Music therapy is a scientific method of effective cures of disease through the power of music. It restores, maintains and improves emotional, physiological and psychological well being. The articulation, pitch, tone and specific arrangement of swars (notes) in a particular raga stimulates, alleviates and cures various ailments inducing electro magnetic change in the body.
Music therapy has a long history dating back to ancient Orphic school in Greece. Pythagorus, Plato and Aristotle, all were aware of the prophylactic and therapeutic powers of music. Even the old testament mentions music therapy where King David is said to have cured an illness by playing on the harp. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used music to cure human diseases. In ancient Egypt music was used to lessen the pain of women during childbirth. Ibn Sina, a famous Arabic writer, has written in detail on this subject. In India legend has it that Thyagaraja, the famous musician of South India, brought a dead person back to life by singing the composition Naa Jeevan Dhara in raga Bihari. In 1729 Richard Browne, a physician wrote the famous text Medicina Musica which describes the use of music as medicine. Dr Burnell has mentioned a manuscript named Raga Chikistsa in the collections of Saraswati Mahal Library in Tanjore which deals with the various ragas that can be used for curing various ailments. What is music? "Music is a kind of inarticulate, unfathomable speech which leads us to the edge of the infinite and lets us for a moment gaze in that" observed Carlyle. Music is basically a sound or nada generating particular vibrations which moves through the medium of ether present in the atmosphere and effects the human body. Sarangdev mentions in his Sangeet Ratnakar that ahata nada or music is always produced by striking or aghata by a living being on an instrument of any kind. So music is a power or universal energy in the form of ragas.
Matanga (9-10th century AD) was the earliest writer to define raga. According to him "raga is that kind of sound composition consisting of melodic movements which has the effect of colouring the hearts of men". "There are four sources of raga: folk songs, poetry, devotional songs of mystics and compositions of classical musicians. While harmony is the characteristic of Western music, Indian music is pure melody. The general term for melody in India is raga or ragini". (Kangra Ragmala -- M.S. Randhawa).
Symphonies of raga have a definite soothing effect on the mind as well as on the body. Repeated listening to the particular raga being chosen for a particular disease produces a network of sound vibration. The muscles, nerves and the chakras of the affected part are contracted when one impulse is given and relaxed during the interval between two impulses. Thus, during contraction of the tissue, musical notes make the blood flow out from that particular area and in the interval there is relaxation and a state of reduced pressure is produced in these areas. Thus the blood from the adjacent area will flow there. This process is repeated again and again and the blood flow and energy flow in that part is enhanced. This makes quick, fast healing. Energy from URF (universal energy field) to HEF (human energy field) transmitted by the strokes of the different tones of raga affects the CNS (central nervous system) because the roots of the auditory nerves are more widely distributed and have more connections than any other nerves in the body. Music beats have a very close relationship with heart heats. Music having 70-75 beats per minute equivalent to the normal heart beat of 72 has a very soothing effect. Likewise rhythms which are slower than 72 beats per minute create a positive suspense on the mind and body since the mind body complex anticipates that the music will speed up and this restored vital energy gives a deep relaxation to the body. Rhythms which are faster than the heart rate excite and rejuvenate the body.
Hindustani/classical musical considers ragas as depicting specific moods. An appropriate mood is to be evoked in the listener's mind before initiating the musical treatment. Kafi Raga evokes a humid, cool, soothing and deep mood while Raga Pooriya Dhanasri evokes sweet, deep, heavy, cloudy and stable state of mind. Raga Mishra Mand has a very pleasing, refreshing, light and sweet touch while Bageshwari arouses a feeling of darkness, stability, depth and calmness.
Music is considered the best tranquiliser in modern days of anxiety, tension and high blood pressure. Raga Darbari is considered very effective in easing tension. It is a late night raga composed by Tansen for Akbar to relieve his tension after hectic schedule of the daily court life. This raga belongs to Asavari That and is a complete raga containing all the seven notes. The seven notes are taken from various natural sounds of birds and animals. Pandit Jasaraj's Ram Ko Sumiran Kar in Vilambil Ek Tal is one of the best available recordings of this majestic raga. Pandit Raghunath Seth's Raga Darabari (instrumental) in a Music Therapy cassette named Tanav is especially composed for easing tension.
Dr. Balaji Tambe has proved through his scientific research that Raga Bhupali and Todi give tremendous relief to patients of high blood pressure. Raga Ahir-Bhairav is supposed to sustain chords which automatically brings down blood pressure. This raga is a combination of Kafi and Bhairav. Pandit Jasaraj's Aj to anand anand in Druti-teen tal is one of the best vocal performances of this beautiful raga.
Raga Malkauns and Raga Asawari helps to cure low blood pressure. Malkauns and Raga Asawari helps to cure low blood pressure. Malkauns a very prominent raga of Bhairavi That (composition of musical notes from which the raga originates) is one of the oldest ragas of Indian classical Music. Re and pa are absent in this raga, all the other notes used are komal (soft). The timeless performance by Pandi Onkarnath Thakur in Paga ghunghroo baje Mira nache re is one of the best known examples of this raga.
For heart ailments Raga Chandrakauns is considered very helpful. Certain other prominent ragas for relaxation and easing tension are Raga Tilak-kamod, Hansdhwani, Kalavati, Durga. They evoke a very pleasing effect on the nerves. For patients suffering from insomnia and need a peaceful sonorous sleep, Raga Bihag and Bahar have wonderful effects.
Ragas are closely related to different parts of the day according to changes in nature and development of a particular emotion, mood or sentiment in the human mind. Bhairav is sung an hour before dawn, Ramkali at dawn, Vilavali at sunrise, Sarang at noon, Nata and Malava in the afternoons, Gaudi in the evenings, Kalyan at night, Kedara, Chandra and Bihag late in the night.