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Dhrupad ( Hindi ध्रुपद dhrupad ) is the oldest (strictest) singing style of Hindustan music in Indian classical music . The term is abbreviated from dhruva pada , where Sanskrit dhruva ("solid", "solid form") is a precisely defined composition in a certain mode and pada ("foot", "step", "verse", "meter") is a poem to a given music means. Dhrupad is a verse form of the poem and a singing style in which it is sung.

The vowel style is considered serious, masculine and serious. It demands great control of the respiratory system and excellent vocal variation technique from the singer. Dhrupad is mainly used to praise heroes, gods and rulers. In the Carnatic music of South India, the classical style , which comes from the Dhrupad, is called Kriti (also Kirtanam ) (not to be confused with Kirtan , a devotional form of song in North India).

Origin and history

Dhrupad probably goes back to the older musical form of Prabandha in the 12th to 14th centuries, as described in the Indian music theory Sangīta Ratnākara ("Ocean of Music and Dance") of Sharngadeva (1210-1247). At the court of the art-loving Hindu prince of Gwalior , Raja Man Singh Tomar (1486–1525), the Dhrupad received its present form through the work of Haridasa Swami and Tansen (1506–1589). With the capture of the royal seat by the Mughal troops in 1523, the court musicians dispersed, some of whom later found employment at the Mughal court. While the language of Prabandha was still predominantly Sanskrit, the Dhrupad already made use of a medieval dialect of Hindi , Brijbhasha, which was spoken around Agra and Gwalior in the 14th to 16th centuries, in which the mystic Mirabai (1498–1546 ) and the philosopher, poet and Bhaktijünger Tulsidas (1532–1623) wrote poetry. Modern Hindi is also used today.

Dhrupad was reshaped by the Hindu musician and famous singer Tansen. Born in Gwalior, the court musician of the Mughal emperor Akbar I (1542–1605), succeeding his teacher Haridas Swami Dagar, who cannot be specifically proven, reinterpreted the Dhrupad in a revolutionary way. Tansen's appearance is considered to be the culmination of the courtly dhrupad style, his dhrupadas as "ideal prototypes". "Such a singer like him has not existed in India for a thousand years", the chronicler at Akbar's court, Abu-l-Fazl (1551–1602), praised in his list of contemporary musicians ( Ain i Akbari II, p. 445). Tansen's descendants were divided into three lines: the eldest of the sons, Vilas Khan, played the rubab like their father and founded the Rababi Gharana (the rubab -playing family or lineage), a daughter and her son-in-law called the vina -playing Binkar Gharana while another son, Surat Sen, founded the Seniya Gharana of Jaipur .

After being shaped by Tansen, the dhrupad experienced a heyday and was the dominant musical form of vocal music until the 18th century. From the early 19th century onwards, Dhrupad became an elitist sah ( daya (Sanskrit “thing of the heart”) at the royal courts , which required a high level of knowledge. In contrast, there was the khyal music, which originated in the 17th century. The light female chant in the khyal style, mostly supported by sarangi and tabla , accompanied dance girls at the ruling houses. The romantic and devotional Thumri and Tappa styles were also introduced in the 19th century . The instrumental music of sitar and sarod also preferred the other styles, so that the dhrupad was almost forgotten.

Subjects of the dhrupad chant

Dhrupad developed his religious aspect in the context of Vishnu worship as a praise for the popular Hindu deity Krishna , who is said to have spent a carefree youth among shepherds in Vrindavan , a small town near Mathura . Sanskrit texts, which were soon translated into the vernacular, described the (sometimes amorous) adventures of the popular shepherd god, especially with his beloved Radha , and formed an essential textual basis for the Dhrupad, which thus became the musical medium for the Bhakti cult, which continues today widespread devotional devotion to Lord Krishna ( Haveli-Dhrupad ). Vrindaban is still the actual center of Dhrupad, where the last festival took place in November 2009 ( Dhrupad Mela ); Similar melas are now taking place in other places in India, for example at the Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi .

