Evolution of Hindustani music; Patron and Patronage

Once Miyan Tansen was asked by Akbar to take him to meet Tansen’s Guru for listening to his music. Tansen took Akbar to his teacher, Swami Haridas. After intense waiting of three long days, the Guru created a magic of mesmerizing music in front of Tansen and Emperor Akbar who disguised himself. Days after returning from Guru’s residence, Akbar asked Tansen to sing a song that reminds him of the Guru. However, dissatisfied with the song, the King shared his concern with the gifted singer. The way Tansen replied to Emperor Akbar was quite interesting. “O, Lord! What comes out of my heart is all for the King of Hind, but my Guru sings for the King of Universe (1). Thus one can conclude that Music is influenced by both patronage and the audience.

Music, like all other creations of God, is one of the specimens of his creativity. it is said , that when the spirit was commanded to enter the body of his holiness Adam (the peace of God be with him!), the soul having looked into it once, observed, “this is a bad and dark place and unworthy of me; it is “impossible to I can inhabit it”. Then the just and most holy God illuminated the body of Adam with “lamps of “light”, and commanded the spirit to re-enter. It went in a second time, beheld the light, and saw the whole dwelling; and said: “There is no pleasing sound here for me to listen “to”. It is generally understood from the best works of the mystics of the East, thus it was owing to this circumstance that the Almighty created Music. The holy spirit on hearing the sound of this Music became so delighted , that it entered Adam’s body. Reciting Quran while mourning the dead among Muslims can be taken as a musical effort resembling practice of deporting the spirit out of the body .

According to Hindu mythology, Music is the divine knowledge that Shiva passed to Narada, Narada to Gandharvas, Gandharvas passed to Apsaras, Apsaras to Kinnaras and finally to humans. But in Persian mythology, Moses by the order of God taps on a rock which got split into seven pieces, further originated into seven springs, and this revealed the secret of seven surs to the mankind. David and his music which is mentioned in the Holy Bible can be read in this context.

Music did exist in its initial form in India, long before man began his settled life. The musical instruments found in the sites of Harappan civilization are better evidence to substantiate the same. The Indian musical legacy which evolved through Keerthanas, Samaganas, Vachanas, Bhajans, Buddha-Jaina Mantras and Sopansangeeth got branched into two main classifications by the influence of Persian rule(Mughal-Sultanate). The branch of music which was untouched by the Persian influence developed under the patronage of South Indian kingdoms (Bijapur, Vijayanagara) got renowned as Carnatic music/South Indian musical tradition. And the other branch which was influenced by the Persian musical culture, under the Mughal patronage came to be known as the famous Hindostani music/ north Indian musical tradition (3).

Initially, Darghas, Temples, Royal Courts, Buddha-Jain viharas, Sikh Gurudwaras, and Sufi bhakti followers were the main patrons of music. However, after the Mughal and Sultanate period, the petty-native rulers/kingdoms took it up (it was in this patron-client relationship the Indian musical project excelled and assimilated). In this period, Gharana tradition came into the scene and was coined from the root word ‘Ghar’ in Hindi which means Home. The musicians of respected Gharanas practiced and propagated new styles of singing (Gayana customs ) according to (North Indian ) spatial and patronal features. This diverse branches of Gharanas were preserved by contemporary native rulers, musicians and their family chains (khandan).

Gharanas influenced the ideologies, thoughts, way of practice and performance of music . Gwalior Gharana ( Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, Pandit Omkarand Takur) Kirana Gharana ( Abdul Karim Khan, Begum Akthar, BimSen Joshi , Prabha Athre ), Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana (Ghulam Ahamed ‘Allah Diya’ Khan, Mallikarjun Manzoor, Kishori Amonkal), Agra Gharana( Haji Sujan Khan, Faiyyaz Khan) Patiala Gharana (Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Bade Fateh Ali Khan, Ghulam Ali, Kaushika Chakraborty), Rampur-Sahaswan Gharana (Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan, Ustad Rashid Khan) Mewati Gharana ( Gagge Naseer Khan, Pandit Maniram Ji, Jasraj Singh ) Bandi-Bazar Gharana (Ustad Aman Ali Khan, Farukh Ali Chand) ShamChaurasya Gharana (Salamat Ali Khan, Nazaqat Ali Khan, Shafaqat Ali Khan) , QawwalBachhon-Ki Gharana (Ustad Tanras Khan, Munshi Raziuddin r.a, Farid Ayaz) etal are major Gayaki Gharanas. Maihar Gharana (Ustad Alauddin Khan, Tariq Ali Khan, Anapoorna Devi, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar, Ashish Khan,Hatiprasad Chaurasya, Neeladri Kumar) are for Sitar and Sarod, Punjabi Gharana (Ustad Allah Rakha Khan , Zakir Husain) is renowned for Tabla Gharanas.

