Music in Buddha, Maurya, and Gupta Period

Music in Bouddha, Maurya, And Gupta Period
The remarkable fact about this period is that the sculptures of the musical instruments and the orchestras are found in Stoopas and other caves in India.
Bouddha Period (about 550 BC)
Bouddha once said  in his sermon to common people,“Life is like the sound of Veena, it originates and then it disappears. Experts are wasting their time figuring out where does it come from and where does it go.” This suggests two things, first, even common people in Bouddha Period could relate to this analogy, and second, the Enlightened Soul Buddha related the whole existence of life itself to the sound of Veena.
Music was much further developed in Budddha period than in Ramayan and Mahabharat Period. Music was offered patronage by the kings. The concepts of ragas, swara, gram and Murchchanas were further developed.
Buddha was a trained musician and so was his mother, Maya Devi. Bouddha literature was written in Jaatak, Peetak, and Avdaan scriptures which gives some glimpses of life in Bouddha period. There are discussions about music in Jaatak which was written in Pali language.
In TherGaatha scriptures, there are Gaatha and Padas which were sung by Bouddha Bhikshuks and Bhkshunis travelling from place to place.
Music was taught in the great universities of the time, Takshshila, Nalanda, Vikramshila as GandharvaVeda along with other disciplines. In those universities Geet, Vaaditva, Nritta, and Akhkhyanam were taught. Women were taught music. Mahati Veena,SaptaTantri Veena, Kachchapi, Tumba Veena, Mrudung, Turya, Venuhankha, Shringa, Jhallari, Ghanta  were the musical instruments of the time.
Music was played in orchestra in front of Pekhkha in Kutapa, the musical competitions were also held. The competition between Guttil and Mussil mentioned in Bouddha literature has been re-iterated by many writers and so is the shloka about Ravan meeting Bouddha with his Veena on his shoulder.
Bouddha and his followers appreciated music that was meditative and spiritual. In Bouddha Period music was called Shilpa. The sculpturing art was at its peak. Many of the sculptures at Bharhut, Amrawati, Saanchi show the instruments of the time and assures that music, orchestra, Nritya were well established art forms of Buddha period.
Maurya and Kanishka Period (324-297 BC)
Chandragupta Maurya is believed to be the founder of Maurya dynasty. By the time Chandrgupta Maurya and later Samrat Ashok and then Kanishka ascended the throne, Bouddha religion was taking roots beyond eastern boundaries of India (then known as Bharat). The influence of Eastern countries ie China, Mangolia, Cambodia, Indonesia was evident in the music.
After Chandrgupta Maurya came Raja Bindusar, and then came Samrat Ashok. Ashoka won Kalinga war and came across devastating loss of life on both sides. As a result he switched to Bouddha religion. Music also took a turn and became more spiritual than entertaining as it was in Chandrgupata time. Music got more respect than in previous times. Ashoka sent his Bouddha bhikshus to Tibet, China, Brahma Desh, Jawa, Sumatra for spreading Bouddha religion. Along with them went Bharteeya Sangeet. This was a great contribution of those Bouddha Bhikshuka to the Indian Music.
After Ashok period came Shung Period and Kanishka Period, where poet Panini has written about Rangmanch, Abhinaya in his literature. Garaba Nritya of Gujarat is believed to be originated in this period. Music in this period simply continued to sustain without developing further creations.

Gupta Period (about 240 BC - 330 CE)
Many historians call this golden era of cultural development. It was certainly true for music and dance and related cultural arts. Music was offered royal patronage, there were highly skilled women who chose music and entertainment as their profession and were highly respected in the society. There were Natya Shaala and Sangeet Graha where people gathered for entertainment and where competition and music shows were held.
Chandrgupta (from Gupta lineage) was a highly trained musician. Chandrgupta married the princess from 'Lichchavi' lineage which was known for their music and culture. (Ref.: Bharatiya Sangeet Ka Itihas by Dr. Sharadchandra Paranjpe)
SamaVeda and Dhruva Geeti was believed to be in practice in Chandrgupta period.
Samudragupta ruled the kingdom after Chandrgupta. Cultural and musical activities thrived under his reign too.
Chandrgupta Vikramaditya's reign began after Samudragupta. This era was considered to be the epitome of the Maurya dynasty.
Mahakavi Kalidas and Amarsimha were two of the Navaratnas in Chandrgupta Vikramaditya's royal court. Poet Baanbhatta was also from this period. Kalidas’s poetry has the mention of Saam, Gandharva, and some aspects of Natya and music.
Dances were performed in temples as well as in palaces. Veena, Bheri, Shankha, Mridang, Venu were a few of the instruments of the time.

Reference Books:
Bharatiya Sangeet Ka Itihas by Dr. Sharadchandra Paranjpe
Sangeet Visharad by Vasant, published by Dr. Laxminarayan Garg


  1. Kalidasa was the court poet of Chandragupta II of Gupta dynasty not Chandragupta Maurya. Both are completely different eras.

  2. //Chandra gupta married Athena// can u pl tell me the reference from which u got this ?

  3. Thanks for pointing out, I am taking the post off the blog. The book 'Sangeet Visharad' by Vasant (in Hindi) published by Dr. Laxminarayan Garg mentions on page 19 that Chandragupta Maurya married Selucus's daughter. The name of the daughter is not mentioned. Since I can't verify this information and I am not a historian, I am taking this information out of the blog.