With the entry to the courts, there was an expansion of the range of topics: now the praise of the ruler, music as such, heroic songs and the praise of female beauty ( Radha lyrics) were added. In general, the dhrupad is characterized by the fact that it adequately expresses both the qualities of the text ( mātu ) and the melody ( dhātu ).

Dhrupad song pervaded the entire annual course of the pious Hindu as temple and court music and spread among other things. a. with the Vishnuit wandering monks of the Vallabha sect across the subcontinent. With the conversion of the musician Tansen to Islam, however, in the spirit of the Mughal ruler Akbar, a broadening and intensification of the bhakti idea, which offered numerous points of contact with the Sufi belief in Islam.

Tansen's art music found its way into the centers of political power, that is, to the Muslim and Hindu royal courts, and was performed by Hindu, but predominantly Muslim musicians.

As a means of inner contemplation, as a spiritual discipline that the dhrupad originally understood itself to be, the dhrupad is now as then in the field of tension between public performance and inner experience. The refusal of renowned dhrupad singers such as Fahimuddin and Rahimuddin Khan Dagar (1901–1976) to perform in public at all or to allow recordings is explained by this fear of profanation.

Instruments, instrumentation

Possibly the sage Narada , the inventor of the vina and one of the heavenly musicians called Gandharvas . Miniature from the beginning of the 19th century

To this day, only a singer is considered to be one who has mastered all four styles - besides Khayal, Ghazal and Bhajan also Dhrupad - which are understood as charmukha ("four faces") of music. It was only thanks to the patronage of some royal courts in northern India and the All India Radio that the art form survived in the form of a strictly, even jealously guarded tradition among some families of musicians. Especially since the 1970s, the exclusive music of the Dhrupad has experienced a revival on a national and international level. She has to defend herself against the so-called “khayalization” (Saiduddin Dagar), that is, against aestheticization or smoothing.

Apart from vowel interpretation, Dhrupad can only be interpreted through the Rudra Vina , a rod zither with 22 frets and 7 strings that is played with a plectrum ( mizrab ). It is considered the most noble and most difficult instrument, its mythical inventor Narada played with it to the gods. In addition, the long-necked lute tanpura , a drone instrument with 4 strings in the fundamental, octave, fifth and octave, sounds the fundamental behind the vocal speaker.

Dhrupad compositions consist of four or five parts. In Dhrupad the - mostly male - voice or singing dominates, although rarely, but Dhrupad has always been practiced by women, among others by Sulochana Brahaspati or the Italian and Malik or Dagar student Amelia Cuni. In addition to the dominant vocalist - there may also be several singers singing in unison - the dhrupad ensemble includes one or two tanpuras weaving a carpet of sound, which are located directly behind the vocalist, as well as the large barrel drum pakhawaj with two different-sized heads as a rhythm instrument played by the singer to the right. In addition, only the Rudra Vina or a similarly deeply tuned instrument that produces a similarly long-lasting tone is tolerated as an instrument.

Like all classical Indian music, the dhrupad does not run tonally along the major-minor system, as in Western music, but modally in ragas .


Like other forms of music in India, the dhrupad begins with the introductory ālāp (Hindi "conversation, conversation"), a melodic and completely free improvisation of up to half an hour by the vocalist with a range of around two and a half octaves, in which the singer is accompanied by no rhythmic accompaniment the tanpura , with the help of tone syllables the raga in three different tempos (skt. laya "beat, tempo") - slow, medium and fast ( vilambit, madhya, druta laya ) - paces through the pitch of the respective rāg in a fixed order sometimes a dramatic increase from the bottom up. The name and type of rāg determine at what time of day, in what tone sequence and in what rhythm it is performed. The ālāp generally takes up most of the performance, i. d. Typically about 30-45 minutes.

