Classical music and dance in India had a well developed theoretical and practical system right from ancient times. There has been various books and treatises on music and dance. They deal with all facets of dance and music right from dress, make-up, background, stage condition, voice, instruments, qualities required of artistes, teachers, rasikas and so on. The books are called Lakshanagrandhas, lakshana meaning aspects and grandha meaning treatise. The lakshanagrandhas provide the basis for structural framework relating to classical music and dance. The fact that dance and music have maintained their classicsm over the ages is proof enough for the importance and impact of Lakshanagrandhas on the practical aspects of dance and music.
There have been many literature on music and dance right from vedic times. Infact the vedas are the earliest literature available on music and dance. The Lakshanagrandhas may be classified on the basis of period as, Vedic literature till 9th century literature. Then from Matanga's period (9th century) to medevial 16th century. Modern period 16th century (Purandaradasar) till the present time.
NATYASASTRA : The oldest known comprehensive literature on classical arts by Bharatha Muni. Very little is known about the author. The work must have been written between 2 BC - 2 AD. This treatise principally deals with dramaturgy. It has 36 chapters with 6000 verses. Music, dance, semantics, morphology, dialects and their phonology, play writing, play construction, production, rehearsal, dramatic criticism, audience are some of the topics dealt with. It begins with the origin of drama. Different aspects of music are dealt with in the 28th chapter. This treatise is a comprehensive book on arts and is yet to be surpassed by any other book in terms of content and coverage.
NARADASIKSHA : This treatise stands as a proof for the highly scientific system of music prevalent from early times. This is a very informative book and traces the evolution of music. This book must have been written after Natyasastra. The author of this book is believed to be Narada, about 2,000 years ago. The time theory of ragas, Ganagunas, doshas, classification of ragas and raginis are the interesting aspects of this book.
DATTILAM : This literature by Dathila has 244 verses. The language makes one feel that this may be an edited version of a voluminous work. The author has adopted traditional as well as rational method in analysing the subject. It has 12 chapters dealing with sruthi, swara, grama, murchchana, tana, sthana, sushka, jathi, varna and alankara. The author has mentioned his work as a mere attempt to join the system propounded by his predecessors and teachers. One interesting aspect is that the author has mentioned that users are at full liberty to use his work, edit and amend it.
BRIHADDESI : A 9th century work on music. This is the first major treatise giving importance to music. But unfortunately, it is incomplete, may be portions of it are lost. The author has based his work on the Natyasastra of Baratha. This is the first book to deal with ragas in music. The purpose of this book was to highlight many aspects of music which were omitted by Baratha.
SANGEETHA MAKARANDHA : This 11th century pre Ratnakaram-period work has seven sections. Nada, sruti, swara, raga, veena, tala, nartana, etc. This book is highly systematic and scientific but suffers inaccuracy in some respects. In this book mention is made of the merits of a good singer.
SANGEETHA SUDHAKARA : This is a work by Haripala in the 12th century. This has 5 sections. This work is a modification of the existing works and is a compilation of them in a concise and comprehensive way. Angabhinaya, tala, musical instruments, natya and gita are the subjects dealt with.
SANGEETHA SAMAYASARA : This is an authentic work on theory of music by Parsvadeva during the 12th century. It has 10 adhikaras (chapters) with 1400 verses. The work establishes the importance of music and reveals the highly advanced system of musicology and musical traditions prevalent during the time.
MANASOLLASE : This work by king Someswara gives useful information on the prevalent type of music and the system of singing and theoritical aspects. The patronage of music in olden days is also dealt with. It deals with instrumental music, dances, ragas.
SANGITASARA: This is a major work on music by Vidyaranya. Ragas are dealt with in detail in this work. Importance of raga alaapanas and the ways of doing it are dealt with. The ragas are classified as ragas and raginis on the basis of chandas. This is the first work to stress the importance of raga.
SANGITOPANISHAD SARODDHARA : This is a rare treatise on music and dance written by Sudhakalasa. The period od the work is 1350 AD. It reveals the contribution of Jain monks in the field of music and fine arts. It has 6 chapters dealing with gita, tala, raga, vadya, nritya and nritta paddhathi. This book shows the interrelation of music and dance.
SANGITHA RATNAKARA : This is the most authoritative and important work on music. It deals with almost all aspects of music. Authored by Sarangadeva, it has 7 chapters titled Saptadhyayi, out of which 6 are devoted to music and 1 to dance. The titles of the chapters are Swaragatadhyaya, Ragavivekadhyaya, Prakirnakadhyaya, Prabhandhadhyaya, Taladhyaya, Vadhyadhyaya and Narthanadhyaya. This treatise has been a trendsetter for all future Lakshanagrandhas.
