Continued from Part Twenty – Lakshana Granthas – Sri Subbarama Dikshitar and Sangita –Sampradaya-Pradarshini
Part Twenty one (of 22) – Dhrupad – Part One
Prabandha to Dhruva-pada
As discussed elsewhere in the series, in the early Indian systems of music, there were two broad categories of musical rendering: Anibaddha Gita and Nibaddha Gita. The terms Anibaddha and Nibaddha could roughly be translated as un-structured (un-bound) and structured (bound).
Natyashastra explains: one that is governed by Chhandas and Taala signifies Nibaddha. And similarly, the absence of these is Anibaddha (NS. 32.28-38).
Sarangadeva (13th century) in the fourth Canto of his Sangita-ratnakara says: the Gayana (singing) is twofold – Nibaddha and Anibadda. That which is composed of Anga-s (limbs or parts) and Dhatu-s (elements or sections) is Nibaddha Samgita. He clarifies Anibaddha as Aalapi which is free from such structures, which is not bound or which lacks rules (bandha-hinatva) – Alapir bandha-hinatvad Anibaddham itirita (Sangitaratnakara: 4.5).
Thus, Anibaddha Gita is free flowing music that is not restricted by Taala; it is also free from disciplines of Chhandas (meter) and Matra (syllables) ; and, it does not also need the support of compositions woven with meaningful words (Pada or Sahitya) . In fact, none of these – neither Taala, nor Grammar, nor lyrics – has a role to play in the Anibaddha Samgita.
The Nibaddha Gita, in comparison, is rendering of a pre-composed structured musical composition that is governed by Chhandas and Taala; and has words (meaningful or otherwise); as also has a definite beginning and an end. In short; it is a composition (like Prabandha, Giti, and Kriti etc)
Sarangadeva says that Nibaddha has three names: Prabandha, Vastu and Rupaka.
The best and the most well established form of Nibaddha Samgita is Prabandha. During the 5-7th centuries they were described as a form of Desi composition of varied nature and forms (Desikara- Prabandho yam), such as: kanda, vritta, gadya, dandaka, varnaka, karshita-gatha, dvipathaka, vardhati, kaivata, dvipadi, vardhani, dhenki, ekatali, etc
However, in the context of Music, Prabandha is a comprehensive term which refers to a well-knit composition. And, within in the gamut of Music itself, the Prabandha stands for a particular, specified form of songs constructed according to a prescribed format.
Prabandha as a class of Music was, perhaps, first mentioned in the final Canto of Matanga’s Brihad-deshi (Ca.5th century). Here, he described Prabandha simply as Prabhadyate iti Prabandhah (that which is composed is a Prabandha); and, classified it under Desi Samgita (a collection of many song types then popular in various regions). Matanga explains Desi Samgita with the aid of about forty-eight Prabandha songs. However, Matanga remarks that the Prabandha-s are indeed countless; and ‘their complexities are beyond the understanding of weaker minds’.
Prabandha received a detailed treatment in the fourth Chapter Prabandha-adhyaya of Sarangadeva’s Samgita-Ratnakara. Sarangadeva explained Prabandha as that which is pleasant; and that which is governed by rules regarding Raga, Taala, Chhandas, Vritta (Sanskrit verses) and Anga. In his work, Sarangadeva described about 260 types of Prabandha-s with their variations.
Prabandha was the dominant song-form for about thousand years or a little more till about the 17-18th century.
Parshvadeva (Ca.10-11th century), a Jain-musicologist- Acharya, in his Sangita-samaya-sara divided the Prabandha into three classes: Suda, Alikrama and Viprakirna. And, later in the 13th century, Sarangadeva split the Suda into Shuddha Suda and Chayalaga (the Apabhramsa or colloquial form of Chayalaga is Salaga Suda). With this, the major types of Prabandha were counted as four: Shuddha Suda, Salaga Suda, Alikrama and Viprakirna.
Among these, the Shuddha Suda was considered pure; but, rather rigid. It had to contain six Anga-s or limbs (Svara, Birudu, Pada, Tena, Paata and, Taala); and , four sections, Dhatu-s (Udgraha, Melapaka, Dhruva and Abhoga).
