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Dhrupad in Pakistan

By hamdani

The entire Talwandi Gharana is based in Pakistan...

"The Talwandi tradition is associated with the western parts of India, specifically, Punjab. Presently, the tradition has very few singers, all living in Pakistan. Prominent singers of the tradition include Muhammad Hafiz Khan and Muhammad Afzal Khan. "


Khalid Basra and Richard Widdess

The traditions of dhrupad that are current today can perhaps be grouped
together on a regional basis. The centre stage, geographically
speaking, is held by the temple and court traditions of Mathura, Agra
and Rajasthan; these traditions are interconnected and are especially
associated with the Dagar bani.1 To the east are the court traditions
of Bihar -- primarily those of Darbhanga and Bettiah -- and of Vishnupur
in Bengal; these traditions are again interconnected, and are
associated with the Khandar or Kandahar bani.2 In the west, dhrupad is
said to have been popular as recently as the 1920's or '30's in the
Panjab, where it was cultivated by, among others, members of the
Talwandi gharana. Today, however, few singers of dhrupad are known to
represent this western tradition; this article is therefore a
preliminary attempt to establish the history and characteristics of the
Talwandi gharana, and its relationship to the other regional traditions.
It is based on conversations with Ustad Hafiz Khan Talvandivale of
Lahore, who claims membership of the Talwandi khandan and is one of the
very few dhrupad singers currently active in Pakistan; and supplemented
with information from other sources, especially Pandit D. C. Vedi of
Delhi, who was trained in dhrupad by members of the Talwandi gharana in
the 1920's.

Ustad Hafiz Khan3 was born about fifty years ago in Faisalabad
(Pakistan) in a distinguished family of dhrupad singers. He and his
elder brother, Ustad Muhammad Afzal Khan, received training from their
father, Miyan Mehr Ali Khan (born 1913), for about forty years until the
latter's death in 1976. This training included learning hundreds of
"family dhrupads", other genres of vocal music, musical grammar, the
repertoires of ragas and talas, and the distinguishing features of the
Talwandi gharana style. The long years of learning, practice and
performance have given Hafiz Khan a thorough command of the musical
tradition handed down by his father. Claims to the antiquity of Hafiz
Khan's heritage are supported by the richness and internal logic of his
body of knowledge and by his practical mastery. Today he and his elder
brother sing together; his nephew, Labrez Khan, is in training.

According to Hafiz Khan the musical style of the Talwandi gharana
is the "Khanderi bani"; this style was originated by one Nayak
Khanderi, who lived before Amir Khusrau. From him the tradition passed
in turn to Nayaks Mahagat, Baiju, and Baksu, and from Baksu to two
musicians at Akbar's court, Nayak Cand Khan and Nayak Suraj Khan.
According to D.C. Vedi, these two were the founders of the Talwandi
gharana (cf. Gosvami 1971, ch. 8, citing B.K. Roycaudhuri). Cand Khan
of Gwalior, singer, appears as no.20 in the contemporary list of Akbar's
court musicians recorded in the Ain-i-Akbari(Jarret 1949:612). Suraj
Khan's name is not in the list, but according to Ahmad (1984) he was
Cand Khan's younger brother. According to Hafiz Khan, however, it was
a third singer at the Mughal court, one Nayak Malk Nathanji, to whom
Akbar gave the village of Talwandi in the Panjab; Nathanji does not
appear in the Ain list, and his relationship to Cand and Suraj is not

Until 1947 Hafiz Khan's family were landowners in Talwandi Rai, a
small town in the Jagraon tahsil, Ludhiana District, situated about 6
kilometres north-west of Raikot (Census of India, 1971); Mr Vedi
independently confirmed that the seat of the Talwandi gharana was in
Ludhiana district. This Talwandi was reputedly founded in the 15th
century by the Rai (Muslim Rajput) chieftain Kalha I, whose descendents
were feudatories of the Lodi and Mughal empires (Suri 1970:73 ff.). One
of the Rais is said to have been executed by Akbar (for refusing the
emperor his daughter), as a result of which land in the neighbourhood of
Talwandi could have become at Akbar's disposal; the practice of donating
land to favoured court-musicians is well known, at least from a later
period (cf. Vyauhar 1986). There is no reference to Talwandi Rai in the
Ain-i-Akbari, however; the Talwandi listed there was in the Rechnau
Doab, in modern Sialkot District (Jarrett 1949: II, 323; cf. Akbar-nama
III, 537-8; Habib 1982: Map 4A).

