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Hindustani Music…….Part 6


Shubham1Hey Guys, hope you liked my previous article about the different basic terms used in our Hindustani Music. Now having discussed about these terms I’ll tell you about the different types of songs or compositions in our classical music. But before going further you must read the previous article about the basic terms otherwise there will be certain parts that you may not be able to understand. Link to the previous article is as follows-

There are various forms of compositions in classical music, few of which are-

  1. Dhrupad
  2. Khyal
  3. Lakshangeet
  4. Sargamgeet
  5. Tarana
  6. Dhamar
  7. Thumri
  8. Ghazal
  9. Tappa
  10. Kajari
  11. Dadra
  12. Bhajan etc.


I’ll discuss about 7 or 8 of these song types in detail otherwise the article will get very lengthy.


1.       Dhrupad


Dhrupad is a very very old form of singing. It is traditionally performed by male singers. The primary theme and content of dhrupad is devotional. It is performed with Tanpura and pakhawaj as instrumental accompanists. Dhrupad generally starts with a long alap. It is believed that dhrupad was initially sung in the court of Akbar by ’Miyan Tansen’. Miyan Tansen as you all must be knowing was one of the most famous and celebrated singers of his time, it is believed that when he could bring down rain by singing the Raga Megh Malhar and start fires by singing the legendary Raga Deepak. A dhrupad has 4 stanzas/paragraphs, (all of which are explained in the previous article) each of which has its own significance and the name of these paragraphs are-

  1. Sthayi
  2. Antara
  3. Sanchari
  4. Aabhog


It is composed and sung in a Vilambit laya. Generally a dhrupad lasts for about 20-30 minutes. You can listen to a dhrupad by Pt. Jasraj Ji in Raga Darbari by following the link given below-



2.       Khyal


Khyal is a form of singing adopted from the Dhrupad style. Khyal literally means ‘imagination’ in Hindi and in musical terms it is purely based on the art of improvising and expressing the raga clearly by the singer for the listeners. Like dhrupad it is also sung in a Vilambit laya (known as Bada khyal) and gradually it progresses onto a bandish (known as Chhota khyal) in the same raga. The lyrics of khyal are generally in Urdu, Marathi, Punjabi, Hindi, Persian, etc.  The theme of a khyal is mainly based on romance, different seasons, pranks of the Hindu deity Krishna, etc. etc. A khyal is divided in to parts while singing-

i.            Bada Khyal– It is the initial stage of the khyal wherein the khyal is sung in a Vilambit laya. It constitutes the majority part of the whole composition.

ii.            Chhota Khyal– It is the later part of the khyal wherein the khyal is sung either in Madhya or in a Dhrut laya. It is used as a finale and is in the same raga but generally in a different taal.


Khyal singing is so deep that many times a single khyal lasts for an hour or maybe even longer. The general time for a khyal performance is about 30-35 minutes. Taan is one of the most distinguishing features of a khyal. As the songs are short and performance long, the singer uses the technique of taan to improvise in the song. Khyal is mostly sung in ‘Ektaal, Chaartaal, Jhaptaal, Jhoomra Taal, Rupak Taal, etc.’ Pakhawaj is the most used percussion instrument for Khyal singing but tabla is also used. You can listen to a Bada and a Chhota khyal by Pt. D.V. Paluskar Ji in Raga Kamod by following the link given below-



3.       Lakshangeet


Lakshangeet is derived from 2 words-

i.            Lakshan (Meaning; Characteristics) and

ii.            Geet (Meaning; Song)

This composition tells the listeners about the characteristics of the raga. You can listen to a Lakshangeet in Raga Yaman by following the link given below-


4.       Sargamgeet

Sargamgeet is also derived from 2 words-

i.            Sargam (explained in previous article) and

ii.            Geet (Meaning; Song)


In this composition; instead of words the whole composition is sung in the form of a Sargam. You can listen to a Sargamgeet in Raga Bhoopali (also known as Bhoop) by following the link given below-


5.       Tarana


Tarana is a composition in a particular raga wherein certain bols like ‘Odani, Tadani, Tadeem, Yalali, etc.’ are used. These bols or syllables are in Persian or Arabic language. It is sung in either Madhya or a Dhrut laya. It is generally sung by the singer at the end of a concert. The main melody of the song is usually very short and the same tune is sung again and again by the singer.  Words like ‘dir-dir’ or ‘dar-dar’ as used as fillers in between.  Tarana was invented by Amir Khusrow and popularized by the legendary classical singer Ustad Amir Khan. You can listen to a Tarana in Raga Haunsadhwani by Kishori Amonkar Ji following the link given below-


6.       Dhamar


Dhamar is a 14-beat taal in Hindustani Music. A song in dhrupad style composed in a 14-beat Dhamar taal is known as a Dhamar form of singing. As compared to other taals it is difficult to sing in Dhamar taal. This taal should be by default played on a pakhawaj but can be played on tabla also. You can listen to a Dhamar in Raga Darbari by Pt. Ritwik Sanyal by following the link given below-


7.       Thumri


Thumri is very well explained in my 2nd article, but still I’ll tell you about it in brief. The lyrics of Thumri are generally devotional which express a girl’s love for Krishna. The words are usually in Awadhi or in Brij Bhasha. It is one of the lighter forms of music and is generally in taals like ‘Dadra (6 beats), Deepchandi (14 beats) and Keharwa (8 beats)’. Some of the most commonly used ragas for thumri are ‘Kafi, Pilu, Khamaj, Tilak Kamod, Bhairavi, etc. etc.’  You can listen to a Thumri in Raga Kafi by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Ji by following the link given below-


8.       Ghazal


Ghazal is one of my favourite compositions. Personally, I like listening to ghazals of Ustad Ghulam Ali Ji and obviously Jagjit Singh Ji. A ghazal is generally based on these themes-


  • Love- This subject is touched by many ghazals. Love is seen as something which will make a human being complete and attainment of love will make him/her satisfy their sole. This love can be expressed by both, male or a female. And this type of ghazal is written from a lover’s point of view. A very famous ghazal on this theme is Hoshwalon Ko Khabar Kya’ from the Hindi movie ‘Sarfarosh


  • Sufism- Originating in the Persian region it is almost impossible for a composition to not have a Sufi touch.  These types of ghazals are based on some spiritual context where god is referred to as beloved.


  • Grief- Majority of the ghazals is based in this theme. May it be Ghulam Ali Ji’s famous ghazal ‘Chupke Chupke’ or be it Jagjit Ji’s ‘Wo Kagaz Ki Kashti’. Almost every ghazal is based on this theme only. This is the basic essence of a ghazal.

You can listen to a very famous Ghazal by Ustad Ghulam Ali Ji by following the link given below-


I explained only 8 type of compositions in detail out of many, in spite of that this; the article I think was a bit long. While writing this article I realised that I should have told you about the different type of taals before writing this article. So, obviously now the next article will be based on different taals and also, understanding of this article will also increase if you read the next one too.  Thanks for reading this article. As always you can give me a few topics to write on if you wish so.


Read, share and give a feedback Asap!!


Thank You

Shubham Mittal

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