In contrast; Salaga Suda set to Desi Ragas (Desi-ragadi-samabandat Salagatvam api smrtam) was a more popular form of Prabandha. It was simpler in structure. It belonged to Taravali Jaati (class) of Prabandha and needed only two Angas : Pada and Taala. It also had only three Dhatus: Udgraha, Dhruva and Abhoga (but not Melapaka), and an Antara if needed. Hence, the Salaga Suda came to be known as Tri-dhatuka Prabandha; and, was considered pseudo-classical. Yet, the Salaga Suda ranks high among the ancient type of refined songs.
Before we go further, let’s get familiar with the constituents of the Anga and Dhatu.
Among the six Angas ( limbs or elements ) of Prabandha : Svara signifies the notes (sol-fa passages); Birudu stands for words of praise, extolling the subject of the song and also including the name of the singer or the patron; Pada the meaningful words; Tena or Tenaka are vocal syllables , meaningless and musical in sound with many repetitions of the syllables like Te and Tna conveying a sense of auspiciousness (mangala-artha-prakashaka); Pata vocalized drum syllables or beats of the percussion and other musical instruments; and, Taala is musical meter or the cyclic time units.
Dhatus are the sections (divisions) of a song. Four Dhatus are described.
: – Udgraha is the commencing section of the song. Here the song is first grasped (udgrahyate), hence the name Udgraha.
Udgraha is said to consist a pair of rhymed lines, followed by an ornamental passage; and, then by a passage of text describing the subject of the song. Thus there should be pair of lines in the Udgraha and also in the third section.
: – Melapaka is the bridge, the uniting link between the two Udgraha and Dhruva.
The Melapaka should be rendered adorned with ornamentation (Alamkara).
: – Dhruva is the main body of the song and that which is repeated. Dhruva is so called because it is rendered again and again(refrain); and, because it is obligatory or constant (dhruvatvat). [It is also said ’the Dhruva is in the Udgraha itself – Udgraha eva yatra syad Dhruvah]
: – and, Abogha is the conclusion of the song. Abogha gets its name because it completes (Abogha) the Dhruva. It should mention the name of the singer.
Once the Abogha has been sung, Dhruva should be repeated (refrain).
[Note: Here, If there is no Antara, Dhruva is followed by the Abogha, sung once. This is followed by the Dhruva on which the song rests.
If there is an Antara, it is sung in any order at the pleasure of the singer; but, it should be followed by Dhruva, Abogha and Dhruva each rendered once in the same order.]
Seven types of Salaga Suda songs are mentioned by Sarangadeva in his Sangita –ratnakara: Dhruva, Mantha, Prati-mantha, Nihsaru, Addatala, Rasaka and Ekatali. A similar classification is mentioned in Sangita-siromani and in Kumbha’s Sangita-raja.
Here, excepting Dhruva, all the other song-types are named after their Taala.
Of these seven varieties of the Salaga Suda compositions, the Dhruva type was the prominent one. And, the Dhruva was different from the others in its construction.
Some explanation on the term Dhruva:
Dhruva, in the context of Natyashastra, initially meant stage-songs, which formed an important ingredient of the play. And, Natyashastra says: without songs the Drama is incapable of providing joy (NS. 32. 282). Therefore, much importance was assigned to Dhruva Gana. Natyashastra devotes one entire and a lengthy chapter (Chapter 32) for discussing the Dhruva songs.It is said; these were called Dhruva-s because they are steadfast (Dhruva) in the principles of Pada (words), Varna (syllables) and Chhandas (meter); and, are all regularly (Dhruvam) connected with one another. Dhruva is explained as Nityatva and Nischalatva having a character of stability.
Abhinavagupta explains that the type of these songs was called Dhruva (=standpoint; locus of reference) because in it, the Vakya (sentence) , Varna (syllables), Alamkara (grace notes), Yatis (succession of rhythm patterns), Panyah (use or non-use of drums) and Laya (beats) were harmoniously fixed (Dhruva) in relation to each other (anyonya sambandha) .
Vakya –Varna–Alamkara yatyaha -panayo-layah I Dhruvam-anyonya sambandha yasmath smada Dhruva smrutah II
He further says, the composition (pada samuha) structured as per a rule (niyatah) and that which supports (adhara) singing could be called Dhruva (Dhruvah- Gitya-adhara niyatah pada –samuha).