Hafiz Khan remembers the names of numerous descendents of
Nathanji, but their relationships and dates are not always clear.
Nathanji's six sons were allegedly in the employ of Jahangir, and their
names include Malk Jahangirdad Khan, Parvezdad Khan, Khurramdad Khan,
Chatar Khan, and Hamza Khan. These musicians are attested in the Iqbal-
nama-i-Jahangiri (Bibliotheca Indica edition p. 308), where their names
are included in a list of six "Indian musicians" (naghma-sarayan-i hind)
active at the time of Jahangir.4 The sixth member of the Iqbal-nama
list, Makhu, is replaced in Hafiz Khan's list with either Mullah Khazar
or Sheikh Noi; the latter is perhaps to be identified with the Ustad
Muhammad Na'i who appears in the Iqbal-nama as a musician of presumably
non-Indian origin, but if so it is unlikely that he was a son of

Hafiz Khan's list of ancestors continues with Bade Mannu Khan,
Chote Mannu Khan, Qaim Khan, Burhan Khan, Islam Khan, Miyan Attar, and
Qalandar Bakhs. Although all are said to have been employed by the
later Mughals or other rulers, we have not yet identified them through
documentary evidence. Qalandar Bakhs was a binkar in the service of the
Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir about a hundred years ago, and his name is
remembered by binkars today (information from Shamsuddin Faridi). From
this point the family relationships become more clear:

Qalandar Bakhs
----------------------------------- ----------------------------------- ----------
Qurban Ali Haidar Bakhs
| |
----------------------------------- ----------------------------------- ----------
| |
Fateh Ali daughter
----------------------------------- ----------------------------------- ----------
Maula Bakhs
| |
Mehr Ali
----------------------------------- ----------------------------------- ----------
(1913-76) | (d. 1988)
----------------------------------- ----------------------------------- ----------
Mohammad Afzal Mohammad Hafiz

Having lost his father while still young, Mehr Ali Khan learned
mostly from his uncle and father-in-law Maula Bakhs6, who was known to
D.C. Vedi in Lahore in the 1920's as a fine dhrupad singer and the
teacher of Mehr Ali. Hafiz Khan himself learned music from his father,
but he heard much of the family's oral history from his mother, Maula
Bakhs's daughter; he has a fund of colouful stories about Nathanji and
other musicians of the Mughal period.

The Talwandi gharana as represented by Hafiz Khan gives the
appearance of an almost self-contained family tradition, maintained over
many generations through the ownership of land (giving some measure of
financial security) and through cousin marriage, a practice that in many
Muslim gharanas served to restrict access to the family's hereditary
knowledge (Neuman 1980:98). In the past, however, there were other
musicians that claimed affiliation to the Talwandi gharana: they
included one Murad Ali Khan, active in Calcutta in the mid-19th century
(Ray 1980), and D.C. Vedi's first teachers, Uttam Singh (of Amritsar)
and Gurumukh Singh, neither of whom were professional musicians. These
names are not known to Hafiz Khan, and we do not yet know how they were
connected to his family, which he claims is the central khandan and now
the only practising branch of the gharana.

Hafiz Khan presents a distinctive ideology of dhrupad, in which Islam
entirely replaces the Hindu frame of reference adopted by most dhrupad
musicians (both Hindus and Muslims) in India. Nayak Khanderi and the
Nayaks who succeeded him were all Muslims, according to Hafiz Khan, and
they received their inspiration directly from God; there is thus for
him no element of folk or temple music in the historical background to
dhrupad. The distinguishing characteristic of alap and dhrupad is
their spirituality (ruhaniyat), and the objective in singing them is
zikr-e-ilahi, "Praising the name of God". Thus in place of the mantra
"om ananta narayana hari om" used by Indian dhrupad singers in alap,
Hafiz Khan sings "nita tarana tarana Allah tero nam"7; even the word
alap derives, in Hafiz Khan's opinion, from "Allah ap". Training in
alap is divided into four stages called sari'at, tariqat, haqiqat and
ma'rifat : these are named after four stages of successively deeper
mystical experience and understanding -- respectively, "Islamic law",
"way, path (to enlightenment)"8, "truth", and "knowledge".

Alap and dhrupad of the Talwandi gharana are thus religious in
character and objective, as in most other traditions, but in an Islamic
guise. Whether this has always been so is impossible to say; on the
one hand the experience of partition has no doubt influenced the
religious perspective of musicians on both sides of the border (it may
be noted that Mr Vedi does not promote an Islamic interpretation of
dhrupad), but on the other hand it is quite possible that a similar view
would have been held, for example, by Muslim singers at the Mughal court
in the 17th-18th centuries, or at Lucknow in the 19th century.

