Dhrupad is a genre in Hindustani classical music from the Indian subcontinent. It is the oldest style of major vocal styles associated with Hindustani classical music, Haveli Sangeet and also related to the South Indian Carnatic tradition.[1][2] It is a Sanskrit name, derived from the words dhruva (immovable, permanent) and pad (verse), a combination that means "pillar". The roots of Dhrupad are ancient, and it is discussed in the Hindu Sanskrit text Natyashastra (~200 BCE – 200 CE).[3][4] It is also described in other ancient and medieval Sanskrit texts, such as chapter 33 of Book 10 in the Bhagavata Purana (~800–1000 CE), where the theories of music and devotional songs for Krishna are summarized.[4]

The term denotes both the verse form of the poetry and the style in which it is sung.[5] It is spiritual, heroic, thoughtful, virtuous, embedding moral wisdom or solemn form of song-music combination.[6][7] Thematic matter ranges from the religious and spiritual (mostly in praise of Hindu deities) to royal panegyrics, musicology and romance.

A Dhrupad has at least four stanzas, called Sthayi (or Asthayi), Antara, Sancari and Abhoga. The Sthayi part is a melody that uses the middle octave's first tetrachord and the lower octave notes.[7] The Antara part uses the middle octave's second tetrachord and the higher octave notes.[7] The Samcari part is the development phase, which holistically builds using parts of Sthayi and Antara already played, and it uses melodic material built with all the three octave notes.[7] The Abhoga is the concluding section, that brings the listener back to the familiar starting point of Sthayi, albeit with rhythmic variations, with diminished notes like a gentle goodbye, that are ideally mathematical fractions such as dagun (half), tigun (third) or caugun (fourth).[8] Sometimes a fifth stanza called Bhoga is included. Though usually related to philosophical or Bhakti (emotional devotion to a god or goddess) themes, some Dhrupads were composed to praise kings.[6][8]

The tradition is derived since 14th Century from the saints of Braj (Mathura) namely Swami Shri Haridas, Surdas, Govind Swami, Asht Sakha and followed by Tansen and Baiju Bawara.


Dhrupad (or Dhruvapad) is an ancient form of classical music and it is described in the Hindu text Natyashastra.[3] It is one of the core forms of classical music found all over the Indian subcontinent. The word comes from Dhruva which means immovable and permanent. It is spiritual, heroic, thoughtful, virtuous, embedding moral wisdom or solemn form of song-music combination.[6][7]

The Yugala Shataka of Shri Shribhatta in the Nimbarka Sampradaya, written in 1294 CE, contains Dhrupad lyrics. The Bhakti saint and poet-musician Swami Haridas (also in the Nimbarka Sampradaya), was a well known dhrupad singer with songs dedicated to Krishna. Swami Haridas was the guru of Tansen, the latter is famous, among other things, for his Dhrupad compositions.[9]

The earliest mention in Persian texts of Dhrupad is in Ain-i-Akbari of Abu Fazl (1593).[10] He defines the dhrupad verse form in his Ain-e-Akbari as four rhyming lines, each of indefinite prosodic length.

Dhrupad is ancient, and another genre of music called Khyal evolved from it.[7] Dhrupad is solemn music, uplifting and heroic, pure and spiritual. Khyal adds ornamental notes, shorter, moody and celebratory.[11]

The ancient practice of dancing on Dhrupad has been reintroduced into recent times by Dr. Puru Dadeech. Dr Dadheech is India's first Kathak dancer to bring back 'Dhrupad' on the formal Kathak stage and this composition in 28 matra.[12]

Nature and practice

Dhrupad as we know it today is performed by a solo singer or a small number of singers in unison to the beat of the pakhavaj or mridang rather than the tabla. The vocalist is usually accompanied by two tanpuras, the players sitting close behind, with the percussionist at the right of the vocalist. Traditionally the primary instrument used for dhrupad has been the Rudra Veena, but the surbahar and the sursringar have also long been used for this music. Preferably, any instrument used for dhrupad should have a deep bass register and long sustain.

Like all Indian classical music, dhrupad is modal and monophonic, with a single melodic line and no chord progression. Each raga has a modal frame - a wealth of micro-tonal ornamentations (gamak) are typical.

The text is preceded by a wholly improvised section, the alap. The alap in dhrupad is sung using a set of syllables, popularly thought to be derived from a mantra, in a recurrent, set pattern: a re ne na, té te re ne na, ri re re ne na, te ne toom ne (this last group is used in the end of a long phrase). Dhrupad styles have long elaborate alaps, their slow and deliberate melodic development gradually bringing an accelerating rhythmic pulse. In most styles of dhrupad singing it can easily last an hour, broadly subdivided into the alap proper (unmetered), the jor (with steady rhythm) and the jhala (accelerating strumming) or nomtom, when syllables are sung at a very rapid pace. Then the composition is sung to the rhythmic accompaniment: the four lines, in serial order, are termed sthayi, antara, sanchari and aabhog.

Compositions exist in the metres (tala) tivra (7 beats), sul (10 beats) and chau (12 beats) - a composition set to the 10-beat jhap tala is called a sadra while one set to the 14-beat dhamar is called a dhamar. The latter is seen as a lighter musical form, associated with the Holi spring festival.

