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Remedy in melody

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sound views T.V. Sairam (left) at a demonstration by veena player Saraswati Rajagopalan
sound views T.V. Sairam (left) at a demonstration by veena player Saraswati Rajagopalan

A conference on India's under-utilised tradition of healing through music

The last few years have witnessed an increase in the number of people shifting to alternate modes of treatment, therapeutic and curative, that follow a set of underlying principles that may or may not conform to conventional medical systems. In line with this trend, the Third International Conference on Music and Music Therapy was organised recently by the Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (VIMHANS) at its campus in South Delhi, in collaboration with Nada Centre for Music Therapy, Chennai.

Creative tool

Speakers, including eminent faculty and practising music therapists from India and abroad (Austria, Canada, France, Norway, Spain and the U.K.) participated. Dr. T. V. Sairam, a botanist by vocation, who has spearheaded the study of the impact Indian ragas on health-related issues, said, “We have a valuable heritage on the use of music as a curative tool. This was widely practised in medieval times; it was even enunciated in Swara Shastra, an ancient text, that, unfortunately, is no longer available.” He added, “Sadly, music is now used only as a medium of entertainment; I have worked on music therapy with mentally retarded children, and the effect has been encouraging.”

As per Swara Shastra, the 72 Melakarta ragas (the parent ragas of the innumerable other ragas) control 72 important nerves in the body, and depending on rendition — adhering to the rules of each raga and correct placement of notes — mixed with devotion and faith, a particular raga could impact the particular nerve in a favourable manner.

As one speaker, Payal Banerjee, pointed out, “The best example of music as sound and rhythm as movement in the body is that of a mother singing a lullaby to a child, caressing it on her shoulder, and tapping gently — the combination of acoustics and motion creates a soothing cocoon that lulls the baby to sleep.” Simrita Chaudhry, who besides being the Administrative Head is also a senior consultant in the premier Delhi hospital dealing with mental health and neurosciences, said, “VIMHANS, through its Mind Body Centre is pioneering the development of alternate therapies in the country. While music therapy, hypnotherapy and regression therapy are accepted by medical councils of the U.S. and the U.K., recognition has not been accorded yet in India, making some people develop negative notions about them.”

Sairam reiterated, “Ongoing researches in this field — including that of Nada Centre for Music Therapy — have confirmed that music can be used as an effective and result-oriented tool in healing a spectrum of mental and physical deficiencies, even in relieving pain for terminally ill patients in hospices.” He rued that while the U.S. has 25,000 practising music therapists, India, with a large trained music fraternity, is yet to make a mark, saying, “In fact, the strongest scepticism we encounter is from musicians themselves.” As other speakers explained, “Daily intake of music, like food, water or oxygen, is an essential requirement for physical and mental balance, as laid down in the ancient traditions of Nada Yoga and Raga Chikitsa. Music therapy is both an art and a science.” What course these alternate therapies take in the future, only time will tell.

APS MALHOTRA

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