During the thirteenth century, when Alauddin khilji marched to western India, and a group of low caste Hindus in the opposition accepted Islam for the hands of the -writer, Sufi saint, and musician- Amir Khusru who then given them the Permission/Ijaza to practice and lead musical life instead of the Military Profession. Today they are known as ‘Mirasis'( The word originates from the Arabic language which means Hereditary) who did spread over the areas of Delhi, UP, Rajasthan , Bihar and Haryana by giving life to music. (4)

The musical families were the only patrons of music when it was in the crossroad. Similarly the Maihar musical family that was found by Ustad Alauddin Khan and exists through Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan and their offsprings, Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar family who traditionally preserve and practice Rudra Veena and Drupad style, Kalawant Family which gave birth to Ghazal , Maestro, Ustad Mehdi Hassan Saheb (Kalawant was a special status assigned to Moghul Court singers ) his disciples like Tari Khan, Talat Aziz, Hariharan and Ali Khan family of Pakistan are still living examples.

By the end of the former half of the twentieth century, kingly states doomed and spatiotemporal surroundings were transformed to democracy. This was a period of hardship for music, musicians and their families. During this bleak situation, AIR(All India Radio) and the Film Industry lend a helping hand to them and democratized music. AIR gave jobs and opportunities and helped in reinstating the normal lives of musicians and their music. To appear for a programme in AIR and keeping a board naming “ AIR ARTIST” became a dream and reason of pride for many, as Sitar Sarod Maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan says in an interview. (5) The morning musical concerts in AIR were listened by people from all doors of the society and Indian music got an inevitable place in popular mind.

The nation got divided in 1947. Many of the musicians and music families got displaced between two nations. The Hindostani Films narrowed down the frontiers. Muhammed Rafi, Mannade, Kundan Lal Saigal, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar , Hemanth Kumar, Talat Mahmood , Ustad Mehdi Hassan , Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Saheb , Noor Jahan, Shamshad Beegum, Surayya, Beegum Akthar, Neyyar, Neyyara Noor, Iqbal Bano, Farida Khanam, Sabri Brothers, Lata Mangeshkar, et al conceived the Hindustani music in their own perceptions within the limit of films and diffused among people. When Allah Jilayi Bhai, Mehdi Ustad, and Farid Ayaz sang “Patharo mare desh re” ( We welcome you heartily to our country) (6), They transcended the boundaries and took people to a land beyond the concept of India and Pakistan.

It could be seen that the changes in the pattern and patronage of music transformed the language used in music. Sanskrit was the official medium of Indian music, or it was a mix of Sanskrit and the colloquial languages, before the influence of Persian Music. Same was the condition with all the musical texts of that time. This includes Bharata Muni’s Natya Shastra, Dattila Muni’s Dattilam and Matanga’s BrahaDesi.

Music (Gayan) was considered as one of the factors of the triads “ Gayan- Vadyan – Nritya” of Natyakala. Sangeetharatnakara of Sharankara Deva gave music its own identity for the first time. The then change in the language of music happened in the Sultanate period. The common tongues like Urdu, Braj, Khadi Boli, Hindustani- Hindvi and foreign languages like Turkish, Arabic and Persian were used by Hazrat Amir Khusru made the Hindostani music diverse. The tributary Gayana forms of Hindostani music like Khayal, Tarana, Ghazal, and Qawwali were the contributions of Amir Khusru. The Indo- Persian musical instruments like Sitar which was made by combining Satar and Rudra Veena and Tabla from Pakvaj were designed by him.

