Dhrupad Gharanas (Traditions)

There are several different gharanas (traditions) of Dhrupad. Some traditions center around a location (e.g., Vishnupur) while others reflect a given style (bani).

Bettiah: This gharana uses both Nauhar and Khandar styles, emphasizes compositions and is primarily a vocal tradition.

Dagar: This is the most well known of the gharanas worldwide. Dagarbani Dhrupad is often associated with extensive, meditative, adagio-like alap in which the performances do not deviate from the spiritual and emotional aspects of the raga. Despite this reputation, not all members of the tradition perform in this manner. There are both Dagarbani vocalists and instrumentalists, and there are a few dagarbani gurukuls (schools) located in diverse locations around the world.

Darbhanga: This tradition uses Khandarbani, emphasizes vocal compositions, of which there seems to be an endless trove, which are performed in a manner where the rhythm is emphasized. Darbhanga performances can be spectacles lasting for several hours or days in which many performers are involved.

Jaipur Beenkar: Different from the Jaipur gharana of Khyal, the Jaipur Beenkar gharana was founded in the 18th century by Shahaji Saheb. The members of this gharana make sparse use of tihai. They typically play Dhrupad compositions using only the asthayi and antara after which they move into tar-paran rather than abhog and sanchari.

Mewati: The Mewati gharana is traditionally considered a Khyal gharana. And, I don’t believe that it is accurate to consider it a Dhrupad gharana. However, Asgari Bai was a very well respected Dhrupad vocalist that is not associated with any of the gharanas listed on this page. Wikipedia classifies her as belonging to the Mewati gharana so I choose to add this gharana out of respect for her. It is uncertain if she had any disciples that carry on her tradition. Therefore, this gharana may not have any living members.

Qadri: This tradition is linked to both Wahid Khan and Bande Ali Khan, neither of which could be considered a member of this tradition. This tradition does not have an established name. However, one of its most salient aspects is its association with the Qadri sect of sufism which regard music as the path to God. Therefore, I refer to this tradition as the Qadri gharana. This gharana portrays Gauharbani style and is largely made up of instrumentalists.

Rampur or Maihar: This tradition originated in Rampur and later evolved to Maihar. It is most well known for its instrumentalists. Many of the members of this gharana performed other forms of music than Dhrupad while others were either solely Dhrupad performers or incorporated Dhrupad into their playing style.

Talwandi: This gharana removed the Hindu terminology of Dhrupad and replaced it with Muslim terminology. For example, Talwandi Dhrupad utilizes a Muslim form of the nom tom syllables used by the other traditions. Like the Darbhanga tradition, this tradition emphasizes compositions which are often sung at very fast tempos.

Vishnupur: Arguably, this is the tradition with the most performers some of which performed exclusively in devotional, temple settings. There are many Vishnupur instrumentalists and vocalists. It is rumored that the call and response tradition of sawal-jawab originated with this tradition. The Vishnupur interpretations of ragas basant, ramkali, bihag, bhairavi, and poorvi are noticeably differ from other traditions while this gharana has a rhythmic character all of its own.