In madhya laya , a regular rhythm sets in and the singer moves to a more lively tempo; Finally, druta laya is characterized by vocal embellishments and more complicated rhythms, before the vocalist finds his way back to the strict, simple elegance of the beginning and the starting note in the final part of the Alap. Another division of Alap distinguishes the actual, free improvisation ( ālāp ) at the beginning, jor (constant rhythm) and jhala or nom-tom (accelerated singing of syllables).

Then the actual composition begins, with generally four, sometimes five, but at least two parts: sthāyī (Skt. "Immutability", comprises the middle octave) and antarā as a contrasting alternative (Sanskrit "inner space", upper octave). Usually two further sections are added: sañcārī (Sanskrit “wandering”, middle and upper pitch space, downward movement) and ābhoga (Sanskrit “curvature”, return to the starting point (Koda) of sthāyī ); sometimes bhoga is considered a separate fifth part within sañcārī . - In the south of the continent, the sections are also referred to with Sanskrit terms : pallavī , anupallavī and caraņam ; the ābhog also occurs, but has no name of its own.

After the improvisation in the Alap, the actual composition begins, often without a transition, with a fixed text accompanied by the Pakhawaj. With a number of bars of 7 ( tivra ), 10 ( sul ) or 12 ( chau ) beats (hindi tāl "rhythm, measure") one speaks of a dhrupad , with the faster, 14-beats of a dhamār composition, as they usually are for the Holi festival or in honor of Krishna. During the lecture, the drum player is given numerous opportunities to perform as a soloist. Before the actual dhrupad, the singer quotes the mostly old or traditional lyric text in parts or as a whole, often in Sanskrit and with a religious or musicological background, which he then partially up to using the technique of bol-bāņţ (Hindi "word division") broken down into its syllable components beyond recognition and combined with one another in a rich rhythmic structure in interaction with the drummer.

Dhrupad is not only performed in concert, but also continues to be performed in temples, where the alap is omitted and the smaller mridangam is used instead of the pakhawaj . Bells and cymbals complete the ensemble here.

Styles, schools, artists and centers

There are four vāņī (skt. Vāņī "voice, articulated words"), i. H. stylistic variants of the classical Dhrupad: gaudahāra (Gauri, Gohar, Gauhar etc.), khaņdāra (Khandar) nauhāra (Nauhar) and dāgara (Dagar), which Faqīrullāh already lists in 1666 in his book Rāgdarpan , but which in turn (1486- Man Singh Tomar) 1516) goes back.

More important, however, are the gharanas or family styles , which, in a closely guarded tradition, are passed on from generation to generation only to family members and selected adepts. This hermetic procedure is typical of the private, meditative and ultimately elitist character of the Dhrupad, but it enabled it to survive in the 19th and 20th centuries after the loss of the princely patrons, despite the great privation of the families who carried it.

Dagar Gharana

The Dagar family, one of the oldest and most important families of musicians of classical music of Hindustan in India, leading to the ascetic Haridas Swami back and were originally Brahmins and court musician in Jaipur , but changed under the art-loving Muhammad Shah (1702-1748) at the Mughal court in Delhi, which is why they gave up their caste and became Muslims. They have been practicing the dagar vāņī (Dagar style) from an old age with an emphasis on the alap and a melodious, full voice leading to which they owe their patronymic Dagar . For generations, the Dagars have preferred to act as a couple, especially as a pair of brothers ("Dagar brothers"), with one, masculine voice often contrasting pleasantly with the second, softer one. Rahimuddin Dagar (1904–1975) is the father of Fahimuddin, whose uncle Hussainuddin and Imamuddin were court musicians with the Holkars of Alwar . The senior Dagar brothers Moinuddin (1919–1966) and Aminuddin (1923–2000) were followed by the junior brothers Zahiruddin (1932–1994) and Faiyazuddin (1934–1989). Rahim Fahimuddin (1927–2011) and Hussein Sayeeduddin (1939–2017) as well as the grandchildren, the Rudra Vina player Zia Mohiuddin (1929–1990) and the singer Zia Fariduddin (1932–2013) continued the tradition.

