The Modern Period
Music in India, and especially art music, went through a metamorphosis for four centuries
from the sixteenth, to result in the Hindustani music of today. This modern period saw an
increasing number of musicological works in Persian, Urdu, Hindi and other regional
languages, instead of Sanskrit. All these tell us the story of how Hindustani Art Music,
as we know it today, evolved and took shape.
From the beginning of the nineteenth century many Indian scholars began to publish
material on Hindustani music in English as well as in regional languages. This was a
welcome addition to the works of the early British Indologists.
The modern period saw
the birth of many of the musical forms dominant today, like Khayal and thumri. With the
central Mughal power in Delhi weakening after Aurangzeb's death, there was a quick
succession of emperors. One of them was the legendary Muhammadshah Rangile (1716-1748 AD).
He was a loving and generous patron to many musicians. It was in his court that Nyamatkhan, popularly known as Sadarang, invented a new genre, the Khayal.
The nineteenth century saw the birth of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah's pageants, jogia jashan.
In these pageants the king, his palace maids and his subjects paraded as yogis. These
presentations of Krishna-lore sowed the seeds of Modern Hindustani Theatre. The thumri
form of romantic and devotional music also became popular in the 19th century. The
prototype of the thumri is traced to the 'Chhalikya' presentation in the Harivamsha (400
AD). The Chhalikya genre combined song and dance with dramatic gestures.
Ramnidhi Gupta, or Nidhubabu (1741-1839 AD), gave us the Bengali tappa, a new genre.
This assimilated the features of the Tappa in Hindustani music and the lilting rhythm of
Bengali music. Nidhubabu's compositions were in Bengali and were secular in content. They
were different from the usual devotional model of singing about love through mythological
pairs, usually Radha and Krishna.
Another musical stalwart of the 19th century was Sourendramohan Tagore, (1840-1915 AD).
The mission of his life was to make Hindustani music international in its appeal and
In the early 20th century, two people revolutionised Indian music: Pandit Vishnu
Digambar Paluskar and Pandit Vishnu Narayana Bhatkhande V. D. Paluskar (1872-1931 AD)
introduced the first music colleges. He gave an entirely new perspective to the education
and propagation of music. It was his efforts that elevated music and musicians in the
V.N.Bhatkhande (1860-1937 AD) pioneered the introduction of an organised musical system
reflecting current performance practices. The historical tradition of music in India was
completely disrupted during the medieval times. Since then, music in India has changed so
considerably that no correlation or correspondence was possible between Sanskrit
musicological texts and the music practised in modern times. It was Bhatkhande who bridged
this enormous gulf. He successfully undertook the arduous task of restating the
musicological framework underlying contemporary musical performance.
He did extensive musicological fieldwork across the length and breadth of the country.
He meticulously collected data on music, and documented and analysed performing
traditions. His literature on music remains unparallelled even today and is essential for
a systematic study of Hindustani Art Music. It elucidates his views on grammatical
structures, historical evolution, performance norms and aesthetic criteria relevant to
Hindustani music. He classified a total number of 1800 compositions from the major
gharanas accessible to him, dividing them in ten thaats according to his codification.
The term gharana is derived from the Hindi word 'ghar'. This in turn can be traced to
the Sanskrit word 'griha', which means 'family' or 'house'. The gharana concept gained
currency only in the nineteenth century when the royal patronage enjoyed by performers
weakened. Performers were then compelled to move to urban centres. To retain their
respective identities, they fell back on the names of the regions they hailed from.
Therefore, even today, the names of many gharanas refer to places. Some of the gharanas
well known for singing khayals are : Agra, Gwalior, Patiala, Kirana, Indore, Mewat,
Sahaswan, Bhendibazar and Jaipur.
A gharana also indicates a comprehensive musicological ideology. This ideology
sometimes changes substantially from one gharana to another. It directly affects the
thinking, teaching, performance and appreciation of music.
For instance, the leisurely development of ragas as well as the premium placed on emotional
content of music narrows the choice of ragas available to the Kirana gharana founded by
Ustad Abdul Karim Khan (1872-1937 AD). The Agra gharana, founded by Ghagge Khudabux (born
in 1800 AD) has a rich repertoire of varied types of musical compositions. The followers
of the gharana sang many rare ragas. The treatment of each new raga is always as detailed
as that of any known raga.
The Jaipur gharana founded by Ustad Alladiya Khan (1855-1945 AD), is well known for its
penchant for rare ragas. They are its staple fare. The music made by the gharana is
replete with intricate patterns. The gharana seems to concentrate solely on khayal.
There are also gharanas for thumris. In the Benaras thumri, the words in the text of a
song are musically embellished to bring out their meaning. The Lucknow gharana presents
intricately embellished and delicate thumris that are explicit in their eroticism. The
principal feature of the thumri of the Patiala gharana is its incorporation of the tappa
from the Punjab region. It is with this tappa element that the gharana makes its impact,
departing from the khayal-dominated Benaras thumris and the dance-oriented Lucknow
The concept of hereditary musicians was not confined to vocal music alone. Hence there
are also gharanas in instrumental music. The gharanas of the tabla are Lucknow, Delhi,
Ajrada, Punjab, Benaras and Farukkabad, among others. The gharanas of the pakhawaj, an
instrument established earlier than the tabla, are not named after places but after their
main protagonists like Kudau Singh and Panse.