SANGITA SUDHAKARA : This treatise has been authored by Simhabhupala. This was written within a century after Sarangadeva's period. The author has tried to clarify the topics dealt by Sarangadeva in a clear manner. There are 7 chapters that deal with nada, raga, quality of composers, prbhandha, talas, instruments and dance.
SANGITARAJA : This is a work by Maharana Kumbha between 1433-1468 AD. He has tried to codify the materials available during his time and use them in a critical and useful way.
SWARAMELAKALANDHI : This work by Ramamatya during the 16th century is known for its brevity. It puts in proper perspective the importance of theory as well as practice in music and assigns a proper placing for both. It has 5 chapters - Preface, Swaraprakarana, Veenaprakarana, Melaprakarana and Ragaprakarana.
SANGEETHA DARPANAM : Written by Chatura Damodhara in the 16th century it throws light on the important fundamental facets of music. The author has dealt with types of music, voices, swaras, tanas, alaapana, instruments, talas, dance in 7 chapters.
RAGATARANGINI : This work by Lochana is an authentic work on the theory of music. Importance is given to raga and its various aspects. It has 5 chapters called Tharangas. Of this, 4 tharangas deal with pictorial forms and illustrations by means of songs composed in six principal ragas and 36 raginis.
RAGAVIBODHE : The author of this work is Somanatha. It has 470 verses in 3 chapters. The period of the work is 17th century A.D. Each chapter is called a viveka. This work is of very high standard and order. It serves as a reference source and foundation for North Indian music.
SANGITASUDHA: This 17th century work is by Govinda Dikshitar. It is supposed to have 7 chapters but three chapters are missing. The author has applied his knowledge of theory to practice. He has followed and adopted the contemporary development of music. This work proves to be a useful link in the chain of history of music.
CHATURDANDI PRAKASIKA : This is an important work (17th century) and has been writtwen by Venkatamahi. Venkatamahi established a system of procedure and rules for ragas and Prabandhas based on the careful study of the system of music prevalent before and during his time. Some parts of the work are missing. He has dealt with sruthi, swara, mela, raga, aalapa, taya, geetha, prabandha, talaprakarana and veena. This book is considered as the Bible of Lakshanagrandhas.
RAGATATVA VIBODHA : This illustrious work is authored by Srinivasa, a contemporary of Venkatamahi. This grandha deals with aspects of North Indian music. It has 9 chapters. This book is very useful in enumerating the various fundamental technical aspects of music.
SANGEETHA PARIJATHA : This is a 17th century work by Ahobala. This book deals with the system of music during his time, especially Hindusthani music. It has 8 chapters devoted to swara, grama, murchchana, alankara, jathi, gamaka, samaya and raga. The author has done many experiments to establish theoretical facts in a scientific manner. He has dealt with the topics of sruti and swaras in detail.
SANGEETHA DAMODARA : This is a book by Damodara Misra. On the request of Jehangir, the Mughal king, he worked on co-ordinating both sastra and sampradaya and wrote Sangeetha Damodara. He has also dealt with dance.
MELADHIKARALAKSHANA : The exact date & name of the composer is not known. But since there are references to Chaturdandiprakasika, it is understood to be a work later than Chaturdandiprakasika. Here the author has tried to innovate and adopt srutis instead of the Universal 24 srutis.
SANGITA MALIKA : This work by M'med Shah deals with both dance & music, but unfortunately only the chapter on dance is available in full form.
SANGITHA SARAMRTHA : This book by king Tulaja stands foremost among the lakshanagrandhas during modern times. This work serves as a source material for reference in the field of dance & music. It has 14 chapters.
SANGRAHA CHUDAMANI : This book by Govindacharya deals in detail on music & musicology. This is considered to be one among the last works written on the theory of music. The work consists of 2 sections. The work has an index on the mela ragas and many janya ragas with Arohana & Avarohana.
SANGITHA SAMPRADAYA PRADARSINI: This work by Subharama Dikshitar can be considered a vast reference book, wherein the vast information on music is written in a scientific and systematic manner. It has 76 biographs, exhaustive details on 72 melas, murchchana, gamakas, talas, science of music, etc. He has included Lakshanageethas, select kritis of musical trinities, his own compostitions, varnas, padas, etc. He has also given some svaraprasthanas for practice by musicians.
SANGEETHA KALPADRUMAM: This book by Muthiah Bagavathar earned him a doctorate degree. It is a rsult of arduous effort for nearly 50 years. In this work the author has tried to condense the essence of previous Lakshanagrandhas. it encompasses almost the entire field of music and helps in thorough understanding of the subject.
SANGITHA CHANDRIKA: This work by Krishna Pishandy has 467 slokas. It has 12 chapters called Prakasa. The commentary and explanations given for each verse enable the ordinary people to understand the theoretical facts.
Even today our classical arts derive their strength, classicism and special qualities from these Lakshanagrandhas which serve as valuable guides.