Sāmagān सामगान is not merely a name given to singing hymns of Veda but represents the philosophy and science of uniting thought, sound and music. Sāmagān is purpose of creation of Samaveda
Sām is singing of hymns from Rigveda
alone and not from other Veda-s. "richi adhyoodham sam" ऋचि अध्यूढ्रम साम (Chhandog Upnishad 1.6.1). Hence Sām is composition of words in Rigvedic hymns into notes. The richā-s or hymns of Rigveda are called yoni or ādhār as they form the base of Sāmgān. In musicological parlance Sām Veda has taken mātu (words) from Rigveda and provided dhātu (notes) to these words. (Bharatiya Sangeet Ka Itihaas. Dr. Thakur Jaidev Singh. Calcutta: Sangeet Research Academy, 1994, pp. 35 - 72)
Parts of Sām Veda
Ārchik.आर्चिक् Only a few hymns in Sām Veda Samhita were not based upon richa-s taken from Rigveda. The bulk being based on Rigveda is known as Ārchik. It has two parts.
Poorvārchik. पूर्वार्चिक 585 Richa-s are sub-grouped into 6 Prapāthak-s. Each Prapāthak has two Ardh-s. Each Ardh has 10 Dashati-s. A collection of ten (here, hymns) is called a Dashati.
Uttarārchik. उत्तरार्चिक It has 1225 richa-s contained in 9 Prapāthak-s, first five having two ardh-s each and the remaining four having three ardh-s each.
Āranyak Samhita. अरण्यक सम्हिता It is merely a collection of verses that could be sung.
Branches of Sām
Patanjali's statement, "sahasravartma samvedah" सहस्रवर्त्म समवेदः gives rises to speculation that there were a thousand branches of Sām, while he poetically indicated there could be a thousand ways in which Sām could be sung. In Sāmtarpan there are a maximum of 13 Āchārya-s but today there are only three branches.
1. Rānaneeya राणानीय
2. Kouthumeeya कौथ्हुमीय
3. Jaimineeya जैमिनीय
Relationship of Ārchik and Gān-grantha
Ārchik grantha (treatises) contains hymns that are yoni or base to Gān or singing. The collections of suitably modified richa-s are known as Gān-grantha. These are the true Sām.
Sām created on richa-s of Poorvārchik are called Grām-gān,ग्रामगान् Grāmegeya-gān, ग्रामगेयोगान् Prakriti-gān प्रकृतिगान or Veya-gān वेयगान्.
Sām created on richa-s of Āranyak Samhita are termed Aranya-gān अरण्यागान or Aranyageya-gān अरण्यगेयोगान्.
Sām created on richa-s of Uttarārchik are known as Ooh-gān.ऊहगान्
The Sanskrit root ooh means 'to modify according to need'. (Caland in preface to PanchVimshBrahmin)
Application of Gān-s
Gramgeyo-gān: Sung in villages or towns.
Aranyageya-gān: Practiced in solitude of forest. Also called Rahasyageyo-gān.
Ooh-gān: Pragath-s specially created for yajna on basis of Gramgeyo-gān.
Oohya-gān ऊह्यगान: Pragath-s created for yajna on basis of Rahasyageyo-gān.
There is a difference in number of songs attributed to different branches. Shri Satvalekar in preface to Sāmveda Samhita has given the following table of songs.
||Songs of Jaimineeya Branch
||Songs of Kouthumeeya Branch |
Grām or Scale of Sāmveda
Fox Strangways in Music of Hindustan says, "Vocal scales are conceived downwards. They are so conceived, because the telling notes of the voice in its upper register, and this presents itself, therefore as the starting point for a vocal scale." The Sāyan-bhāshya (critique) on Sām-vidhān Brāhmin establishes that note of Sām were of nidhan prakriti (diminishing nature) and followed a descending order.
Swara of Sām
In Naradiya Shiksha the seven notes of Sām are First, Second, Third, Fourth, Mandra, Krushta and Atiswār. This indicates that initially only three or four notes were used for Sāmgān.
Ārchik songs were sung on the basis of just one note, e.g. Sa Sa Sa, or Ni Ni Ni. This kind of chanting was well suited to Havan, Mantra-pāth and Jap
Gāthik songs were hymns in praise of deities and used two notes, e.g. Ni Ni Ni Ni, Sa Sa Sa Sa.
Sāmic songs for the first time used three notes. The word Sāmic is taken to mean three notes. The songs were like Ga Ga Re Re Sa Sa Sa.
Apart from these three basic notes, the singers came across a fourth which they called Swarāntar. When they discovered a note lower than the lowest known note they called it Mandra. When a still lower note than Mandra was found they called it Atiswār. A higher note determined was called Krushta after Sanskrit root Krush (to scream, speak loudly). So the complete Sāmic Saptak in descending order contains:
| First Note
|| Second Note
|| Third Note
|| Fourth Note
|| Fifth Note
|| Sixth Note
|| Seventh Note |
To preserve the Sāmik notes, Raga Sāmeshwari was created. Dr. Lalmani Misra first translated the notes M G R S D N P into Shadja gram -- S N D P G M R -- and then created a Raga which is performed in the evening.
Shruti-jāti is defined as the way in which a particular note could be applied to make the song appealing. There are five with individual signs for three shruti-jāti-s.
|| Sign |
|| U |
|| ^ |
|| * |
1. Bharatiya Sangeet Ka Itihaas
. Dr. Thakur Jaidev Singh. Calcutta: Sangeet Research Academy, 1994
2. Music of Hindostan. Fox-Strangways, A.H. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1914.
3. Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya. Dr. Lalmani Misra
4. Dhwani Aur Sangeet. Prof. Lalit Kishor Singh. New Delhi: Bharatiya Jnanpith, 1954, 1962, 1999.