Identity Through Necessary Change: Thinking About “Rāga-Bhāva,” Concepts and Characters

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Mukund Lath
David Shulman


In order to make Mukund Lath’s thoughts on music and identity accessible to a broader audience, and to call attention to links between Hindustānī musical theory and classical Indian philosophical notions, Lath’s paper “Identity Through Necessary Change: Thinking About ‘Rāga-Bhāva,’ Concepts and Characters” is being republished here with an introduction by David Shulman and explanatory notes.

Mukund Lath argues that identity is usually understood as something that remains the same despite change. His endeavor is to explore an alternative to this convention. The case study for Lath’s philosophical exploration is rāga music, i.e. Hindustānī classical music. He argues that the identity of the rāga is maintained not despite change, but owing to the necessary change in every execution of “the same” rāga. But how are we to even start thinking about a notion of identity that embraces rather than rejects change, a notion of identity that is based on and is rooted in change, not in stability or perpetuity? Lath explores this alternative and its consequences for the notion of identity at large.

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How to Cite
Lath, M., & Shulman, D. (2018). Identity Through Necessary Change: Thinking About “Rāga-Bhāva,” Concepts and Characters. Journal of World Philosophies, 3(2), 1-23. Retrieved from
Author Biographies

Mukund Lath

Mukund Lath is a Jaipur-based musicologist, philosopher, translator, and poet. His numerous publications include A Study of Dattilam: A Treatise on the Sacred Music of Ancient India (1978); Half a Tale: A Study in the Interrelationship between Autobiography and History (1981); The Hindi Padavali of Namdev (1989, with Winand M. Callewaert); Sangit evam Chintan (1992); Transformation as Creation: Essays in the History, Theory and Aesthetics of Indian Music, Dance and Theatre (1998); Bhakti: A Contemporary Discussion—A Philosophical Interpretation of Indian Bhakti Tradition (editor, with Daya Krishna and Francine E. Krishna, 2000); Dharma Sankat (2004); and Kya Hai? Kya Nahin Hai? (2009). Lath is the co-founder of, and co-edited, the Unmilan, a pioneering journal of philosophy in Hindi for many years, with Yashdev Shalya. His recent publications in English include “The Aesthetics of Music,” in History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, vol. XV; Science, Technology and Philosophy: Part III; Science, Literature and Aesthetics, ed. Amiya Dev, (2009), 77- 188; “The Concept of ānṛṣaṃssya in the Mahābhārata,” in The Mahābhārata Revisited, ed. R. N. Dandekar (Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2011), 113-19; and “Thoughts on Svara and Rasa: Music as Thinking/Thinking as Music,” in Indian Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art, ed. Arindam Chakrabarti (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), 93-106. Mukund Lath is recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademy Award (2008) for his scholarship in music, of the Padma Śrī award for his contribution in the field of arts (2010). He is also Fellow of the Sangeet Natak Akademy (Akademi Ratna, 2011).

David Shulman

David Shulman is Professor Emeritus at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Trained in Tamil by John Marr at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, he works mainly in the languages and cultures of southern India, including Sanskrit, with an emphasis on the early modern period (sixteenth century on). Over the last decade he has become absorbed in studying the Sanskrit theater of Kerala, Kudiyattam. He learned the rudiments of dhrupad singing from Osnat Elkabir, and he eavesdropped attentively on his wife Eileen’s advanced lessons in Carnatic music in Chennai and Visakhapatnam.