The members of the Dagar family are Muslim. They sing texts in praise of the one God, with the name of Allah and the Hindu names, as is clear in this composition by Hussain Sayeeduddin Dagar in Rag Madyamat Sarang, set in Sul tala (10 beats: 4/2/4)

Tuma rābah , tuma sāheb You winner, you lord (Arabic sāhib ),
tuma hī karatar You are the creator (related to Latin creator ),
gatgat purāna jala thala bharbhār An infinitely long time ago you filled water and land.
tuma hī Rahīm , You are merciful
tuma hī Karīm You are generous
tuma hī jagatguru You are the world teacher
balihari! God king! (royal Vishnu)
kahat Minya Tansen: So says Minya Tansen :
Ko jagat ko hä bharbhār? Who in the world filled everything?
Tuma rābah , tuma sāheb ... You winner, you lord ...

The dagar singer personally tunes the tanpura to the respective raga, usually the fifth , at night often the fourth and / or the major seventh . Some artists introduce their concerts with a Sanskrit mantra from the Sangita Ratnakara of the Saranga Deva (see Classical Indian Music ), which God describes as sound:

Caitanyaṃ sarvabhūtanām vivṛtaṃ jagatātmanaḥ nādabrahma; tadānandam advītiyam upāsmahe. "

“The consciousness of all beings is permeated by the sound Brahman ( Nāda Brahma ) of the world soul. We adore this sole happiness. "

The sound is understood here as the Creator God ( brahma , masculine) and world soul ( brahman , neuter, 1st person singular brahma ). Because the bridge between sound and world, between nature and spirit, has to be created over and over again, even under adverse circumstances. The main focus of the Dagar is music theory and practical instruction. One speaks of Dagarvani revival since the end of the 20th century and means the revival of the Dagar style, also through concerts in the West.

The dagar are famous for their elegant, intellectual form of the dhrupad and follow the finest nuances of tone and pitch in natural tuning. Singers outside the Dagar family also cultivate the Dagarvani style, for example Ritwik Sanyal (* 1953), Uday Bhawalkar (* 1966) from Ujjain and the Gundecha Brothers (Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha), all four of Fariduddin's students, who are also from Ujjain Dagar, as well as on the Surbahar Pushparaj Koshti, student of Ziya Mohiuddin and on the cello Nancy Kulkarni, also a student of Ziya Mohiuddin. She often performs with Uday Bhawalkar - like her teacher, who performed with his younger brother, Uday Bhawalkar's teacher.

This duet inspired the documentary and art filmmaker Mani Kaul to make the film Dhrupad , which premiered in October 1982 on the occasion of the Dagar Saptah (Dagar Week or 7 Dagars, both meant) at the Ustad Allauddin Khan Sangeet Academy in Bhopal.

In Europe, Dhrupad is taught at the Rotterdam Conservatory by Marianne Swašek, a student of Zia Fariduddin and Zia Mohiuddin. She switched to voice after first learning sarangi .

Darbhanga-Gharana of the Malliks

The Mallik are Brahmins from the Gaur caste from Amta near Darbhanga (state of Bihar ); they play the Khandar Vāņī . In contrast to the Dagars, the musicians of the Mallik family prefer the strict Dhrupad composition to the improvised Alap, brilliantly emphasizing the rhythmic aspect of the singing and relying on a more mannered way of producing the voices.

Musically, the family can be traced back to Tansen (1506–1589), the most famous singer in Indian music history. When they arrived in Bihar around 1785, according to family tradition, they only managed to end a drought that resulted in hunger and epidemics with the lecture of the rain ragas Megh Malhar . As a reward, they were given control of two villages and the honorary title mālik (Persian, Hindi "master, owner"). - Dhrupad singers of the Malik family were also active in the Principality of Dumraon through the patronage of the local Maharaja.

