Compositional Forms of Hindustani Music: A Journey

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Item Code: NAD322
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Vijaya chandorkar
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788121512190
Pages: 310
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 530 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Compositions known as bandies in common parlance, are an integral part of rãga-singing in Indian music. Various styles of singing have evolved together with the compositions enriching each other. This work tries to reveal this journey. Although the basic concept of a bandies is the same as in the ancient period, its contents, forms, language as well as its names in contemporary music have undergone many changes.

With a rich heritage of musicality, gandharva, the ancient form of music evolved into various melodic as well as compositional forms. Gãndharva was a devotional type of music, meant for the highest spiritual attainment. To make it appealing to the mind (or to derive sensual pleasure), it was molded into gana forms known today as deli music. The author believes that this recreational form of gandharva presents in minor, delicate songs like rk, gatha, paillka, etc., developed into singing forms like dhruvã and prabandhas. The prabandhas are a bridge between ancient and modern compositions and styles of singing. This book tries to link contemporary music with delicate forms of gandharva, lasya, nrtya, and uparupakas.


About the Author

Dr Vijaya Chandorkar has been a student of Hindustani classical music since a very young age. She studied under the late Pt. Dilip Chandra Bedi, who was a disciple of the late Pt. Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale. She obtained her MA and PhD from Delhi University. Always interested in ancient musical traditions, her research interest has been the tradition and evolution of Indian music.

Dr Handworker has authored many articles in prestigious music journals like Vageeshwari, The Journal of the Sangeet Natak Academy; Sakaal, etc., and has conducted many lectures and lecturedemonstrations both in India arid the United States. She has also taught for many years at the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts at the University of Delhi. She retired as a senior lecturer at the Faculty, and continues to guide PhD students even today.



Though a set of specific characteristics lends each raga its individuality, yet a raga is best understood by the compositions in it. The composition has a definite shape; it is the picture of the raga in all its details. Considering the significance of compositional forms, the number of works in this area is surprisingly meager. Thus, the present work, compo sitional Forms of Hindustani Music—A Journey, is a valuable addition to the scanty literature on the subject. The author, Dr Vijaya Chandorkar, is not only an erudite scholar with sound knowledge of ancient texts on music but also an able vocalist trained in the guru-sisya parampara (oral tradition) by none other than Pt. Dilip Chandra Bedi. Equipped with the knowledge of both theoretical arid practical aspects of music, she is ideally competent to examine, analyze, and interpret ancient works in the light of practical usages.

In ancient texts on music, compositional forms occupy a substantial portion which bears testimony to their significance in the realm of Indian music. The present author’s treatment of the scenario of pre—prabandha as well as post prabandha period shows her clarity of thought and originality of ideas. She has pondered on the changes occurring at various stages and provided fresh interpretations wherever possible. The süda prabandhas are a case in point. Dr Chandorkar has presented these prabandhas in a manner not dealt with by earlier writers on the subject. Out of the three terms for compositional forms in the Sãstra prabandhas, vastu and rupaka. it goes to her credit to have furnished enough material to designate salaga süas as rupaka instead of prabandha. Another important point is the interpretation of bhañjani (rupakãlapti) in a novel way.

The present study is not confined to ancient forms; it also aims at solving knotty issues related to the origin of modern compositional forms, viz., dhrupad and ldhyãl.

Thus, Dr Vijaya Chandorkar’s in-depth study coupled with her analytical research of compositional forms since early times, as contained in this work, will go a long way with both serious scholars and students.

I hope this book will find a place in the libraries of individuals as well as institutions even remotely connected with musicology.



In Indian music, rãga-singing is presented with two forms— a composition called bandies and melodic movements known as alapa. Like any other structure, a rãga-structure needs a foundation to manifest its abstract form and a composition serves this purpose. A musician creates a network of various melodic movements of a raga around the composition and presents an aesthetic design of a raga.