The primary focus in alap is of course development of the rag, in
both its structural and aesthetic aspects. Hafiz Khan lays great
stress on maintaining the "purity" of the rag at all times. The
kalavant should observe not only the structure of the rag but also the
appropriate rasam -- one of four emotional states that the kalavant has
to enter for proper rendition of the rag -- and the appropriate cal or
gait; there are four cals named after different animals -- elephant,
deer, snake and lion. Correctly performed, a rag has not only
aesthetic but also magical or medicinal properties; thus Pilu is a cure
for melancholia, Bhimpalasi cures excessive worldliness, Darbari cures
insomnia, headaches and fever, and Malhars and Kalyans increase and
reduce blood-pressure respectively. Hafiz Khan's colourful musical
lore is entirely typical of the 19th and early 20th century Muslim
gharanas, though its elements go back many centuries earlier.

The musical repertory of the Talwandi gharana, as demonstrated by
Hafiz Khan, includes many different genres of vocal music: alap,
dhrupad, dhamar, sthayi-antara (an old name for vilambit khyal), khyal
(= drut khyal), ghazal, dadra, kafi, etc. Alap is the finest of these,
from which all the others are derived; he treats it as a separate genre
from the others, not merely as an introduction to the main item of
performance. It is only in alap that the rag can produce its effect;
a minimum of words is employed so as not to overburden its delicate
passages, words being seen as ultimately foreign or intrusive elements.
Alap employs twelve tans or methods of linking successive notes; these
tans are analogous to the ten laksanas of the Dagar bani (Sanyal 1986).
Their names are as follows (the order is variable; discussion of their
musical characteristics will be reserved for a future study): sarak,
marak, lag, dat, rula, capka, gidda, dhamalla, thok, mind, gamak, sut.

These tans have been allocated to different rags in varying numbers.
For instance in Bhairvin, Malkauns and various other suddh rup rags all
the 12 tans can be employed, but in Adana-Bahar only gamak and capka
tans are permitted. Ornamentations associated with the lighter styles
-- including murkhi, phanda, gitkri, and zamzama -- are forbidden in alap
as they would destroy its serious character.

The four stages of alap -- sari'at, tariqat, haqiqat and ma'rifat --
demand progressively more elaborate development of the rag. In sari'at
the artist should display the essential grammatical structure of the
rag, including aroh, avroh, vadi, samvadi, ang, rup, and sur ke darje.
Ang refers to the location of vadi in uttarang or purvang; rup denotes
the use of vakra passages. The darjas are microtonal increments of
pitch, there being seven to each scale degree: four below the suddha
pitch (komal, at komal, sinkar and at sinkar in descending order), and
three above (tivr tam, tar tivr, and tivr, in ascending order9). Only
in the fourth stage, ma'rifat, would all the tans be used (if permitted
in the rag), and only in this stage would medium and fast tempi, as well
as slow, be employed. The development of the last two stages, haqiqat
and ma'rifat, is said to be a speciality of the Talwandi gharana.

The four stages represent the successive stages of learning; only
the last would actually be performed by a master. In published
recordings of Hafiz Khan and his elder brother a progression of slow
unmeasured, rubato rhythm, through medium fast to very fast pulsed
rhythm is evident, as in most other dhrupad traditions. Two features
of these recordings are particularly remarkable. First, the two
brothers sing in unison or near unison for much of the time; it is only
in the approach to upper sa in the initial slow portion, and for
passages in the subsequent faster portions, that one singer (apparently
Hafiz Khan, the junior brother) sings alone. The proportion of the
alap that is spontaneously improvised is apparently not as large as we
are accustomed to hearing nowadays; one is reminded of early recordings
of the senior Dagar brothers, in which they sometimes sang long passages
in unison, and (significantly) of Mr Vedi's style of teaching, which is
heavily dependent on memorized passages (see van der Meer 1980: 30-49
and 215-25 for a transcription and analysis of a typical example).
Secondly, the speed of articulation in the fast alap is extreme,
resembling that of the Bihar school.

