Music means both vocal and instrumental sounds combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony and expression of emotion. During the Vedic era this music – both vocal and instrumental were held in high esteem in the society. Music had both ritual and secular aspects.
The word svara is derived from the root Svr which means to sound. The word is found in the Vedic literature, particularly in the Sāmaveda, where it means accent and tone, or a musical note. The Sāmaveda (Sāman means song and Veda means knowledge) is the Veda of melodies and chants. This Sāmaveda is considered as the root of Vedic music as well as the root of classical Indian music also. Sāmagāna was considered as the sound of inspiration of the people of that age. Performing the Sāmagāna the people of that age tried to get strength and inspiration. People of Vedic era offered prayer to different deities in the form of Sāmagῑti. In the Ṛgveda, the mantras were without song or melodies but in the Sāmaveda the mantras were connected with the melody and thus appeared as Sāmagāna. So in the Jaimini Sūtra, it was said, “Gῑtiṣu Sāmākhyā”.
Deities were invited with the ṛgmantras and deities were glorified with the Sāmagāna was known as stutigāna or stotra. Melodious recitation and song – both were entitled as Sāma in devakula. Chāndogyopniṣad says, earth is Ṛk and Sāma is Agni. Sāma resides in Ṛk. This Sā tune is considered as the adisvara of saṅgῑta.
During the Vedic era, at the time of sacrifices and upāsanāāhuti had been offered and with that āhuti rhythmic SāmagānaI was performed. With this Sāmagῑti different types of musical instruments were associated. During the Vedic era, Sāmagāna was developed depending upon the Yāga. In Āśvalāyana Śrautasūtra and Kātyāyana Śrautasūtrai – seven types of soma-saṃsthā yajňa were mentioned. In each and every yajňaSāmagāna was sung. Stuti-gāna and gāthā-gāna were also famous.
Music was not only considered as the ritual performance, sometimes it was also considered as a social activity. In the Vedic time other than Sāmaagāna some kind of Sāmetara saṅgῑta also existed.
Hence, it is not worthy to say that during the Vedic era, the music not only remained as the medium of entertainment, rather it appeared as the medium of Sādhanā which would lead the ultimate and supreme realization.