Was Pythagoras a vainika?

We all have studied Pythagoras. Pythagoras is most famous for his right-triangle theorem: a2+b2=c2. Although he was a 5th-century Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras still made a few discoveries in music. For example, he discovered that the pitch becomes precisely one octave higher when you split a string in half. This, he called the harmonic series, which is also a concept in physics that impacts waves and frequencies in Veena. When one plucks a string once, the sound emanates for about seven seconds. However, when frequently plucked, using the concept of harmonic series, various compositions can be played. It is conceivable that the great ancient South Indian classical music composers such as Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastry, used the cosmic sound of the veena and this concept to write music. 

Pythagoras also perceived that planets had the ability to emanate music as well, but humans did not have the power to hear it. It can be argued that Pythagoras discovered the concept of harmonic series without knowing about the existence of veena or cosmic sound which have been part of the Indic culture for eons.

The fundamental frequency of a string 12FLM0.5where F is the string tension, M is the mass of the string that is vibrating, and L is the length. When the tension of the string is much higher than the force that one’s fingers apply to the string perpendicular to the string’s tension, we can approximate that the tension in the string and length of the string remain approximately the same (as the angle between the string that your finger is restricting and the horizontal is small) i.e. cosine (of the offending angle) is = 1. Therefore, when you pluck the string and restrict the vibration of a string to just one half of it, it is easy to see that the fundamental frequency has an inverse relation with the length. As when the length is halved so is the mass that is vibrating and therefore these two factors double the fundamental frequency. The sound in the veena is made by holding a fret in the left hand and plucking with the right hand. Thus, different octaves are created by moving the fingers from left to right. 

The veena has been said to be in existence from time immemorial and was played by many Demigods and Goddesses. As sung by the great poet, Kalidasa in Syamala Dandakam: “माणिक्य वीणाम् उपलालयन्तीम्,” meaning “playing the Veena studded with gems.” The relationship between the fundamental vibrating frequency, tension, length, and mass of the strings was inherent to the design of the veena much before it was unearthed and articulated in mathematical form by Pythagoras, lending credence to the assertion that the veena is an inalienable part of the Indian culture and ethos.