Hafiz Khan's repertory of dhrupad compositions includes five distinct

tuk -- a vilambit dhrupad comprising two sections (tuk) only, asthai
and antara ; it can be composed in various tals.

aslok -- an elaborate composition having four tuks (asthai, antara,
sancai and abhog ). The language is generally Sanskritized. The
laya is fast, and various fast tals such as Sulphakhta, Mat tal and
Git tal (similar to Hindustani Tivra tal) are used.

cautara -- the "major" dhrupad genre. It has four tuks and is
composed only in Cartal (= Cautal). The laya is vilambit and allows
for maximum rhythmic variation. The intricate lay-bat is usually
done only in this variety of dhrupad.

drut dhrupad -- as its name implies, this type is distinguished by its
fast tempo, in any tal. It is different from aslok in that its
language does not have to be Sanskritized, and it is not essential
for it to have four tuks.

hori dhamar -- this variety of dhrupad is sung in dhamar tal. The
poetic content is usually playful, eulogizing spring and natural and
physical beauty. It has a dancing gait to its rhythm and its
rhythmic pattern is different from all other kinds of dhrupad. Hori
is thought to be a "light" genre amongst the dhrupads and is usally
sung after the "serious" cautaras. Accordingly the rhythmic
development in hori dhamar can be more free than in other dhrupads.

Typical subjects for Talwandi dhrupads are the seasons, mysticism,
and Hindu mythology. The authorship of the various compositions is not
yet ascertained.

The major difference between a dhrupad and a khyal performance,
however, is felt not to be the composition itself -- since in many cases
the same composition could be sung as either a dhrupad or a khyal10 --
but the method of development. In dhrupad, the development is entirely
rhythmic (lay-bat) the words and melody of the composition are repeated
at different speeds relative to the underlying tal, or with distorted
rhythm. The tans of khyal are of course forbidden. Furthermore the
asthai or antara of the dhrupad is to be sung in its entirety while
singing lay-bat: Hafiz Khan disapproves of the common practice of
improvising on small segments of the composition, except in hori dhamar.
In fact, to judge by available information, the use of pre-composed
rather than improvised lay-bat may be a characteristic of the Talwandi
style. In recorded performances the Talwandi brothers sing lay-bat
simultaneously in perfect unison, even at the fastest speeds; and Mr
Vedi also favours carefully calculated lay-bat, at least as a foundation
for improvisation. Hafiz Khan believes that all lay-bat should end on
sam; he does not recognize the principles of atit and anaghat whereby
the improvisation, in some traditions, can end just before or just after
the sam respectively.

In conclusion, it is clear that the Talwandi gharana, as represented
in Pakistan by Muhammad Afzal and Muhammad Hafiz Khan, constitutes a
distinct and important tradition of vocal art-music, with special
emphasis on alap and dhrupad.11 Deshpande's statement that "some
gharanas, like ... the 'Tilwandi' gharana ... have already disappeared
from the scene" (1973:5) is apparently premature. The style of dhrupad
performed by these brothers is perhaps closer to that of the Bihar and
Bengal traditions than to that of the Dagar family: this is suggested,
for example, by the extremely fast concluding portions of alap, and by
the highly complex, pre-composed rhythmic variations in chegun and
atgun. Another feature common to the Talwandi, Bihar and Vishnupur
traditions is the fact that they all claim the Khandar, Kandahar or
Khanderi bani. Musical links between these three traditions, if
correct, could perhaps be attributed to their common origin in the
Mughal court at the time of Akbar. Considerably more research is
needed, however, both into the styles and repertories of all the
surviving dhrupad traditions, and into their social histories, before
the broad picture tentatively sketched here can be confirmed or


Our indebtednesss to Ustad Hafiz Khan and Pandit D.C. Vedi, without
whose generous co-operation this article could not have been written, is
gratefully acknowledged. For assistance in various ways we wish to
thank Nusrat Jamil, Parvez Amin, Amelia Cuni, Dr Owen Wright, Professor
C. Shackle and Nasreen Faruqi. For information on dhrupad generally
and for assistance with Bengali language sources we are indebted to Dr
Ritwik Sanyal.


