This article is about Dhrupad (ध्रुपद्), the genre of Indian classical singing. For the character in the Mahabharata with a similar name, see Drupada (द्रुपद).

Dhrupad (Hindi: ध्रुपद) is a vocal genre in Hindustani classical music, said to be the oldest still in use in that musical tradition.[1] Its name is derived from the words dhruva and pad (verse), where a part of the poem (dhruv) is used as a refrain.[2] The term may denote both the verse form of the poetry and the style in which it is sung.[3]

Abul Fazl, courtier and chronicler at the court of the Emperor Akbar, defines the dhrupad verse form in his Ain-e-Akbari as "four rhyming lines, each of indefinite prosodic length." Thematic matter ranges from the religious and spiritual (mostly in praise of Hindu deities) to royal panegyrics, musicology and romance.[4] Though Dhrupad is basically a vocal tradition, its musical aesthetics have been adopted by many instrumentalists. Not only by various schools of Rudra Veena players (Beenkars) but also by other instrumentalists, who look to Dhrupad for examples for their instrumental developments of raag, and go as far as to adapt the format: a slow, unmetered alaap, jod, jhala, to be concluded with one or more compositions in contrasting talas. Ram Narayan and Hariprasad Chaurasia, to name but two acclaimed instrumentalists, pay homage to Dhrupad in the way they present a raag.


Hindustani classical music



melody: VocalsSitarSarodSurbaharRudra veenaViolinSarangiEsraj/DilrubaBansuriShehnaiSantoorHarmoniumJal tarang

rhythm: TablaPakhawaj

drone: TanpuraShruti boxSwarmandal


classical: DhrupadDhamarKhyalTaranaSadra

semiclassical: ThumriDadraQawwaliGhazalChaitiKajri



The earliest source that mentions a musical genre called Dhrupad is Ain-i-Akbari of Abu Fazl (1593).[5] Later works attribute much of the material to musicians in the court of Man Singh Tomar (fl. 1486-1516) of Gwalior.[6] In these accounts from the Mughal court Dhrupad is portrayed as a musical form which is relatively new; and according to Sanyal, most sources agree that Drupad owes its origin to the court of Man Singh Tomar.[7] There is no reference to Dhrupad in Bharat's Natya Shastra, commonly dated to the 1st Century AD, and even in Sangita Ratnakara, a 13th Century text, taken as authoritative. Ravi Shankar[8] states that the form appeared in the fifteenth century as a development from the prabandha, which it replaced. Under Mughal ("Mogul") rule it was appropriated as court music.

However the musical background of dhrupad is thought by some to have a long history, traceable back to the Vedas themselves. The Yugala Shataka of Shri Shribhatta in the Nimbarka Sampradaya, written in 1294 CE, contains lyrics of similar fashion. Swami Haridas (also in the Nimbarka Sampradaya), the guru of Tansen, was a well known dhrupad singer.

The 18th Century saw the beginning of a great decline of dhrupad singing. A newer genre, khyal, which had coexisted with dhrupad for a couple of centuries, and which emerged partly as a reaction against so-called 'nibaddha' or pre-composed music, gained popularity at dhrupad's expense, placing fewer constraints on the singers and allowing greater improvisation and displays of virtuosity rare in dhrupad. Also, new instruments were being developed – the sitar and the sarod – that were not suited to the slow tempo and low register favoured by dhrupad so that dhrupad

In 1960 the French ethnomusicologist Alain Daniélou invited Nasir Moinuddin and Nasir Aminuddin Dagar[9] (the senior Dagar Brothers)[10][11][12] to perform in Europe. Their concerts were successful and, upon the untimely demise of Nasir Moinuddin in 1966, his younger brothers Nasir Zahiruddin and Nasir Fayazuddin continued. The Dagars toured widely and recorded. Coinciding with growing foreign interest in Indian music, the Dagarvani-revival helped breathe new life into a few other families of dhrupad singers.[13] Today, dhrupad enjoys a place as a well-respected but not widely popular genre, no longer on the brink of extinction.

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 raag has a modal frame - a wealth of micro-tonal ornamentations (gamaka) 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 (Gohar), 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 [14] who sing in the Dagar vani. 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.

From the state of Bihar come two other gharanas, the Malliks (Darbhanga Gharana) and the Mishras (Bettiah gharana). The Malliks are linked to the Khandar vani and Gauharvani, they emphasize the Ragaalap as well as the composed song over an improvised alap with a variety of layakaris and thihayees. Ram Chatur Mallik, Vidur Mallick, and Siyaram Tiwari were well known exponents of Darbhanga gharana in the last century. Today the senior performers of the Darbhanga gharana are pandit Abhay Narayan Mallick (disciple of Pandit Ram Chatur Mallick), Ram Kumar Mallick and Prem Kumar Mallick. Prashant Kumar Mallick and Nishant Kumar Mallick (Mallick brothers) are Dhrupad vocalists among young generation of Darbhanga tradition. 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. [15] The Mishras practise both Nauhar and Khandar styles with some unique techniques for nomtom alap. This gharana flourished under the patronage of the kings of Bettiah Raj. The most famous exponents of the Bettiah gharana today are Indrakishore Mishra and Falguni Mitra. The form of dhrupad prevalent in Darbhanga and Bettiah is known as the Haveli style. In Pakistan, dhrupad is represented by the Talwandi gharana, who sing in the Khandar style.


  1. Dhrupad.info
  2. "The Hindi word dhrupad (Urdu: dhurpad) from Sanskrit dhruva-pada, denotes a short poem for singing (pada) part of which functions as a refrain (dhruva)." (Sanyal 2004, p. 13)
  3. Dhrupad SPIC MACAY
  4. "Nuances of the notes: Ustad Fariduddin Dagar..". The Hindu. Feb 20, 2005.
  5. (Sanyal 2004, p. 45)
  6. (Sanyal 2004, pp. 45–46)
  7. (Sanyal 2004, p. 47)
  8. Ravi Shankar, Raaga Mala, Welcome Rain Pub., 1999, p.319
  9. "Domain Default page". Dhrupadsangeetashram.com. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  10. http://www.dagar.org
  11. http://www.dagarvani.org
  12. "Domain Default page". Dhrupadsangeetashram.com. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  13. "Dhrupad in vintage Dagar style". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 24 February 2006.
  14. "The Dagar family". The Dagar Brothers and the Dagar family. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  15. Thielemann, Selina; The Darbhanga Tradition. Dhrupada in the school of Pandit Vidur Mallik, Varanasi: Indica Books, 1997


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