1913.
While Coomaraswamy wrote an elaborate Introduction, the Foreword was
contributed by Rabindranath Tagore.
Coomaraswamy's Introduction contains his observations on the nature of raga,
explaining how raga is different from a scale, how it is a "melody-mould" or
"musical pattern". His description of folk and classical songs whom he calls art
songs, is very apt and brings out the basic point that the latter are characterised
by a vast scope for 'variation', known as improvisation today. His deep appreciation of alap rendered by the Ustad as "an experience never to be forgotten" is
telling. His description of gestures of Indian musicians as "the transference of
one's own physical sensation into the form of a work of art", bears evidence to his
sensitivity. So also his remark that "not carried to excess, this form of musical
gesture gives an additional expressiveness to song - suggesting and conveying a
self surrender to the rhythm and melody, which a wooden stillness would
negative", illustrates his deep understanding of Indian music. His description of
the liberal attitude of musicians like Ustad Abdul Rahim is very significant -
"Abdul Rahim's faith in Hindu Gods is as strong as his belief in Islam and Moslem saints, and he sings with equal earnestness of Krishna or Allah, exemplifying
the complete fusion of Hindu and Moslem tradition characteristic of so many
parts of northern India". The vast range of the repertoire of the Ustad though
given in nine ragas as examples in the book, covered various dialects and
languages: Panjabi, Urdu, Dogn, Hindi, Sindi, Persian, Arabic.
The Coomaraswamys returned to England in 1912 and in the next few years,
Ratan Devi gave recitals of Indian music not only in various places in England
but when they went to America in early 1916, it was for a concert tour. Her
recitals won the praise of not only English music critics, but Indian connoisseurs,
including Rabindranath Tagore as well. He heard her in London and found
himself passing from uneasy anticipation to complete delight in her mastery of
all the technical difficulties of Indian song, which she combined with a voice far
superior in quality and training to that of most Indian singers. Her rendering of
Behag, Kandra and Malkaus, was sung with all their richness in details, depth of
modulations and exquisite feeling. Listening to her, he felt "more clearly than
ever that our music is the music of cosmic emotion".
George Bernard Shaw, who began his writing career as a music critic, remarked,
"I have read most of the descriptions of Indian Music, with their attempts to
convey some notion of it by our staff notation, but I never knew what it sounds
like until I heard Mrs. Coomaraswamy sing to the accompaniment of an instrument which gives only the concord of the perfect fifth, singing not only the intervals of our own music in perfect tune, but the intervals of a much more subtly
divided scale than ours is not only technically interesting, but most refreshing
and enchantingly artistic". The tribute paid by William Butler Yeats was in his
inimical poetic style, "Mrs. Coomaraswamy's singing delighted me. It was though
as a moment of life had caught fire, an emotion had come to a sudden casual
We present here a faithful reproduction of the Original Edition as Part I, we have
left the old spellings intact and have not even corrected a few obvious mistakes.
Prof. Prem Lata Sharma, an eminent musicologist, has prepared Part A by
transcribing the music from staff notation to sarigama notation in Devanagari,
providing Hindi translation of song-texts couched in languages other than Hindi.
Besides, she has given notes on the raga, tala, and text of songs wherever necessary in order to make the work contemporary. She has also contributed a
detailed learned Introduction to this compilation. The IGNCA is indebted to
her for having undertaken this task.
Dr. Rama P. Coomaraswamy has, as always, given encouragement and material
support, even going to the extent of graciously lending us an uncut original copy
of the limited First Edition from his father's archives. I would also like to record
special thanks and deep appreciation to my colleague, Dr. Lalit M. Gujral, for his
dedication in coordinating, arranging and supervising all publication details of
Lastly, I sincerely thank Mr. Arun Mehta and Ms. Katey Cooper at Vakil and
Sons, Bombay, for their high quality of printing and production of the book.
**Book's Sample Pages**
North Indian Music (292)
Original Texts (63)
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend