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Vaheguru ji ka Khalsa Vaheguru ji ki Fateh

One of my veers touched on the subject of Dhrupad in a previous post.

This subject deserves a thread of it's own, I will try and post some info on it as and when I find time.

Dhrupad originates from the word Dhruva, meaning steadfast evening star. This implies that Dhrupad is rendered in a disciplined, simple and steady fashion, unlike the classical, filmi, qwalli, tumri versions of kirtan we have today.

Dhrupad is said to have taken early form in the Vedic times, with references to it's early form going back to the Sam-Veda. It developed into a vocal styles called "Chanda and Phrabanda", which forms the basis of Dhrupad.

In my words, "true" Dhrupad is a hugely mesmorising, meditative, hypnotic, deeply devotional form of singing in which one completely looses himself.

The best introduction I can think of is from the foremost practitioners,

the Daager Brothers, Ustaads (Muslim teachers).

They have a verifiable parampara dating back to 1753 with their ancestor, Behram Khan, who was a prominent Drupad singer of the Jaipur court.

Personally I am not a big fan of theirs as their Gharana style is heavily entertainment based in my opinion (originating from the Rajais courts), but to their credit, they accepted and trained 2 Hindu's who I consider to the foremost practitioners puratan Dhrupad, the Gundecha brothers.

The Gundecha brothers focus on bhajan/kirtan - spiritual singing, not entertainment, by which I mean focus on techniques, style, ornamentation etc... but focus on the shabd.

The listener of true devotion needs to be just as patient, focused and devoted to listen to and appreciate Dhrupad as the Raagi performing in Dhrupad.

It is very difficult to find recordings or videos of the Gundecha brothers on the net, so if anyone comes across any, kindly post them here for all to enjoy.

Here are some free plays of their latest albums. I would recommend listening to "Shiv" and Raag Adana.


Also Sangat Ji, please post any Sikh Kirtan Dhrupad recordings come across.

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Dhrupad in it's devotional form was distignuished from the entertainment form by being termed "Haveli Dhrupad" i.e. sung in the house of God, where as classical/entertainment based Dhrupad was known as "Darbaari", sung in the Royal courts.

This is equivalent to the emergence of the term Gurmat Sangeet today being used to differentiate from 90% or more of kirtan which is sung for the sangats pleasure today, as opposed to the Guru's pleasure as in old days.

Here is a rare example of Haveli Dhrupad (puratan):


A perfect example of this is the story of Tansen, the most revered Mughal darbaar singer and his Gurdev, the great Swami Haridas.

The story (one of many versions, this one taken from Sri Chinmoy):

(The Emperor Akbar's palace. A large audience has assembled before Akbar. His court musician, Tansen, is singing soul-stirring songs while accompanying himself on the tampura.) 172

(Tansen sings.) 173

Kalpana go kapana 174

Tumi amar bandana 175

Dure tomai rakhbona 176

Kalpana go kalpana 177

Mithya mohe kandbona 178

Kurup prane dakbona 179

Khudra jaye hasbona 180

Kalpana go kalpana 181

Mrittyu dake jagbona 182

Atma ami marbona 183

Bhul pathe ar chalbona 184

Kalpana go kalpana 185

[imagination, O Imagination! 186

You are my life's adoration. 187

You I shall not keep afar. 188

Imagination, O Imagination! 189

In false, binding lies I shall not cry; 190

I shall not welcome the life 191

Of impurity's ugliness. 192

With paltry victory 193

I shall not smile and rejoice. 194

Imagination, O Imagination! 195

To death's call I shall not respond. 196

The soul am I; no death have I. 197

No more, never, shall I walk 198

Along the wrong path. 199

Imagination, O Imagination!] 200

AKBAR: Tansen, you have such a haunting voice. I have never heard anybody sing like you. Your music carries me into the highest world, and there I enjoy such happiness, such delight. Tansen, I shall give you anything you want. You can have anything from me for the asking. 201

TANSEN: O Emperor, you have already given me name and fame by allowing me to sing for you. What more do I need? 202