A rãga presented with the composition becomes aesthetically appealing and more delightful because its words and talk contribute in bringing novelty and liveliness in its presentation. A composition has, therefore, occupied an inevitable place in Indian music. Composition and alapa, both have independent existence and forms, but they contribute equally in bringing a novelty in rãga presentation. They together make rãga-singing a unique delighting experience. Therefore, a composition and ãlapa have traveled together in Indian music since very ancient times.

A composition or a bandi has a pre-designed arrangement of three elements, svara (melodic structure), pada (verbal content), and talk (rhythm) while alpaca is an ex tempore presentation of a rãga. Although the ancient concept of a composition and its contents have remained the same till today, their forms and the primacy given to these structural contents have undergone many changes, acquiring different names also. The journey of compositional forms of Hindustani music is the topic of description in this work.

The first chapter brings out the significance of a corn-position in Indian music. A brief review of the status of music found in Rãmãyaa and Mahãbhãrata, the famous epics of Indian literature and the Purãnas, the ancient scripts, is also available here.

Nãtyaãstra is the pioneer work on Indian music and deals with gandharva as well as dhruvãs, the songs of drama of that period. In post-Bharata period gandharva further developed into compositions named prabandhas which had the seeds of styles of various compositions which developed later in period. The techniques of rendering a raga with these prabandha compositions evolved into various styles of singing in contemporary classical music.

The musicologists of post-Bharata period describe prabandhas.Various prabandhas further gave rise to the compositions like dhrupad, dhamãra, etc. of today’s Hindu stani music. They are, thus, the link between gandharva and the compositions developed in Indian music in post-Ratnãkara period.

Although Matanga is the first author to mention and describe prabandhas, they are well-defined and described elaborately by Sarngadeva, in Sañgitaratnãkara. The concept of a prababndha, its components, and sections are described according to Ratnãkara in this work. Classification and the varieties of prabhandhas are dealt with in the second chapter.

Dhruva, one of the section of prabandhas, is mentioned as an indispensable one in its compositions. Why it is so, what is its function, why it has been given that apt name is also discussed in this chapter. A prabandha named élan is an ancient composition and had a significant place in the uddha süda variety of prabandhas. Along with it, the description of other uddha and salaga süda varieties can also be found in this chapter. The terms “vastu” and “rupaka” are used by the music Sultan colorists as synonymous to prabandha. In this connection, we have pointed out that although these three names are used alternatively by musicologists, prabandha, vastu, and rapaka are distinct from each other and they represent the types of compositions belonging to different periods. In fact, the terms “prabandha” and “rapaka” denote the changes occurred in prabandhas in post-Ratnakara period. It is inferred that the term prabandha is specially used by the musicologists for uddha sãa prabandhas. The term rflpaka is applicable to those of salaga süçla variety. The term vastu belongs to the period of Nãyaãstra and is mentioned just to follow the ancient tradition. The three names—prabandha, rãpaka, and vastu are used as synonymous only because they carry the same meaning, that is, a musical composition. These points are discussed in the third chapter.

The presentation of raga with prabandhas known as alapti which further developed in dhrupad and ldhyal-singing is described in the fourth chapter. A different interpretation of the process of bhañjani, a variety of alapti, is also put forward here. Svara, tala and words permeate both alapa and bandi. A thought has been given to their contribution and their significance to both bandi and alapa.

In post-Ratnãkara period, prabandhas in Sanskrit lost their appeal and many compositions evolved with the regional languages such as dhrupad, dhamara, kavitta, l$hyal, thumri, etc. Among these newly evolved compositions in the medieval period, an evolution of dhrupad, dhamãra, lhyal, and thumri only is discussed, which is available in the fifth chapter.

While dealing with various opinions regarding evolution of dhrupad, the opinion that “dhruva prabandha of salaga sUçia variety is the predecessor of dhrupad” has been given more supporting references. The reason why dhruva prabandha bears that specific name has also been pointed out.

