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The ancient age and Dhrupad


Author: Anjan Ganguly, Editor,

A column, titled The ancient age and Dhrupad, written by Anjan Ganguly on 01.05.2015.

Published on 1st May, 2015.

SOUND in terms of physics is a form of energy that is produced by vibration. It needs a medium to travel as it is true for each form of energy. With these simple set of words opens a huge world of basic science.

When and how all these sounds were compiled to become music and people started accepting it as an art form, is a subject of in-depth research. Despite having followed divergent routes it had developed from a single point of origin. Expression-

While a section of Vedic activists had been doing the bulk of research in and around the temples, some other sections of the society like the Fakirs, Bauls and several other local philosophers did see through the development of yet another form of music. A section of people, mainly professionals, had been staying around the temple used to develop their own style of music. The sailors, fishermen, shepherds too participated in music with their special touch of form and of course, understanding. These people, except the Vedic activists, were less educated, although the style, the techniques of their music were rich and often not free from complications. Another section of poor people involved themselves in the musical culture. They were mainly Public Charmers. Their forms of music were technically simple and cheap in lyric.

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In Hindu mythology sound or "Naad" is called "BRAHMA" meaning omnipotent. Sounds like "OM" have immense power, it is believed. From ancient times Sadhus and hermits have been practicing and exploring into the depths to reveal the truth. Young students staying in the hermitage were taught to chant mantra, an age old tradition from Samaveda, which later transformed to a form of music.

The earliest Treatise we find is the Sangeet Makaranda believed to have been compiled by the musical wizard Narada in the eleventh century. Several theories had been formulated until then, which had subtle differences among them, depending upon the methods of experiments carried out. Secrecy and ideological barriers among different groups and sects helped to isolate researchers, preventing them from churning out an institutional and unanimous hypothesis.

These ideas, in course of time, were further developed by the intrinsic followers of each group in divergent routes until Sharangadev, a saint, started accumulating data from all the factions. He had been the best scholar of all times who was responsible for erection of a common platform for Hindustani Classical System of music. The postulates laid down by him and listed in the infamous collection known as "Sangeet-Ratnakar" in the thirteenth century is still considered as the basis of fundamental science of Hindustani Classical music. The fragment groups still continue to exist scattered throughout India.

'DHRUPAD' was the only form of Classical music exercised till the end of eighteenth century and was much simpler than what we listen today. These songs were rich in lyrics and mainly sung for a purpose. Each song had four divisions called 'Tuk'. Asthayee (or Sthayee) was the first, Antara, Sanchari and Abhog followed after it. Complicated representations were made by the performers by incorporating unique variations of the tempo, called Laykaari. The compositions were generally preplanned and had less scope for experimentations. Dhrupads are generally sung by male singers in duet. Accompaniments provided by Taanpura, Pakhwaj and sometimes the Veena. Seven natural notes, four flats and one sharp note constituted the 'Saptak' (a near synonym for octave). In addition to these twelve notes ten more sub-notes or micro-notes were in use within the Saptak and these delicate touches were considered as the finest level of perfection. All these twenty-two notes are called 'Shruti'.

The songs were generally composed to chant mantra or hymns for the almighty or even the Emperors. Although, other forms of compositions too found their way. A simple set of words were compiled to form Tarana. Trivat, Chaturanga were combinations of meaningful lyrics, pronouncing the notes, tarana and imitating the pakhwaj. Songs were composed to express nine emotions or 'Nava-rasa' explained in Hindu mythology.

The singers used to lead a disciplined and pious life. It was accepted that indiscipline may ruin their musical life. With control on their mind they used to lead a life of a hermit. Breathing exercise, rational diet were the part of the routine apart from rigorous training. Guru-parampara or to imitate the master was an established fact. Written form of music in this period was unheard of.

Taansen, the famous court-musician in the court of Akbar, the Mughal Emperor, hailed from the renowned Gharana of Gwalior, had been the best musician of all times. All Hindustani musicians in India are descendants of the same wizard and all gharanas, it is said, to have originated from Taansen.

The culture of Dhrupad in the recent times has been restricted to only a few Gharanas. The 'Dagar Brothers' and the 'Gundecha Brothers' are two such infamous Gharanas in India.

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