Qawwal Ustad Aziz Mian says “ Qawwali performances were earlier known as Mehfil- e – sama”( Listening Congregation). One day Ustad Baba Farid Uddin Ganj Shakar visited his murid ( disciple) Nizamuddin Auliya. Nizamuddin Auliya quickly called for a Mehfil- e – sama. Ustad instructed to start’s sama with a ‘qaul’ ( which contain the sayings of the prophet). When nobody starts singing even after having instruments at hand, Ustad signaled Amir Khusru with an Ishara ( gesture). “ Dara dil dara dil dhardani … ham tum tana nane tane tanaare …ya lali ya lali yalalalare …” Amir Khusru sang this Tarana in a way that was never heard before and Auliya who liked this new form of singing named it Qawwali and appointed Khusru to flourish it. Under this approval and grace, Khusru taught his twelve disciples and They were known as “Qawwal Bachon” and later followed It into shape Qawwal bachon ki Gharana , and even the origin of Dilli Gharana is from this.Today, from Tanraz Khan, Miraj Ahmed Nizami, Aziz Warsi, Munshi Razi Uddin , Ustad Farid Ayaz, Abu Muhammed to Chand Nizami, Qawwal bachon ki Gharana Gharana has a legacy of 800 years.

Centre of Qawwalis was Dargas, where people from different spheres of life can meet, thus making it accessible and enjoyable to a wider section. But the Ghazals were confined to palaces and darbars. Ghazals are Urdu- Persian poetic pieces which delivers independent meaning in each couplet. Ghazal singers, through their music, deciphered the secrets hidden in the written pieces of Mirza Ghalib, Dag- Dehlavi, Mir Taqi Mir, Bahadur Shah Zafar. Later it was fulfilled by singers like Rafi sahib ( Muhammad Rafi), Talat Mahmood, Jagjit Singh, Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan Saheb.

Hindustani music became more academic during Mughal Era with translations, literary works, compilations etc, especially during the reign of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. The Drupad compilations of Nayak Bhakshu called ‘ Sahasras’, the collection of Biographies of preceded and contemporary musicians by Inayat Khan called ‘ Risalaye -Zikre- Mughanniyan-eHindustan’, ‘Ghunyathul Munya’ written in Persian, ‘ Jawahirul Musiqat-e- Muhammadi’ by Sheikh Abdul Karim the ‘Miftah-ul-sarod’ by Khasi Hassan translated from Sanskrit , Faiz Khan Fakkirullah’s ‘Raag Darpan’ , Ahobala’s ‘ Sangeet Parijatha’s translation by Mirza Roshan Samir called ‘ Tharjumane Kitab-e -Parijathaka’ are some of them.

The beginning of the twentieth century saw music becoming a part of the academic curriculum. The contributions of Vishnu Narayan Bhadkante and Vishnu Digambar Paluskar are commendable here. The first Sangeet Academy of Paluskar at Lahore – “ Gandharva Sangeeta Maha Vidyalaya” is one of the biggest musical academic centers in the subcontinent. Ragas were codified as “ Thaats” and a standardized profile was given to the various musical components by Vishnu Narayan Bhadkante who also made it an academic curriculum in nature.

Now, Musical education, it ’s listening and patronage has changed a lot in form and manner. The position and fame of songs and singers get determined by the number of viewers and likes he gets in social media. Yet the Music and musicians appreciated through the shows like Idea Jalsa, HCL Concerts, Coke Studio are more of hope than that of disappointment.


1. Romance of The Raga- Vijaya Murthy; Alaap, A Discovery of Indian Music – Times Music

2. Qanoon-e-Islam (Customs of the Moosulmans of India) – Jaffur Shurreef

3. The Emergence of The Hindustani Tradition; Music, Dance and Drama in North India, 13th – 19th century – Madhu Trivedi

4. Encyclopedia of the World Muslims; Tribes, Castes and Communities, Volume I – Nagendra Singh, Abdul Ma’bud Khan; Mirasis; some thoughts on Hereditary Musicians in Hindustani

5. Indian Classical Music in search of Patrons – Asian Age

6. Sufi Music of India and Pakistan – Regula Qureshi

Ihsanul Ihthisam

(Editor- Music, thecompass.in)