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Sthana In Indian Music Associated With Svara Sadhana

Sthana is a technical term in Indian music that denotes specific areas of voice-production. It is generally understood that all notes originate from the throat or the voice box. Though there is little doubt that the voice-box plays an important role in producing all notes, but other areas such as the heart, throat and head also help in production of svara. Scholars describe the space between the heart and the forehead as the physical zone important for svara.

Indian musician-experts agree by tradition and experience that the area between the heart and the forehead are the actual areas from where notes of lower, middle and higher octaves should be produced.

Music as a performing art is taught by example or demonstration by a Guru to the disciple. Through this practice, sensitivity to ‘locations’ as sthana, and other such subtle elements may be imbibed, but written matter on such concepts has for far been inadequate. Thus, under the guru’s guidance and supervision the student has to practice constantly with deep introspection, which gradually leads him to discover for himself the exact area for the production of each svara. In the process, the svara becomes luminous. This is known as svara sadhana a very specific system of voice culture in Indian classical vocal music. To achieve the perfect microtone in the case of both instrumental and vocal music, a correct cognition of Sthana is of critical importance and is facilitated by the guidance of an able guru, and through contemplative practice by the student.

Thus the tradition of Indian music involves deep mental, physical and spiritual activity.

The mention of ‘sthana’ in the Ramayana indicates the prevalence of a sophisticated and well-developed process of voice culture or ‘svara sadhana’ in the era of Valmiki.

Lava and Kusha are ‘sthanamurchanakovidau’ literally, expert of ‘Sthana’ and ‘Murchana’. This indicates not only their theoretical knowledge of ‘Sthana’ and ‘Murchana’, but also a comprehensive training in the classical system of music, and this bestows utmost importance to svara-sadhana as a practical musical heritage of the Ramayana.

Since Valmiki does not mention any guru other than himself for Lava and Kusha’s training of music, it appears that they receive their tutelage from the sage himself. They sing according to the training received, and produce the notes from the ‘Tri-Sthana,’ namely ‘hridaya’, ‘kantha’, ‘murdha’ (the heart, throat, and the forehead) respectively.

In the narration of the Ramayana the principle of ‘Sthana’ is applicable to string instruments also, a fact that is supported by its mention in the context of vina in the Uttara Khanda of Ramayana.

The sage initiates Lava and Kusha “to sing the poem of the Ramayana in Rama’s presence, without any fear, in sweet melodies, with the accompaniment of Tantri on which the Sthana are already marked.”

According to the above verse, notes of all the octaves seem to be marked on the Tantri. This is a remarkable fact as it indicates the prevalence of a complex and sophisticated musical (string) instrument such as Tantri in the era Valmiki. These excerpts reveal the continuity between music envisioned by Valmiki and the practices of modern Indian music.