Opinions differ on the evolution of lçhyal. The invention of lhyal is attributed by the historians to Amir Ihusro or to Sultan Hussain Sharqi of Jaunpur. A different view in this respect, that khyal is a regional version of rãsaka prabandha, is put forward in this work by the author. It is inferred that Hussain Sharqi introduced regional language in a rasaka prabandha which was popularly known as cutkulã, which in later period came to be known as chotã lçhyal or druta lhyal. Due to its association with qawwali singers, it lost its original name chutikilã.

Thumri and dhamãra have a long tradition behind. Ancient nãtya was known as rupaka and there were some minor varieties of rupakas, dominated by nrtya. Their short description in this chapter will support the opinion that entry varieties like rãsaka, carcari are related to humrI and dhamara.

In the last chapter, the two forms of gandharva, spiritual as well as recreational, have been described. Saptagitakas, the songs of gandharva, reveal the spiritual aspects of gandharva while dhruvã, represent its recreational form called gãna. A short description of saptagitakas and dhruvãs, the songs of ancient drama, is made available in this chapter. Niiya and its two varieties, tandava and lasya were also performed both for propitiatory and recreational purposes. This is also discussed in this chapter.

The lasya form of entry further found its way into nautically dance of prabandhas and dhrupad nrtya in dhrupadas. It is brought into light that the tradition of today’s music has a link with lasya entry.

Along with saptagitakas, gãndharva included the songs such as rk, gatha, pãizika, etc., also seven in number. Although included in gandharva, they contained a delicate and appealing form of gandharva. It has been inferred here that dhruvãs have more similarity with these songs than with the gitakas, which contained the rigid and spiritual form of gandharva. Bharata has specified these rake etc. songs as standard for composing the dhruva songs. They were also the model source for songs employed in lasya dominated uparupakas, meant for delighting common listeners. Lãsya arid its components further developed in prabandhas of die music. They are thus the original source of contemporary Indian music.

In the last chapter a review is taken of the changes that have occurred since ancient times, in the compositional forms of Hindustani music.



In writing this book, I take inspiration from my parents and guru Pt. Dilip Chandra Bedi, from whom I took my training in the vocal music.

Many a scholar, historian, musician, and author from the ancient to modern era have contributed significantly to the beautiful mosaic that is Indian music today: In making this humble offering, I stand on the shoulders of these great luminaries who have shown light and showed direction.

I am particularly grateful to Prof. Krishna Bisht, former Head of the Department of the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts at Delhi University for her continual encouragement and valuable and timely suggestions.

My family has been a constant source of encouragement and help, their excitement and prodding has sustained me during long days of hard work during the writing. Without their help, this book would not have seen light of day.

Words of guidance from my senior teachers at the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts at Delhi University were constant and their cooperation was great help. During the earlier stages of this book, Mr W.N. Deshmukh provided direction and encouragement.

Mr Ashok Jam of Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers of New Delhi, further deserves my thanks for taking up the publication of this work.

Many a time, friends too innumerable to mention came to my aid for which I am sincerely grateful.




  Foreword ix
  Preface xi
  Acknowledgements XVII
  Transliteration xviii
  Abbreviations XiX
1 Compositions in Indian Music 1
2 Compositions in Post-Bharata Period 25
3 Changes in Prabandhas by the Period of Ratnakara 76
4 Raga-presentation with Prabandhas 93
5 Compositions Evolved in Medieval Period 124
6 Spiritual and Recreational Forms of Gandharva 178
7 Changes in the Features of Compositions since Ancient Times 227
  Appendices: Examples of Compositions 239
I Astapadi of Jayadeva 241
II Vividha Racanaom ke Udãharana 247
III Surviving Features and Forms of Prabandhas in Maharashtra’s Art Music 263
IV An Origin of Nãtya 268
  Glossary 271
  Bibliography 282
  Index 286

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