At another place, Abhinavagupta explains Dhruva as the basis or the support (adhara) on which the song rests. Abhinavagupta soya: just as the painting is supported by wall, the Dhruva song is supported by Pada (word). And, Pada in turn is supported by, the Chhandas (meter) – (Abhinavagupta: NS.32.8).
Thus, in the Dhruva Gana the words of the song are regulated by Chhandas. And, the words are then set to appropriate tunes and Taala-s.
Abhinavagupta explains that the Dhruva songs help to enhance the artistic sense of the important themes that occur in various situations in a play.
[Srimad Bhagavatha (Canto 5, Chapter 31) provides rare examples of the Rasaka songs (of both the Shuddha Suda and Salaga Suda Prabandha). They celebrate the celestial dance and songs of Krishna and the Gopis.
Another instance cited in Srimad Bhagavata Purana (Chapter 33 of the Tenth Book) mentions of Gopis of the Vraja singing in chorus, but in a way that ‘the notes did not harmonize’. Yet Krishna showed his appreciation. And, when another Gopi sang the melody measured to a beat (Dhruva) Krishna was much pleased (Tad eva Dhruvam unninye tasyai maanam ca bahvadat– SBP.10.33.10). This reference is taken to mean that Gopi sang a melody set (Dhruva) to Chhandas. ]
But, in Prabandha, the Dhruva Prabandha refers to a rigid and tightly knit structure consisting three sections or Dhatus (Udgraha, Dhruva and Abogha) and an additional section Antara, if needed.
Although, Prabandha, as a genre, has disappeared, its influence has been long-lasting, pervading most parts, elements and idioms of Indian Music – both of the North and of the South. The structures, internal divisions, the elements of Meter (Chhandas), Raga, Taala and Rasa , as also the musical terms that are prevalent in the Music of today are all derived from Prabandha and its traditions. Many well-known musical forms have emerged from Prabandha. Thus, Prabandha is, truly, the ancestor of the entire gamut of varieties of patterns of sacred-songs, art-songs, Dance-songs and other musical forms created since 17-18th century till this day.
For instance; the Dhrupad (Dhruva-pada) of the Hindustani Sangita Paddathi, which insists on maintaining purity of the Ragas and the Svaras, evolved from Salaga Suda Prabandha, which had four Dhatus namely Udgraha, Dhruva, and Abhoga; and an Antara (optional). [Here, Udgraha and Melapaka ( of Shuddha Suda) were combined into one division called the Sthayi.]
Of the three Dhatus that resulted (Sthayi, Dhruva and Abhoga), the Abhoga, being very long was split into two sub parts the Sanchari and the Abhoga. The Dhruva was also dropped. Thus the modern Dhrupad, rooted in Prabandha, has four divisions: Sthayi, Antara, Sanchari and Abhoga. And the entire song was named Dhruva-Pada (Dhrupad).
Dhrupad retained the essential nature of the Prabandha tradition of deep introspection in elaboration of the Raga and in expanding the rhythmic patterns. To put it simply, the essential nature of Dhrupad is its somber atmosphere and emphasis on rhythm. Accordingly, the Dhrupad has continued to maintain the distinctions of Anibaddha (un-structured) and Nibaddha (structured) Gana through its Aalap and Bandish sections.
Here, the term Bandish meaning the structure of the song is the re-formed name for Bandha of the Prabandha Music. And, similarly, Vastu of Sangita-ratnakara took on the Persian name Chiz to denote either a text, or a text and its melodic setting.
Thus, Dhrupad, which is derived from Salaga Suda class of Prabandha, has a long and a distinguished history. And, it is among the most ancient forms of Music that are in practice.
Dhrupad in Royal Courts
Though Prabandha has been in existence even prior to 5th century AD, it seems to have come into prominence in North India during the fifteenth century. Legendry figures such as Swami Haridas, his Guru, Vyasa Das, and Nayak Baiju, popularly known as Baiju Bawra are considered its main exponents. The pupil of Swami Haridas, Tansen emerged as the most famous performer of his times. Tansen (born at Behat, Gwalior, in 1493 or 1506 as Ramtanu Pandey – died in 1586 or 1589 as Tansen) gained renown as the chief musician of Akbar’s court . During those times, Dhrupad was the principal type of Music in the Mughal Courts.
