#15- Mythological origin of the swara

There is a fascinating mythological tale about the origin of the swaras, as follows:

It is believed that Lord Shiva once addressed a celestial congregation, for the welfare of mankind. While the subject of His address became the Vedas, the differences in His tonal quality became the seven swaras. Shiva is known to have five faces or the ‘panchavaktra’, which are, Satyojata, Vamaka, Tathpurusha, Isana and Aghora. He first addressed the audience  at the centre, and then the immediate left and right. The centre tone became the basic note or the shadja (sa), while the  ones on the immediate left and right became the ‘ni’ of the lower octave and ‘ri’ respectively.  Shiva then addressed the  audience to the far left and right. Here, two notes emanated out of each face, to reach to the farthest sides. So there  emanated the notes ‘dha’ and ‘pa’ of the lower octave on the left side and ‘ga’ and ‘ma’ on the right. This totalled to  seven swaras, Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni.

Mother Nature’s contribution to the Indian swara system!

One interesting fact that the origin of swaras gives us is that they were derived from Mother Nature Herself! The tonal quality of each note is associated with the call of a specific  animal or bird, as listed below:


Shadja                                     S                                           Cry of the peacock

Rishabha                                R                                          Bellowing of the bull

Gaandhaara                           G                                         Bleating of a goat

Madhyama                            M                                        Call of the heron

Panchama                              P                                         Call of the cuckoo

Dhaivata                                D                                          Neighing of the horse

Nishaada                               N                                       Trumpeting of the elephant



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