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Dattilam – Ancient Text On Music In Hinduism

Dattilam, ascribed to Sage Dattila, contains the essence of the science of music and is an important text on music in Hinduism. The book was first published in the Trivandrum Sanskrit Series in 1930. Bharata mentions Dattila among his sons.

Dattilam contains 243 verses. It is said that Brahmadeva handed it over to Narada and other sages who brought it on the earth.

In the text, Gandharva is defined as the group of notes in conjunction with words, and employed with avadhana (attention), which consists of svara (musical note), tala (beat) and laya (time of pause in music). While treating the topic relating to svara, Dattila refers to its various elements, adjuncts and associates. Twenty-two tones of three or octaves or registers, viz., mandara, Madhya and tara (lower, middle and higher) are manifested in a progressively higher pitch, in case of the human voice, but in the case of vina (lute), the high tone would be manifested from the position of strings lower and lower. These particular tones are called minute audible sound srutis due to their quality of being heard and are employed in singing songs.

After treating the melodic entities jatis and the thirteen arranged notes alamkaras, Dattila gives details of pulses, tala, and its various technical aspects – kala, pata, padabhaga, matra, parivarta and vastu. Dattila concludes the work with four gitas (song forms) in Magadhi, Ardhamagadhi etc. Dattila states that his treatment of gandharva follows the opinion of his predecessors.

As brevity was considered important during the ancient times, Dattila has spoken of gandharva in a limited way.