AKBAR: Tansen, although you get everything from me, if you have any special desire, ask me and I shall grant it. Anything that you want from me today I shall immediately give you. 203

TANSEN: I have everything I want. But I have one thing to tell you. You think that I am the best musician. But there is someone who is far better than I. He is the one who taught me how to sing. I am no match for him. 204

MINISTER: O Akbar, O Emperor, your Tansen is very clever. He wants to gain more favour from you with his false modesty. Do not believe him. He thinks that by telling you that there is somebody better than he is, he will gain more favour, more love from you. This Tansen is so clever. He is the greatest musician, but he is also the greatest trickster. Do not believe him, my Lord. 205

AKBAR: No, Tansen, I do not believe you. But if it is true, then you should have told me about him before this. 206

TANSEN: O Emperor, you will never believe me. If I had told you about him, do you think he would have come to you? He does not care for name and fame as I do. He would not want to sing here at your palace. 207

AKBAR: He must come and sing here. I shall force him. I am the Emperor Akbar. Everyone is at my behest. He has to come and sing. Go and bring him here. 208

TANSEN: I can go and bring him here, but I tell you, if you force him to sing for you, he will sing, but he will never sing his real music. He is above name and fame. He shuns society. 209

AKBAR: All right, then I shall go to his house. 210

TANSEN: Well, if you go to his house, perhaps he will sing. But he always shuns great men. If he sees that the Emperor has come, he will not sing at all. If I request him, even if I plead with him, it will be useless, because you are a great man, the greatest man on earth. Perhaps if you come with me as my servant, and if I tell him that my servant would like to hear his music, then he may grant my request. 211

AKBAR: All right, Tansen, I will visit your teacher as your servant. I want to hear your Master's music since you are praising him to the skies. But he had better be good!

(Haridas' home. Enter Tansen and Akbar in the guise of Tansen's servant. Haridas is meditating.) 213

TANSEN: Master, here is my servant. He has been begging me for a long time to bring him to hear your music. Today I have brought him. 214

AKBAR (to Haridas): Lord, I will be so grateful to you if you would sing. For some time I have been longing to hear your music. Today my Master, Tansen, has brought me to you. Please sing something for us and play on your tampura. 215

HARIDAS: I am sorry. Today I am not in the mood to play or sing at all. I do not know why. Otherwise I would listen to your request. You look quite nice and smart. I am happy that my Tansen has such a good servant. You look beautiful, you look powerful. I am sure you are pleasing your Master in every way. 216

TANSEN: Master, it is true that this servant is pleasing me in every way. I am most pleased with him and proud of him and, as a reward, I have brought him here. Please sing for him just a little. It will be difficult for me to bring him here again. 217

HARIDAS: Tansen, when I refuse to do something, rest assured that I will never do it. I am not in the mood today. Today my mind is all concentrated on God. You came to me to learn music. I taught you many things, and now when you sing I get tremendous joy. Today I wish you to sing for me. Let your servant and me hear your music. It will transport me into the highest realm. Your music will inspire me to go deep within and commune with my Inner Pilot. Now, Tansen, please sing. 218

(Tansen bows to Haridas and starts singing. Soon he starts singing wrong notes.) 219

HARIDAS: Tansen, what is wrong with you today? Your music is absurd. You are singing like an absolute beginner. You, my greatest student! Is anything wrong in your family? Are you upset? 220

TANSEN: No, no, my family is all right. But today I had the greatest hope that my servant would be able to hear your music. You did not listen to my request, and that has made me very sad. Perhaps it is my sadness that is creating this problem and making it difficult for me to sing well. 221

HARIDAS: No matter how sad you are, Tansen, I cannot imagine how you can sing so badly. 222

TANSEN: Master, it seems to me that I am singing everything correctly. You are saying that I am singing badly, but I feel that I am singing everything as I used to sing before, as you have taught me. 223

HARIDAS: Tansen, you liar! I have not taught you to sing like this. It is all wrong. 224

(Haridas snatches away Tansen's tampura and starts singing the same song most soulfully and hauntingly. The music comes from another world. Akbar is in deep trance. Tansen is listening with deepest inner delight.) 225

