Organized Indian music owes its origin to Samagana - the chanting of the Samaveda scriptures set to musical patterns. The oldest form of Indian classical music that exists today is Dhrupad. It is said to have originated from an even more ancient religious music form, Prabandha (2nd to 7th AD). The language of Prabandha was preeminently Sanskrit, whereas Dhrupad used mainly medieval Hindi or Brijbhasha (known as Madhyadesiya between the 14th and 16th centuries). Today, modern Hindi is also used. The word Dhrupad is the Hindi form of the original Sanskrit, Dhruvapada, a combination of Dhruva = structured or rigid and Pada = word.
The birth of Dhrupad coincided with the Bhakti movement of Vallabh Sampradaya and resultantly was devotional in nature. Dhrupad was sung in temples, the singer facing the divinity or it was sung by Vaishnav mendicants in their wanderings. This was the genesis of the Haveli Dhrupad. From this early chanting, Dhrupad evolved into a sophisticated, classical form of music. About six centuries ago, Dhrupad came to be patronized by the royal courts. However, its complex rendering became too highly sophisticated for royal audiences and the nature of the compositions became more secular. Some were written eulogizing the emperors; others were elaborations on the music itself, while still others were about heroic deeds or even elegant poetry in admiration of female beauty, especially Radha. In particular Raja Man Singh, king of Gwalior and a musician and a great lover of music gave Dhrupad immense encouragement and introduced many refinements. This came to be known as the Darbari Dhrupad. On account of his contribution, he is known as the originator of the Dhrupad style that is followed even today. However, the pristine nature of Dhrupad survived and even today we hear this majestic form of music performed like it was more than 500 years ago in the royal courts of the emperors and kings of India.
The distinctive quality of Dhrupad is the emphasis on maintaining the purity of the ragas and the elegance with which the swaras are used. It is also known for its austere quality and its extended presentation style is marked by precise and orderly elaboration of a raga and strict adherence to the tala. This exposition preceding the composed verses is called alaap, and is usually the longest portion of the performance. This aspect of dhrupad has been the most influential, and is reflected in other North Indian musical formats, especially in instrumental music and even khayal singing. Dhrupad has a very masculine style and was traditionally performed to the accompaniment of the pakhawaj (mridang) and the veena. In modern times however, the veena is no longer an accompaniment to this genre.
Dhrupad is also the first form of Indian music where due to its literary excellence and poetic quality, the text or lyrics rose above being merely a vehicle of expression of the notes and rhythm. It is in fact the fine blend between the melody and the poetic qualities of dhrupad that gave its uniqueness.
A little known fact is that dance was till recently the usual accompaniment to Dhrupad. Alongside vocal music, the ancient instrument rudra veena is associated quite strongly with this genre. The performance exhibits the same wealth of melodic nuance and sophisticated development. The dhrupad usually adheres to a four-part structure of sthai, antara, sanchari and abhog.
Dhrupads are sung in four styles called Banis – Gaurhar, Dagur, Khandhar and Nauhar – initially named after the language or dialect in which the verse was written and mentioned in Raja Man Singh Tomar’s treatise on the subject, Raga Darpan. The four banis, in later years, came to signify stylistic differences.
Today there are only three major schools of Dhrupad: Betia, Darbhanga and Dagar. The Dagar family is the oldest, having kept this tradition alive for generations.
Ustad Behram Khan
The Dagar Gharana took firm roots under the adept supervision of Ustad Behram Khan (1753-1878), who was associated with the royal court of Jaipur. Ustad Behram's father was Baba Gopal Das Pandey who was ostracized by his fellow brahmins for having chewed a pan offered to him by the then Mughal ruler in Delhi, Muhammad Shah Rangile, for his excellent rendition of Dhrupad. Haider and Behram were his two sons.
Haider Khan died early while Behram Khan spent the best part of his long life in establishing the purity of the gayaki not known before. The entire credit for keeping alive and passing down to posterity the pure form of dagarvani goes to him. A superb teacher, his disciples included his sons, Haider Khan’s sons and their sons. Particularly famous were his nephew’s sons, Zakiruddin Khan (1840-1926) and Allabande Khan (1845-1927), well known for their jugalbandhi (duet) performances.
