Thursday, January 10, 2013

In the Beginning was Dhrupad: Bahauddin Dagar

In the beginning was the vibration, which sounded AUM. The vibration was perceived by humans and internalised as anahata. Humanity heard and moved to and took life from the vibration.  They called this dhrupad and made it into an ornate and refined system of music. Dhrupad was music of the spirit. The inner music (anahata) made into outer music (ahata). 

Sounds of dhrupad were low and slow and deliberate. They were a means to glimpse and honor (darshan) the Unseen.  Emphasis was placed on producing and then surrendering to the vibrations, the only reality.

Humans are restless creatures. Vibrations, whether inner or outer, were forgotten and pushed aside for a less onerous enjoyment. Someone said, ‘Why shouldn’t we imagine more?’. Khyal was born.  For hundreds of years Dhrupad languished, listened to and performed in obscure corners.

One human who went by the name of  Baba Gopal Das and who was a Brahmin decided to change his external religion to Islam and name to Baba Imam Khan. Under his guidance the Dagarvani style of dhrupad rose to glory, delighting and bolstering the courts of Akbar the Great and myriad other princes and rajas across India. From Baba Imam Khan grew one of the mightiest musical families in the world, and the undisputed masters of Dhrupad. One could say the Dagars are indeed the saviours of dhrupad, this ancient form of devotional music with roots deep in Vedic times.

Dhrupad is the oldest surviving form of Indian Classical music and traces its origin to the chanting of vedic hymns and mantras. Though a highly developed classical art with a complex and elaborate grammar and aesthetics, it is also primarily a form of worship, in which offerings are made to the divine through sound or nāda. Dhrupad can be seen at different levels as a meditation, a mantric recitation, a worship , a yoga or tantra based on the knowledge of the nādis and chakras and also purely as a performing art portraying a universe of human emotions.

It is mainly a vocal tradition based on the practice of nāda yoga, but is also performed on instruments like the Rudra Veena and the Sursringār. For the past five centuries Dhrupad has mainly thrived under the patronage of Mughal and Rajput kings. The picture on the left shows Dhrupad singers Zākiruddin Khān, Allābande Khān, Ziāuddin Khān and Nasiruddin Khān  (clockwise from top left) the foremost Dhrupad singers in the beginning of the twentieth century. The descendants of Zakiruddin Khan and Allabande Khan adopted the name of the genre (The Ḍāgar Bānī of Dhrupad) as their family name and acquired renown as the Dagar brothers

They kept this art alive in the difficult period after 1947 when it lost the patronage of the royal courts. Zakiruddin and Allabande Khan were brothers and disciples of their granduncle Baba Behram Khan, and served respectively in the royal courts of Udaipur and Alwar. They were the foremost Dhrupad singers of their times (late nineteenth and early twentieth century) and were greatly respected for their singing and erudition. Their performances are still remembered with awe and reverence.

Although Dhrupad originated in the chanting of vedic hymns and mantras, it gradually evolved into an independent art form with its own complex grammar. Dhrupad was originally sung in temples and later thrived under the patronage of Mughal and Rajput kings. Fundamental to Dhrupad singing is the practice of Nāda Yoga, in which, through various yogic practices, the singer develops the inner resonance of the body, and can make the sound resonate and flow freely through the entire region from navel to head. This enables the singer to produce a vast palette of subtle tone colours and microtonal shades. The processes of Udātta, Anudātta and Svarita play the same fundamental role in Dhrupad singing as in Vedic recitation. A Dhrupad performance starts with the alāp which is a slow and elaborate development of a Rāga (mode) using free flowing melodic patterns. The elaboration of Dhrupad alāp is done using the syllables of a mantric phrase 'om antaran twam, taran taaran twam, ananta hari narayan om' . The phrases of Dhrupad alāpa are very slow and contemplative in the beginning, but the tempo increases in stages, and in the faster passages playful and vigorous ornaments predominate.

Dhrupad Alap is followed by the singing of a composition with rhythmic improvisation, to the accompaniment of a barrel drum called the pakhawaj (ancestor of the tabla). The Tālas or cycles of beats commonly used are Choutāla (12 beats), Dhamāra (14 beats), Jhaptāla (10beats), Sūltāla (10beats), Tīvrā (7 beats). In the videos on this page can be heard examples of Chowtal and Dhamar. Dhrupad portrays a vast range of human emotions: serenity, compassion, sensuality, pathos, strangeness, anger and heroism and subtle shades of them all. In Dhrupad of the Dagar tradition the notes are not treated as fixed points, but as fluid entities with infinite microtonal shades.The music is deeply spiritual and meditative. The Dagar style of Dhrupad is defined by 52 musical concepts or Arkaans (12 basic alankaras and 40 more). These include concepts like Udātta, Anudātta, Svarita, Sapta Gupta, Sapta Prakata, Sakārī etc. which have all but disappeared from Indian classical music and even from Dhrupad . In the various audio/video files on this site can be heard all these concepts as they are used in practice in Dhrupad performance. (

Tonight’s selection is truly unspeakably beautiful music. A scion of the Dagar dynasty, Bahauddin Dagar, is the son of the great Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, and the only living and active proponent of the rudra veena the string instrument that is primary instrument of Dhrupad.

The Rudra Veena is an instrument that is rarely heard on the concert stage now, although just two centuries ago it reigned surpreme, and was regarded as the king of all instruments. It has a hollow tubular body called the dandi, on which are placed 24 frets, usually glued to the tube with beewax and resin, although some players also use frets tied to the dandi as in the sitar. There are four main playing strings and three to four drone strings. Attached to the tubular dandi are two hollow resonators made of dried and seasoned pumpkins.

Traditionally the veena was played with the player sitting in the vajrasana posture with his legs folded under him, and one of the two gourds placed on the left shoulder. Ustad Asad Ali Khan and Ustad Shamsuddin Faridi Desai are the only reputed players of the traditional veena in India today.
 Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar,  son of Ustad Ziauddin Khan of Udaipur, developed a large and heavy veena that he played in a different posture because it was simply too heavy to be played in the traditional manner. His son Bahauddin Dagar is the sole performer today who plays on this variant of the instrument.  

The Rudra Veena is the ideal instrument for Dhrupad because its sound has the same richness of overtones that the voice acquires with the practice of Nada Yoga. The instrument, especially in the traditional posture, also responds to the flow of prana or vital breath.
The Rudra Veena is meant for a music that is perhaps too subtle and refined for the modern industrial age although it is together with vocal Dhrupad experiencing a revival especially in the west where there are now many serious students of this instrument.


Connect with the Universe.

            Track Listing:
            01 Ragini Todi, Alap
02 Ragini Todi, Jod, & Jhala
03 Gat In Chautala


gunaraga said...

dear ajnabi,
back to errors and blocked downloads with mediafire. the last two on dropbox worked perfectly. just letting you know. If you can upload this n dropbox too......

ajnabi said...

Hi Guna, this appears to work for me. What happens when you click on this link?

ajnabi said...

Hi Guna, uploaded to Adrive. let me know if it is still not working.

gunaraga said...

works perfect now. Looks like mediafire has some issues with you ;-)

Zohar said...

Respect, thank you very much.
I was lucky to see and hear him play hypnotizing :)