(Haridas sings.) 226

Ekti katha ekti sur eki jhankar 227

Nam dhare ke dakchhe jena amai barebar 228

Kothai achi kothai jabo 229

Nai jena thikena 230

Ghumer ghore karchhi shudhu 231

Ami becha kena 232

Kata bhangi katai gari 233

Katai kari asha 234

Hiya khani dekhechhe mor 235

Andhar sarbanasha 236

Alor pakhi alor pakhi 237

Abar eso phire 238

Jyotir dhara bahan kare 239

Namo amar shire 240

Dak ditechho urdhe jete 241

Jabo keman kare 242

Bandhi je mor paran khani 243

Ekti andhar ghare 244

Alor pakhi alor pakhi 245

Alor pakhi alo 246

Prane amar rekhona ar 247

Ektu andhar kalo 248

[One thought, one tune, one resonance — 249

Who calls me ever and anon? 250

I know not where I am, 251

I know not whither I shall go. 252

In dark amnesia, 253

Myself I buy, myself I sell. 254

All I break, again all I build. 255

All I hope to be mine, mine alone. 256

Alas, my heart is eclipsed 257

By dark and wild destruction-night. 258

O Bird of Light, O Bird of Light, 259

With your glowing and flowing flames 260

Do enter into my heart once again. 261

You are calling me to climb up 262

And fly into the blue. 263

But how can I? 264

My heart is in prison 265

In the strangled breath of a tiny room. 266

O Bird of Light, O Bird of Light, 267

O Bird of Light Supreme. 268

In me, I pray, keep not an iota of gloom.] 269

TANSEN (at the end of the music): Master, forgive me. I know I have sung all wrong today. After hearing you I realise how badly I have sung. Forgive me, forgive me. 270

AKBAR (bows): I always thought that my Master was the best singer, but he was sincere enough to say that you sing far better than he does. I did not believe him. But now that I have heard you, I know that undoubtedly you are a far better singer. How sweet your voice is! I am so grateful to you and also I am so grateful to my Master for bringing me to you today. 271

HARIDAS: May God bless you, my son. May God bless your devoted head. You are serving your Master, who is my fondest son. 272

TANSEN: I am also fond of my servant. 273

AKBAR: Lord, I am also proud of my Master, Tansen. 274

(Akbar and Tansen bow and leave.)

(Akbar's palace.) 276

AKBAR: Tansen, how is it that you cannot sing so well? Your Master lives in a poor cottage, whereas you have all kinds of advantages and opportunities. Even then you cannot sing as well as he. I appreciate your sincerity in telling me that he sings far better than you do, but I cannot account for this. Why is it? What prevents you from singing as well as he does? 277

TANSEN: O Emperor, I play for you, for human beings; I play for name and fame; I play for wealth. My teacher plays for God, the Lord Supreme. For him, there is only God. God is everything. I want to please human beings who live in the world of human pleasure; he wants to please the Absolute Supreme. When one sings for the world, one gets what he wants: appreciation, admiration, flattery. But when one sings for God, the Absolute, one gets God's boundless Grace, His boundless Blessing and transcendental Delight. God, the infinite Compassion, enters into his music and, at every moment, he sings celestial, transcendental, soul-stirring music — music that awakens the Universal Consciousness, music that feeds the Universal Consciousness, music that manifests the Universal Consciousness in aspiring souls. 278

AKBAR: Tansen, you are a great musician, but your sincerity is greater than your music. Your inner depth is by far the greatest. Your inner wisdom is by far the best. I bow to your music with love. I bow to your sincerity with joy. I bow to your inner wisdom with my heart's gratitude.

If someone would be kind enough to post this beautiful picture here I would be greatly indebted.


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Here are some shabads sung in Dhrupad.


By the late Bhai Avtar Singh Ji. Bhai Sahib had a huge knowldge of puratan reets and gurmat sangeet, but unfortunately for the sangat, used to on more than a few occasions, get so absorbed in the shabd and dhrupad that their words used to become a little blurred! The second shabad (which follows the 1st after a small talk) is clearer and a better example to listen to.