The most important representative was Ram Chatur Malik (1902 / 06-1991), who was considered dhrupad samrāţ ("Emperor of Dhrupad"). As court musician and personal friend of the then ruler Kameshwar Singh von Darbhanga - one of the richest landlords in India until independence in 1947 - he accompanied his master to the first Round Table Conference in 1930/31 and to the coronation of George VI. 1937. - Today, Abhay Narayan, Prem Kumar and Vidur (Bidur) Narayan Malik († 2002) and Siya Ram (Syaram) Tiwari continue the tradition. The Pathak family also belong to the wider circle of musicians. - The film Jalsaghar by Indian director Satyajit Ray from 1958 shows parallels to Ram Chatur Malik's life and reflects the musical connoisseurship, but also the music obsession of many former zamindare (large landowners).

Bettiah Gharana

The Mishras from Bihar come from the Maithil Brahmins caste, who derive their name from the ancient kingdom of Mithila on the soil of today's Bihar. The Maithil Brahmins are famous for their orthodoxy and their eagerness to learn and usually have the addition of Mishra . The musical dynasty of the Mishras flourished under the patronage of the Rajas of Bettiah am Gandak in Bihar and mostly makes music in the Gaurhar , Nauhar and Khandar styles , which are characterized by vocal ornamentation and rhythmic variation. After the end of royal patronage at the courts of Nepal, Bettiah and Bishnupur, the Mishras settled in Varanasi . Its current representatives are mainly Indrakishore Mishra, Bholanath Pathak and Falguni Mitra. Their style is also known as the Haveli style .

Talwandi Gharana

This Dhrupad tradition comes from the Punjab , but is practiced today in Pakistan ; she prefers the Khandar style ( khandar vāņī ). The Talwandi Gharana from Faisalabad continues the Dhrupad style, which Nayak Chand Khan (Khanderi) and Suraj Khan founded in Ludhiana (in the Indian state of Punjab ) in the 14th century . Today the brothers Malikzada Muhammad Hafiz Khan and Muhammad Afzal Khan represent this "unique tradition oriented to the spiritual practice of the Sufis", and a Muslim saint, a pir , is sung in the Dhrupad .


  • Legend has it that Tansen was once forced by his opponents at court to recite the passionate Rāga Dīpak , which causes drought, fever and fire. Lamps lit up promptly, scorching heat arose, and Tansen would almost have burned himself into a fever if his daughters hadn't immediately started the rain-bringing Rāga Megh Malhar .
  • During a visit by the emperor Akbar, Tansen elicited a singing rehearsal from his reclusive old master, the ascetic Haridas Swami Dagar, by introducing Akbar as a groom and deliberately singing wrongly. Haridas got angry and now continued the singing properly. When Akbar asked why he, Tansen, could not sing like that too, he replied: "Haridas always sings for God, while I have to sing before the emperor."


The musicologist Alain Daniélou already blames Tānsen and his musical compromises for the decline of the dhrupad and the rise of the more pleasing styles Khyal and Thumri. The current situation is characterized on the one hand by the growing interest in India and in the West in a revival of the almost extinct type of song, on the other hand there is a threat of completely new dangers from flattening, so-called khayalization , and commercialization.

The same problems - rapid marketing, flattening and a shortage of young talent - are facing the qawwali musicians of Pakistan and northern India, where the local tradition threatens to wither in the shadow of the international stars. The future of the dhrupad and classical music as a whole was viewed very critically a few decades ago, but the tradition seems to remain alive on a broad basis.