The main representatives of the present-day Dagar gharana are the descendants of Ustad Zakiruddin Khan as well as of Ustad Allabande Khan’s four sons, Nasiruddin, Rahimuddin, Imamuddin and Husseinuddin: all of them extremely gifted and highly respected Dhrupad musicians. Nasir Moinuddin Dagar (1919-1966) and Nasir Aminuddin Dagar (1923-2000), now referred to as the Senior Dagar Brothers, were the elder sons of Nasiruddin and grandsons of Allabande Khan. Their jugalbandhi captivated audiences all over India and even in Europe bringing about a major revival of the dying genre. After the death of Moinuddin, their younger brothers, Nasir Zaheeruddin (1932-1994) and Nasir Fayyazuddin (1934-1989) also gained fame as a duo. Major contributions to the upkeep of this tradition also came from the sons of Rahimuddin and Husseinuddin, Rahim Fahimuddin (b. 1927) and Hussein Sayeeduddin respectively, as well as the grandsons of Zakiruddin Khan, Ustad Zia Mohiuddin (1929-1990 - who revived the majestic Rudra Veena as a concert instrument) and Zia Fariduddin (b. 1932).
The rich heritage of the Dagar tradition lives on in the remaining Dagar brothers and their sons and well-groomed disciples from outside the family. The Dagarbani dhrupad rendition is characterized by meditative and leisurely development of alap. The purity of a raga is usually maintained all through and in spite of intricate rhythmic patterns, there is a profound sense of devotion.
Ram Chatur Malik
Abhay Narayan Malik
Radhakrishna and Kartaram, the court musicians for the Nawab of Darbhanga in the mid eighteenth century, are considered to be the founders of the Darbhanga tradition of dhrupad. The gharana is continued in the two lineages formed by their descendants.
Originally, this gharana maintained branches of veena and pakhawaj playing too. The performance of the Darbhanga Gharana of dhrupad singers can be distinguished mainly by the way compositions are sung after the alap. A major emphasis is placed on the rhythmic aspect of the singing. The distinctive feature of the gharana is powerful and expressive vocal delivery, combined with a lively style of performance. Prominent singers include the late Ram Chatur Mallik (1906-1990), who was court musician at Darbhanga, Vidur Mallik, Abhay Narayan Mallik, and Prem Kumar Mallik.
The Betia gharana associated with the erstwhile royal court of Betia in Bihar primarily flourished during the 19th century. Stylistically, the gharana’s influence extended over entire eastern India. It became particularly strong in Bengal because of the close links of the Vishnupur gharana in Bengal with Betia, since masters of the latter trained most musicians of the former.
The genesis of Dhrupad in the Betia tradition is associated with the arrival in Betia of Pandit Shivdayal Mishra, a prominent disciple of famous musicians, Rahimsen and Karimsen of the Nepal court. He trained the royal brothers Anand and Nawal Kishore Sinha, who, in course of time , became composers of a very high order.
Dhrupad in Betia style is signified by the apparent simplicity of vocal delivery coupled with emphasis on the composition. Betia Gharana has compositions available from all the Banis, though more emphasis is placed on Gaurhar and Khandar Banis. As a result, the ornamentations and rhythmic variations are strictly applied during a rendition. Compositions of the Betia gharana are based on the poetry of the maharaja-poet-dhrupadiyas, Anand and Nawal Kishore. Pyar Khan of Seni Gharana and Haider Khan are considered to be the major influence on this gharana. Eminent musicians such as Hasan Ali Khan (father of sarodiya, Fida Hussain), beenkar Sadique Ali Khan and Kale Khan frequented the Betia court and learnt compositions of this gharana.
After the demise of royal patronage, the Betia tradition continued in Varanasi in the hands of stalwarts such as Shivrahal Mishra, Guruprasad Mishra, Jaykaran Mishra, Bholanath Pathak, beenkar Shivendra Nath Basu and Shib Mitra. It is claimed that Jaykaran Mishra, who had an excellent repertoire of dhamars and khayals, had committed to memory over nearly 2000 dhrupads in different banis. He passed on this cherished legacy to his deserving disciples, the most prominent among them being Bholanath Pathak. In addition to Varanasi, the Betia tradition prevailed in Bengal as well when several musicians moved to the Vishnupur court and is upheld today by prominent musicans of Bengal like Falguni Mitra. The tradition has a presence today in the place of its origin as well - in the form of Indrakishore Mishra.
Author - ITC SRA
The Talwandi tradition is associated with north -western India, specifically, Punjab. Presently, the tradition has very few singers, all living in Pakistan. Prominent singers of the tradition claim that the Talwandi gharana represents Khandar Vani. It is claimed that Nayak Chand Khan and Suraj Khan were the founders of Talwandi Gharana, which flourishes today in Pakistan. The Talwandi Gharana evolved independently of and remained unaffected by the Hindu tradition of devotional music. In fact the entire performance is regarded as an offering to Allah. Nevertheless the Talwani repertoire includes compositions on both Muslima nd Hindu themes. The gharana style appears to have similarities to the Darbhanga Gharana. A few recordings exist that show extremely fast concluding portions of the alap. The compositions display highly complex rhythmic variations.