But, the initial driving force behind the preservation and consolidation of Dhrupad Gayan indeed came from Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior (1486-1516). He rejuvenated the ancient form of Dhrupad and brought it into the main stream of Music by replacing traditional Sanskrit verses by songs in the language of his region (Madhya-Desha). The language of the Madhya-Desha (Madhya-deshiya-bhasha) which was later termed as Braj Bhasha developed into the main the language of Dhrupad songs. Tansen was initially in the Court of Gwalior, before he migrated to the Mughal Court of Akbar. It was mainly the support and patronage lent by Raja Man Singh that gained a pride of place to this genre of Music.
Raja Man Singh, a generous patron of the arts, is also credited with composing three volumes of songs: (i) Vishnu-pada (songs in praise of lord Vishnu), (ii) Dhruva-pada, and (iii) Hori and Dhamar songs associated with the color festival of Holi. He is also said to have caused the compilation of a comprehensive treatise on music in Hindi, Man-kutuhal. Later, Fakir Allah is said to have translated it into Persian during the time of Aurangzeb. Man-kutuhal was the basis of the Raga-mala concept. Some of its songs are included at the end of the Adi Granth Sahib, the 1604 revision of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib.
During the Mughal period, and especially under Akbar’s reign, the traditional devotional music took a back seat; and Darbar Sangeet (Court Music) came into limelight. Abul Fazl (1551- 1602 AD) a courtier in Akbar’s Court mentions that there were numerous musicians in the court, Hindus, Iranians, Kashmiris and Turks; both men and women. With that, the fusion of the Persian and Indian music gained encouragement. It is said; at the initiative of Tansen the Rabab (a plucked instrument from Central Asia) was fused with the traditional Indian stringed instrument, Veena to create Sarod which does not have frets ; and, the sounds of which are very close to the vocal style .
Abul Fazl reports that nineteen singers were divided into seven groups; each for day of the week. There were also instrumental players. And the entire team headed by Tansen.
And, Tansen apart from being a great singer was a well accomplished musicologist (Lakshanika) and a composer. He is credited with Music texts such as Sangeeta Sara, Ragamala; as also Shri Ganesha Stotra , and many Dohas (couplets) outlining the Lakshana (characteristics) of several Ragas. According to some scholars, Tansen is said to have reduced about 4000 Ragas and Raginis of his time into a system of 400. He is also said to have reduced the number of Taalas to 12. Many well-known and popular Ragas with the prefix Mian or Mian ki owe their origin to Tansen. Just to name a few : Miyan Malhar, Miyan ki Todi, Mian ki Mand, Mian ka Sarang etc. in addition he is said to have created major Ragas like , Darbari-Kanada, Darbari-Todi, and Rageshwari.
Tansen’s School of Music, Senia later branched into two: one under his elder son Bilas Khan who headed the Rabab-players; and the other, under his second son Suratsen who headed the Sitar-players. His daughter Saraswathi and her husband Misri Singh are said to have initiated the tradition of Beenkars.
[ Katherine Butler Schofield , professor of Music in King’s Collage, London, briefly talks about the great seventeenth-century savant of Indian music – Khushhal Khan Kalāwant ‘Gunasamudra’, the ‘Ocean of Virtue’. Khushhal Khan was the Great-grandson of the most famous Indian musician of them all, Tansen. He was one of the most feted Mughal court musicians of his time, as a virtuoso classical singer of exceptional merit; and, as one who wrote extensively on music. He was also the chief musician to the Mughal emperors Shah Jahan (r. 1627–58) and Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707).
Mughal nobleman Inayat Khan ‘Rasikh’ (1753 in his biographical dictionary (taẕkira) of Hindustani musicians—the Risāla-i Ẕikr-i Mughanniyāni Hindustani Bihisht-nishīn, writes briefly about Khushhal Khan.
In the portrait of the wedding procession of Dara Shukoh (1633), Katherine Butler Schofield identifies the person dressed in pink/red and singing with other renowned court musicians, as Khushhal Khan.]
Texts and traditions
One of the earlier texts of the Dhrupad tradition is Anupa Sangita-ratnakara written in Sanskrit by Bhavabhatta, a musician-scholar in the court of Raja Anup Singh of Bikaner. It deals with various aspects of Dhrupad Music; the language, melodic structure, Raga improvisation, Taala, the intent and ethos of Dhrupad singing etc. Three other similar works credited to Bhavabhatta are Anupa Sangita Vilasa, Dhruva-pada Tilaka and Anupankusha (Bhava-manjari). The latter work refers to Dhrupad songs related to Dance.