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Thank you veer Fateh Singh Ji.

The shabd you have kindly posted is a perfect example of the Indian Classical path that the majority of Raagis are going down today, when compared the dhrupad version of Bhai Avtaar Singh Ji, we can clearly see the huge difference in presentation.

One of the biggest tell tale signs of the modern Indian Classical influence on Raagis is the singing of the sur, something which plays no part in shabd kirtan. It completely detracts the listener from the shabd as Sa, Re, Ga is not in the text of the shabd.

Sur are and should be sung in practice when one is learning the raag or composing and practicing the music to the shabd.

Singing of the sur, is simply a step the raagi takes to prove to the listeners that he has command of the raag.

This means nothing to the majority of the uneducated in raag audience.

The ones who know raag, will have worked it out in the first minute.

In any case, this is why singing title is such a big help, it tells the audience that the hukum is being adhered to, informs the audience of the raag (emotion related to the shabd), the poetic style and the author, all of which may be useful to the sangat.

Singing of sur (in complex taanas and alaaps) is an Indian Classical innovation, and one which is appreciated by the raag educated audiences of Indian Classical Masters.

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  • 1 year later...
  • 8 months later...

Sorry for the late response - I just happened upon Nihang Chatanga Singhs question last year!

I would personally say that Bhai Balbir Singh Ji isn't the best representative of Dhrupad style, although his Raag vidya and mastery over the 10th Masters musical forms is 2nd to none.

The best way to understand the difference between dhrupad and Khayal is to listen to examples of both. The main difference you will notice is the lay (tempo), being slower for Dhrupad (throughout or at the earlier stages at least) and normally follows Vlambit style whic is around 40 beats per minute (slow). Khayal would use Madhya and Drut lays (faster). Originally drums like the mridangam were used alongside the rabab, in Sikh circles, the Jori became a unique feature of Sikh Dhrupad. That is why when one listens to puratan reetan, Jori bols can be heard, and not modern tabla entertainment - Bhai Baldeep Singh is an excellent source of the Dhrupadi bol vidya, being one of the last people with the vidya over teh Amritsar baj styles (puratan).

Dhrupad strongly traditionally sung to chaupadai shabds and shabds with uneven lines i.e. partaal shabds of the 4th Master.

There is a difference between Haveli Dhrupad and Darbari Dhrupad, the latter being what we see today by most famous artists i.e. the Dager bros, whose style developed in the Royal courts, whilst the earlier follows the objective of singing Gods praises - therefore making shabd pardan - hence no need for 1 hour alaaps - in Gurmat Sangeet terms the alaap would be rendered as part of the title or manglacharan anouncement.

The main giveaway for Dhrupad is that every word is literally meditated upon - one gets lost in the song of each word - one can see why Simran and Kirtan were mentioned in the same sentance so many times in Gurbani - when one develops the appreciation and devotion to listen to this puratan style of kirtan, they find themselves lost in its simran...

Listen to Bhai Avtar Singhs, Rababis (see other threads), some of Dharm Singh Zakmis kirtan for a comparison against mainstream.

The very talented Bhai Nirmal Singh Ji would probably be good example of Khayal.

Other kirtanis have created a mishmash of all sorts i.e. qvali, thumri (romantic/erotic khayal style), folk, bhajan, filmi, khayal etc...

There is a sirlek in Sri Dasm Granth for Khayal for "Haal Mureedaa daa Kehnaa", but there is debate as to whether this should be read literally (thought), taken as musical style ans some even say its an old raag!

Sri Sarbloh Granth Sahib has some bani written under Dhrupad headings - research by a few individuals as to the musical contribution of Sri Sarbloh Granth Sahib is not as yet complete (its a massive granth)!

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  • 1 month later...


From a very talented student of the Daagar Gharana - who has tuned and adopted the Cello to be used Indian style. The Violin is the biggest success story in terms of adopting western instruments for Indian use as the South Indians have 'owned' it.

A Gurbani raag performed to Dhrupad perfection. One could easily use this composition to sing Shabd-Kirtan and transport themselves back to Gods court on Earth....

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