Music recordings
  • Flight of the Soul - Qawwali from Pakistan. Bahauddin Qutbuddin Qawwal & Party, Asif Ali Khan Manzoor Hussain Santoo Khan Qawwal & Party. Place and year of recording: Berlin, House of World Cultures 1997. Text of the booklet: Peter Pannke. Wergo, Mainz 2001. (SM 1534-2)
  • The King of Dhrupad. Ram Chatur Mallik in concert. An acoustical gallery of the great masters of Indian music (Masters of Raga). Place and year of recording: Vrindaban 1982. Text of the booklet: Peter Pannke. Wergo, Mainz 1988. (SM 1076-50)
  • Pakistani Soul Music. An acoustical gallery of the great masters of Indian music (Masters of Raga). Place and year of recording: Pakistan 1996. Text of the booklet: Peter Pannke. Wergo, Mainz 1997. (SM 1529-2)
  • Dhrupad. R. Fahimuddin Dagar. An acoustical gallery of the great masters of Indian music (Masters of Raga). Place and year of recording: New Delhi 1988. Text of the booklet: Peter Pannke. Wergo, Mainz 1991. (SM 1081-2)
  • Ustad Zia Mohiuddin and Zia Fariduddin Dagar Raag Jog at the Dagar Saptah at the Ustad Allauddin Khan Sangeet Academy BhopalOctober 1982
  • Ustad Hussain Sayeeduddin Dagar Basilique de Vézeley July 31, 2005 Raag Bhopali
  • Dhrupad. (1982). A documentary by Mani Kaul about the Dagar Vāņī dhrupad (duration: 1:09 h).
  • Satyajit Ray: Jalsaghar (1958), as the original with German subtitles under the title Das Musikzimmer .


  • Alain Daniélou: Introduction to Indian Music. 5th edition. Noetzel, Wilhelmshaven 2004, ISBN 3-7959-0183-9 .
  • India. In: Stanley Sadie (Ed.): The New Grove. Dictionary of Music and Musicians . Vol. 9. London / Washington / Hongkong 1980, ISBN 0-333-60800-3 , pp. 69-166, 110, 116.
  • India. In: Music in the past and present . (MGG 2) 2nd edition, part 4, Bärenreiter, Kassel 1996, ISBN 3-7618-1100-4 , Sp. 655-766, Sp. 696f.
  • Bimalakanta Roychaudhuri: The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 2007, ISBN 978-81-208-1708-1 .
  • Rao Suvarnalata Raja Deepak: Perspectives on Dhrupad. A Collection of Essays. Indian Musicological Society, Mumbai 1999.
  • Rao Suvarnalata Raja Deepak: Hindustani Music. A tradition in transition. Printworld, New Delhi 2005, ISBN 81-246-0320-0 .
  • Ritwik Sanyal, Richard Widdess: Dhrupad. Tradition and Performance in Indian Music. SOAS Musicology Series. Aldershot, Ashgate 2004, 2006, ISBN 0-7546-0379-2 .
  • Manorma Sharma: Tradition of Hindustani Music. APH, New Delhi 2006, ISBN 81-7648-999-9 .
  • Selina Thielemann : The Darbhangā Tradition. Dhrupada in the School of Pandit Vidur Mallik. Indica Books, Varanasi 1997, ISBN 81-86569-01-4 .
  • Bonnie C. Wade: Music in India. The Classical Traditions. Manohar, New Delhi 2008, ISBN 978-81-85054-25-4 , pp. 158-169. (Vocal genres)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Daniélou, p. 82.
  2. Roychaudhuri p. 33.
  3. on the other hand Roychaudhuri, p. 33 f with different information
  4. ^ Arnold Bake: Indian Music. In MGG 1, Vol. 6, 1957
  5. Day p. 86.
  6. ^ Arnold Bake: Indian Music. In: MGG 1, Vol. 6, 1957, Col. 1175
  7. New Grove 110 and 116
  8. Sanyal / Widdess 46, Roychaudhuri 33 and 8 f
  9. Ritwik Sanjal, Richard Widdess: Dhrupad: Tradition and Performance in Indian Music. Ashgate Publishing, Farnham 2004, p. 101.
  10. since about 1935; MGG 691
  11. Pannke, singer 304 ff
  12. ^ Pannke in PSM
  13. Amar Chitra Katha, Vol. 552 Tānsēn