Alongside concert performance the practice of singing dhrupad in temples continues, though only a small number of recordings have been made. It bears little resemblance to concert dhrupad: there is very little or no alap; percussion such as bells and finger cymbals, not used in the classical setting, are used here, and the drum used is a smaller, older variant called mrdang, quite similar to the mridangam.

Family and style

There are said to be four broad stylistic variants (vanis or banis) of classical dhrupad – the Gauri (Gauhar), Khandar, Nauhar, and Dagar, tentatively linked to five singing styles (geetis) known from the 7th Century: Shuddha, Bhinna, Gauri, Vegswara, and Sadharani. But more importantly, there are a number of dhrupad gharanas: "houses", or family styles. The best-known gharana is the Dagar family [13] who sing in the Dagar vani or Dagar gharana. The Dagar style puts great emphasis on alap and for several generations their singers have performed in pairs (often pairs of brothers). The Dagars are Muslims but sing Hindu texts of Gods and Goddesses. Some of the best dhrupad singers outside the Dagar family, such as Uday Bhawalkar, Ritwik Sanyal, Nirmalya Dey and the Gundecha Brothers, also belong to the Dagar vani, as does instrumentalist Pushparaj Koshti, who plays the surbahar. The Bishnupur gharana features Manilal Nag, among others.

From the state of Bihar come the Darbhanga gharana and the Bettiah gharana. The Malliks of the Darbhanga gharana are linked to the Khandar vani and Gauharvani. Ram Chatur Mallik (1902 - 1990), Vidur Mallick (1936 - 2002), Abhay Narayan Mallick (b. 1937), Laxman Bhatt Tailang (b.1928) and Siyaram Tiwari (1919 - 1998) were well known exponents of Darbhanga gharana in the last century. Dhrupad of the Darbhanga gharana has a strong representation in Vrindaban owing to late Pandit Vidur Mallik, who lived and taught in Vrindaban during the 1980s and 1990s. Great female Dhrupad artists include Asgari Bai (1918 - 2006), Alaka Lahiri, Ashok Nandy (b.1946) , Madhu Bhatt Tailang, the Pakistani singer Alisha Rasheed (b. 1978) and the Italian singer Amelia Cuni (b.1958). [14] The Mishras practise Gauhar, Nauhar and Khandar styles with some unique techniques for nomtom alap. This gharana flourished under the patronage of the kings of Bettiah Raj. The form of dhrupad prevalent in Darbhanga and Bettiah is known as the Haveli style.


ITC Sangeet Research Academy's Scientific Research Department, in their effort to link tradition to scientific methodologies, has been organizing symposia and workshops from 1987. The objective of these workshops/symposia is to create awareness of research in various fields of music.[15] In 2013 they have conducted Dhrupad Seminar in association with National Centre for the Performing Arts (India) (NCPA, Mumbai) where Dr. Puru Dadheech participated as speaker to discuss the origin and predecessors of Dhrupad.[16] Prof. Richard Widdess (Head, Department of Music, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK) and Dr. Puru Dadheech, (Indore, India) discussed the origin of Dhrupad at length. Dr. Puru Dadheech established that Dhrupads are older than the times of Raja Mansingh Tomar.[17]


The filmmaker Mani Kaul while under tutelage of Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar made one of the first documentaries on Dhrupad music in 1983 called “Dhrupad.” This Hindi language full-length documentary features both his gurus along with the young Bahauddin Dagar - the son of Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. [18][19] The film produced by the Films Division of India was shot in locations associated with history of Dhrupad in – Fatehpur Sikri and Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar articulating the theory and the practice of the musical form.


  1. T.M. Krishna (2013). A Southern Music: Exploring the Karnatik Tradition. HarperCollins Publishers. p. 151. ISBN 978-93-5029-822-0.
  2. Peter Fletcher; Laurence Picken (2004). World Musics in Context: A Comprehensive Survey of the World's Major Musical Cultures. Oxford University Press. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-19-517507-3.
  3. Te Nijenhuis 1974, pp. 81-82.
  4. Guy L. Beck (2012). Sonic Liturgy: Ritual and Music in Hindu Tradition. University of South Carolina Press. pp. 241–242. ISBN 978-1-61117-108-2.
  5. Dhrupad Archived 2010-04-18 at the Wayback Machine SPIC MACAY
  6. Caudhurī 2000, pp. 33-34.
  7. Te Nijenhuis 1974, pp. 80-81.
  8. Te Nijenhuis 1974, pp. 80-82.
  9. Bonnie C. Wade (1998). Imaging Sound: An Ethnomusicological Study of Music, Art, and Culture in Mughal India. University of Chicago Press. pp. 114–117. ISBN 978-0-226-86841-7.
  10. Sanyal & Widdess 2004, p. 45
  11. Caudhurī 2000, p. 152.
  12. http://www.afternoondc.in/culture/sunil-performs-the-naayak-in-kathak/article_235028
  13. "The Dagar family". The Dagar Brothers and the Dagar family. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  14. Thielemann, Selina; The Darbhanga Tradition. Dhrupad in the school of Pandit Vidur Mallik, Varanasi: Indica Books, 1997
  15. https://www.itcsra.org/Seminar-and-Workshops
  16. https://www.itcsra.org/pdf/sra2013programme_1.pdf
  17. https://sruti.com/index.php?route=archives/article_details&artId=29
  18. "Veena is like an elephant: Ustad Mohi Bahauddin Dagar". Indian Express. 12 October 2019.
  19. "Striking a Higher Note". Indian Express. 16 August 2019.


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