[ please also click here for a note ( below Para 2.5) on translations of music texts into Persian and other Indian languages , undertaken during Mughal period. ]
There is of course a large collection of Dhrupad songs (Pada-sangrah and Padavali) in the Braj Bhasha most of which are devotional songs as also songs related to Krishna and Gopis . In addition there were Dhrupad songs compiled by various Court musicians during the 16-17th centuries. Among these were, the Hazar Dhrupad or Sahasra a compilation of 1004 Dhrupad songs by Nayak Bakshu at the instance of Shah Jahan (mid 17th century); and, an anthology titled Kitab-i-Nauras attributed to Ibrahim Adil Shah are notable.
Another type of collection of Dhrupad songs relates to the devotional songs of the Vaishnavas in and around Mathura and Brindavan region. These are the Dhrupad songs in the Vaishnava temples both in performance of congregational worship (Samaja-Gayana) and as solo songs (Haveli Dhrupada) accompanying the daily worship. The temple songs have to follow a strict regimen (there is not much freedom as is allowed in classical Dhrupad).
For instance: the early morning song for awakening the deity (Suprabatha) has to be in Raga Bhairava; the forenoon songs have to be in Bhilaval, Ramkali etc ; during the mid-day offering of the Rajabhoga , Dhrupad songs in Todi, Sarang and Dhanasri are to be sung; in the afternoon when the deity wakes up from siesta (Uttapana) songs are to be in Puriya or Purvi; the evening songs are to be in Hamira and Yaman; and , at the conclusion of the day’s worship sequences the deity is put to sleep after Sayana-Arati with a song in Raga Bihag.
There are also large numbers of seasonal songs, religious dramas of the Vraja region on themes related to Krishna’s childhood games, Rasalila group-dance songs, Holi color festival (Hori-Dhamar) etc. There are also Dhrupad songs related to the life-events of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Chaitanya-Lila).
[Apart from the Haveli Sangeet , the music associated with the Radha-Vallabha Sampradaya (a Vaishnava tradition devoted to Sri Krishna , founded in the sixteenth century by Sri Hita Harivamsa of Vrindavan) , the Samaja Gayan is said to be the most significant form of devotional music based in Drupad and Dhamar . It is an attractive , inter active choral music that demands long years of study and practice. The Samaja Gayan is rendered in Ragas , appropriate for the season and for the hour of the day , set to attractive Talas. The compositions of the Samaj Gayan are , usually, sung in call-and-response (sawal-javab) style, to the accompaniment of musical instruments, such as : harmonium, Pakhawaj and cymbals. The Samaja Gayan is special to the Braj area.]
The difference between the art music of Classical Dhrupad and the Dhrupad-Dhamar tradition of the Vaishnava temple appears to be that: the former was performed mainly for entertainment within the ambiance of the Royal Court under the patronage of a Ruler, with the devotional content of the traditional Dhrupad mostly taken out. And, when the Royalty and its patronage vanished the performers were left adrift, rootless seeking a livelihood elsewhere. And therefore, Dhrupad did suffer, particularly after the advent of the more popular Khyal. Whereas in the case of the temple oriented Dhrupad, it has been continuing, without a break, as a matter of tradition with religious flavor.
That does not mean the two forms are disconnected. There is a living interaction between the two classes of performers. And, the descendants of the Court Musicians such the Dagar and the Mallik families as also those coming from the Haveli Samgit tradition of the temples are both responsible for the survival of the Dhrupad traditions, even during these times.
Continued in Part Two
References and Sources
- Singing the praises of the Divine by Selina Thielemann
- Music and Tradition: Essays on Asian and Other Musicsby D. R. Widdess, R. F. Wolpert
- Tradition of Hindustani Music by Manorma Sharma
- Social Mobilisation And Modern Society by Jayanti Barua
- Music Contexts: A Concise Dictionary of Hindustani Musicby Ashok Damodar Ranade
- Saṅgītaśiromaṇi: A Medieval Handbook of Indian Musicedited by Emmie Te Nijenhuis
- ALL PICTURES ARE FROM INTERNET