Meet Sitarist Ram Vakkalanka
Ram Vakkalanka started learning Sitar in his teens while growing up in Hyderabad, India. Since more than a decade, Ram has been giving concerts of and teaching the Yoga of Sound. His instrument of choice is a North Indian string instrument, the Sitar.
“Sitar has always attracted me,” Ram says. “It is a very beautiful instrument with a sweet sound. Sitar Maestro Ravi Shankar inspired me a lot. I studied Sitar for seven years with Pt. Atmaram Kelwadkar, a very well-known Sitar and Surbahar artist, in Hyderabad. Eventually, I moved to Canada in 2000. And in Toronto, I discovered Prof. Shambhu Das, one of the senior disciples of Ravi Shankar. He was the founder and Dean of the Indian music department at York University. I studied deeper aspects of Sitar and Indian music with him for 6-7 years. In 2001, I met my spiritual Guru, Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji of Mysore, India. Sri Swamiji is the father of Healing and Meditation music. Even though there has been anecdotal awareness of the healing effects of music in many cultures, the credit for doing pioneering medical research in this field goes to Sri Swamiji. He established a clinic in Mysuru, India for the purpose of this research. In this clinic, the patients are recommended to take specific herbal bath(s) and listen to specific musical melodies composed by Sri Swamiji in various Ragas as treatment for their ailments. Based on His research and findings, Sri Swamiji published a book entitled “Raga Ragini Nada Yoga” and was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Music by Sri KrishnaDevaraya University in recognition of His immeasurable service to the humankind.
“While we often listen to music, we rarely realize the integrative power of music,” Ram explains. “Swamiji established a system connecting the musical tones and Ragas with the planetary system, gemstones, Chakras, Ayurvedic doshas and even plants. The musical tones work on our subtle nerves known as and effect the energetic workings of the mind, body and spirit. The Yogis say that physical ailments are rooted in the energy system and treating the energy system will heal the diseases. is a beautiful healing tradition that combines the art of music and the science of energy healing.”
“In India, we always believed that music is not only a means of entertainment but also a path to Enlightenment. Entertainment is merely incidental to the practice of music. Indian music goes back to the ancient texts known as the Vedas, which explain how musical tones, known as Swaras in Sanskrit, carry a lot of healing power. The word Swara has two facets: firstly, Swara is a living energy in itself. The musical tones are very specific, powerful frequencies that correspond to the energy centres present in our system, known as Chakras. There are 7 Chakras, or wheels of energy, situated along our spiritual spinal column. When they are out of balance, the human body becomes inflicted with various ailments. Swaras help balance the chakras and restore a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual health. These frequencies have the power to soothe us, uplift us and carry us to higher states of consciousness. The second aspect is that Swara can be infused with one’s own life force. So when the musician plays music, he has to imfuse the tones with his own life force and energy. When the intention and vibrations are combined effectively, it results in healing. This is known as Nada Yoga.
For many thousands of years, the Indian music system has developed many instruments and . Many musical instruments of India, such as the bamboo flute, represent the energy system. The Indian bamboo flute, for example, has seven holes symbolizing the seven Chakras. Krishna, the Hindu deity, is always depicted playing the bamboo flute and blowing Prana - life force energy, into it. This symbolizes awakening the Kundalini energy thru Pranayama.
The Sitar, a newer instrument designed a few hundred years ago, symbolizes the spinal column in its design, with the frets as the vertebrae. The Sitar is modeled after the , which is thousands of years old and the first ever fretted string instrument. The Vina is hollow and has 24 frets symbolizing the 24 vertebrae extending from the cervical to the lumbar region of the spinal column.
There are 72,000 or Indian melodic structures. They are closely related to the seasons, months, days of the weeks, times of day and moods of the day. So you can have morning and evening ragas, mellow and energetic ragas. Ragas are also connected with and doshas and are very effective in balancing them. A knowledgeable Nada Yogi instinctively understands which disease is caused by the imbalance of which dosha and which Raga can effectively heal it.