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Indian Classical Music Part 2



By Shubham Mittal |

After an article on the “Origin of the seven swaras of the Indian classical music” I would want to talk more about raagas and swaras as promised in the previous article. Swaras, as described previously are originated from the sounds of nature. Each swara has a specific fixed sound in the nature, if a swara does not have a tendency to deviate from its sound then it is known to be an “Achal swara” (one which does not move from its place) and if the swara has a tendency to deviate from its place then it is known as a “vikrit swara” (one which can move from its place). This may seem a bit complicated but believe me that it is not at all complicated; rather it is fun once you get to know the whole idea of it. The 7 swaras from “Sa” to “Sa” is also known as the “Swaramalika” or a “Saptak”. The last swara “Sa” is added in the Saptak after the “Ni” to make it complete. In a Saptak “Re”, “Ga”, “Ma”, “Dha”, “Ni” are the vikrit swaras whereas “Sa” and “Pa” are the Achal swaras. In English a “Saptak” is known as an “octave” and similarly a “Swara” is known as a “note”. An octave is a combination of 8 notes. In the Indian musical tradition, ragas are associated with different times of the day, or with seasons. Indian classical music is always set in a raga. Non-classical music such as popular Indian film songs and ghazals sometimes use ragas in their compositions. Some of the key characteristics which help in identifying the raag are-

Aaroh- It’s the ascending order of the raag, i.e. it tells us the way in which the raag progresses

Avroh- It’s the descending order of the raag

Pakad- It is a very key feature which helps us in identifying the raag, it is said in Hindi that “Pakad ko gaane se raag pakad mein aa jaata hai” :p

Often people say that “I am from Gwalior Gharana” or for any other gharana for the sake of understanding, “Gharana” is a system which links musicians or for that matter even classical dancers by lineage or apprenticeship, and by adherence to a particular musical style. The oldest gharana in classical music is the Gwalior gharana which was originated in around mid-16th century by the then famous musicians “Nathan Pir Baksh” and “Nathu Khan”. Other quite famous gharanas in today’s time are- “Patiala Gharana”, “Indore Gharana”, “Mewati Gharana” etc. etc.  Different gharanas are known for different genres of singing; some are commonly known for only khyal singing, some for thumri and many more other genres. I’ll discuss about them in the upcoming articles but “Thumri” is my personal favourite so I would like to talk about it a little. The text of this genre is romantic or devotional in nature, and usually revolves around a girl’s love for Krishna. The lyrics are usually in Uttar Pradesh dialects of Hindi called Awadhi and Brij Bhasha”. Thumri is characterized by its sensuality, and by a greater flexibility with the raga. Thumri arose in popularity during the 19th century in the Lucknow court of I guess “Nawab Wajid Ali Shah”. At that time it used to be a song sung by the courtesans accompanied by dance. When this style of thumri was slowly fading away at the turn of the 20th century, a new style became more popular, which was known as bol banao, sung in Varanasi nowadays. A very famous thumri in the voice of “Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali” ji is “Yaad piya ki aaye” which is attempted by almost all thumri lovers but none can match even a single bit with the original version of it.

I would like all the readers to please give their feedback on this article and tell me where can I improve and what all would you like to know about classical music in my upcoming articles.


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