Sama Veda

Source :Music in the SamavedaIndian Music : The beginning

By the great musician I.V.L. Sastry (

Sama – veda and music : Ancient Indian music is to be found in Sama-Veda. This is the oldest text of music in the world. The word “Sama” means sweet note, or tune based on harmony. “Sama” also contains the sol-fa letters, of Indian music “Sa” and “Ma”, which are harmonical and very important notes in the Indian and world music systems. Sama Veda is suitable to be sung to the accompaniment of instruments both tonal and percussion.

This is also a part of Rig-Veda, sung in a style unique to “Stavam” or eulogy. Sama Veda is also divided into two main parts i.e., “Samhita” “Brahmana”. The “Sama-samhita” has two further divisions called the “Archika” and “Stavika” There are 585 Rigs or Suktas (poems) in the Archika part and 1223 Suktas in the “Stavika” part. Out of these, 539 and 794 Suktas were taken from Rig Veda and the balance was the creation in Sama Veda. Samaganam was related to religious performance and was sung by “Ritwiks” or priests. Separate tunes and rhythms were employed to perform different kinds of religious rites. Apart from religious performances, Sama-gana was part of social ceremonies also and made the occasions graceful. Sometimes dances and percussions accompanied vocal music in varied metres and rhythms. Generally men used to take part in percussions and women in dances. The names of the various percussion and stringed instruments used in the functions are mentioned in the Vedas. The Sama Veda was sung according to strict rules.

In the Vedic period two main classes of music were in vogue. They were “Aranya” gana and Gramageyagana. The first one was used in religious performances and the second one in social functions connected with the village people. Aranya Gana was sung by Vedic Rishis who were generally called Samagas. They officiated in the ritual roles known as “Hota”, “Adwaryu”, “Udgata” and “Brahman”. “Brahman” was regarded as the director of the party and the whole musical performance was conducted under his guidance. In the modern times this systems is still followed as in the case of Brinda Ganam of Keertanas.

Samagana used to be sung on the basis of Seven Bhaktis with twenty-two “Aksharas” as detailed below :

S.No. Name of the Bhakti No. of Aksharas

1. Himkara 3
2. Adi 2
3. Upadrava 4
4. Prastava 3
5. Udgita 3
6. Nidhana 3
7. Pratihara 4


The process of singing and the category of the singer were predetermined for different Bhaktis. For example Himkara-Bhakti which was a chorus song was first sung by all “Ritwiks” to sanctify the atmosphere of the pujasthali or place of worship. Other Bhaktis were sung to summon the deity, to install Him to worship, for praise and to take leave of Him after seeking his blessing. The allocation of Aksharas in these Bhaktis conforms to that of Sruthis in Gandhara-Grama which was in vogue in the Medieval period. Before the beginning of the Samagana, there was he custom of meditating upon the feet of the God who was going to be worshipped. In the medieval period this gave rise to the interpretation of ragas through appropriate, evocative , pictorial sketches.

Aranyagana is aristocratic in nature and was sung in Tapovan or hermitage only. The ancient Rishis did not lose sight of the requirements of the village people also. For that purpose they created Gramageyagana. As this was to be sung by villagers for the villagers the rules were not stringent. Among its chief expressions are  (1) “Vegna”, involving distortion of systematic musical structure without following grammar and theories (2) “Prakriti-Gana” in conformity to the surrounding nature, and (3) Yoni-Gana, concerned with birth and development.“

“In the Vedic period several kinds of musical instruments were in vogue. These include (1) Tata (String), (2) Sushir (Wind), (3) Ghana (Metallic – Symbol type), (4) Avanatha (Membrano Phone).
Many types of Veenas and percussion instruments were popular during that period. Veena and Flute find their place in the Pre-Historic times. Some varieties of Veena are (1) Ektara (with one string) Chitra Veena (Sitar) with Seven Strings and other varieties called as Vipanchi Veena, Phani Veena, Karkari Veena, etc. Percussion instruments of that time are Mridangam, Dumdubhi, Bhumidumdubhi, Damarukam etc.,

In the Rig, Yajur and Atharva Vedas only 3 notes called Anudatta (Nishada), Swaritha (Shadjama) and Udatta (Rishabha) were used. But in Samaganam 7 notes Ma Ga Ri Sa Ni Da Pa were used in the order of descent (Avarohana). These notes correspond to the notes of Hara-Priya (Modern Kharaharapriya). Subsequently the full scale of Hara Priya both “Arohana” and “Avarohana” was developed. Thyagaraja, in his krithi, “Nada Thanumanisam” defined the “Sama Saptakam” (SA-RI-GA-MA-PA-DA-NI) of the above notes.”

“Naradiya Siksha deals mainly with the musical notes and the pronunciation of the words in the Vedic language. Vedic language contained 16 vowels and the Naradiya Siksha gives the details to maintain the sonorousness of the language.

According to Naradiya Siksha, Samagana used to be performed by a combination of vital musical elements comprising of 1. Seven-notes (Saptha-swaras) 2) Three gramas (Shadja, Madhyama, Gandhara grama) 3. Twenty one Murchanas (Scales) and 49 Tanas. Names of the seven notes mentioned therein were 1. Prathama (first) (2) Dvitiya (second) 31 Tritiya (third) 4) Chaturdha (forth) 5. Mandra (low) 6. Krusta (loud) 7. Atiswara (too loud) In Yajnavalkya Siksha the names of the seven were given as SA-RI-GA-MA-PA-DA-NI- which belong to Gandharva-Veda. During that period all these notes were used by the Rishis in the “Aranya Gana”

All Rights For Sourced Material Vest With the Source : Satya Sarada Kandula