Ahmad, Najma Parveen, 1984:
Hindustani music: a study of its development in seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries, New Delhi.
Basra, K., 1987:
Ma'adan-ul-Mauseeqi, an analysis, MA dissertation, School of
Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Chakravarti, Suresh C., 1969:
"Gopeshwar Banarjee", Sangeet Natak 13, July-Sept. 1969.
Deshpande, Vamanrao H., 1973:
Indian musical traditions: an aesthetic study of the
gharanas in Hindustani music, Bombay.
Garg, Laksminarayan, 1957:
Hamare sangit ratna, Hathras.
Gosvami, Utpala, 1971:
Dhrupad o khyaler utpatti o kramavikas, Calcutta.
Habib, Irfan, 1982:
An atlas of the Mughal empire, Oxford.
Jarrett, H.S., 1949:
Ain-i-Akbari, English translation, vol.II (Bibliotheca
Indica 271).
Lahiry, Kartik, 1977:
"Bettiah gharana: a school of dhrupad", Journal of the
Indian Musicological Society VIII, 3, September 1977, pp.29-
Mukherjee, Dilip Kumar, 1978:
Bharatiyo songiter ghoranar itihas, Calcutta.
Neuman, D.M., 1980:
The life of music in North India, New Delhi.
Ray, Sukumar, 1980:
"Phases of music of Bengal in the 19th century: dhrupad",
Journal of the Indian Musicological Society II, 3-4.
Sanyal, Ritwik, 1986:
"The Dagar tradition", Dhrupad Annual I, pp.43-47.
Suri, V.S., 1970:
Punjab District Gazetteers: Ludhiana, Chandigarh.
Van der Meer, W., 1980:
Hindustani music in the 20th century, The Hague.
Vedi, Dilip Chandra, 1949:
"Composition and the six fundamental ragas of Hindusthani
music", Journal of the Music Academy, Madras XX.
Vyauhar, Anil Bihari, 1986:
"Dhrupad-gayan ki Darbhanga parampara", Dhrupad Annual I,
Wade, B., 1984:
Khyal: creativity in North Indian classical music,

1 Members of the Agra gharana are said to have learned dhrupad from the
Caube family of
Mathura, who are associated by some with the Dagar bani. At least two families of
Brahmins converted to Islam and became court musicians in Rajasthan specialising
in Dagar
bani dhrupad: the family of Alladiya Khan (Garg 1957:64-6, Wade 1984:160 ff., and
that of
Bairam Khan (the present Dagar gharana), both of Jaipur.
2 The origins of the Darbhanga and Bettiah dhrupad traditions and that of
Vishnupur are in each
case associated with Seniya musicians from the Mughal court: Bhupat Khan
Vyauhar 1986), Pyar Khan or Haidar Khan (Bettiah: Gosvami 1971, Mukherjee
1978), and
Bahadur Khan (Vishnupur: ibid.). Of course, these popular beliefs are not
unchallenged (see
for example Chakravarti 1969), but it is clear that the traditions of Bettiah and
Darbhanga were
closely related, being both in the hands of Mallik Brahmins (Lahiry 1977), and also
that the
Vishnupur singers were strongly influenced by Bettiah (through such singers as
Misra and Visvanath Rao: Mukherjee 1978). The Bengal and Bihar dhrupad
traditions thus
form a single regional entity. It is worth noting, however, that each of the three
traditions in
this regional group also claims connections to Mathura (Vidur Mallik, oral
information; Lahiry
1977; Chakravarti 1969).
3 Full name: Malikzada Muhammad Hafiz Khan Talvandivale Khanderi.
4 Though not necessarily employed by him. The Iqbal-nama lists the six
"Indian musicians"
separately from seven other singers and players who, by implication and to judge
by their
names, may have hailed from Persia or Central Asia.
5 Hafiz Khan may have obtained these names from a modern source drawing
on the Iqbal-nama.
Note that Jahangirdad, Parvezdad and Khurramdad were all called after members
of the royal
family, which may suggest that they were themselves from a single family. We are
indebted to
Dr Owen Wright for his reading of and comments on the Iqbal-nama lists of
6 To be distinguished from the singer Maula Bakhs of Baroda, Garg 1957:306 ff.,
1984:186 etc.
7 The words "tarana tarana" are also used by some members of the Dagar
8 "A method of moral psychology ... leading through various psychological
stages ... of the
literal practice of the revealed law (shari'a) to divine reality (hakika)"
(Encyclopaedia of Islam,
1934, s.v. tarika).
9 These terms are evidently variants of the Sanskrit terms komala, atikomala,
tivra, tivratara,
tivratama, used in such texts as the Sangitaparijata (where, however, the ascending
order is
always tivra, tivratara, tivratama ).
10 This view is shared by Mr Vedi (Vedi 1949) and by other dhrupad singers (R.
Sanyal, oral
11 Hafiz Khan goes so far as to claim that the Talwandi gharana is the oldest
gharana, because the
original members of the gharana were the Nayaks themselves. Other traditions
such as the
Seniya and Dagar family traditions trace their origins to pupils of the Nayaks (for
Haridas Svami was a pupil of Nayak Baksu). Such claims are perhaps to be seen as
response to inter-gharana rivalry rather than as historical evidence.
12 The authors will be grateful for any further information relating to the topics
discussed here,
which may be communicated to D.R. Widdess, School of Oriental and African
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG.

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