The Gharanas in Hindustani Music – Vol 02


Enayet  Khan with Surbahar


We, the Indians inculcate all the three pillars of performing arts, that is, vocal music, instrumental music and dance into the
definition of music. Perhaps, this notion can also be traced back in the very famous ancient and historic manuscript entitled
“Sangeet Ratnakar”, where it has been said: “Geetam vadayam tatha nrityam trayam sangeetam uchatay” (Brahaspati, 2002)
means music is defined as the art of singing, playing an instrument and dancing.

Under the Hindustani Classical Music, the tradition of “Gharana” system holds special importance. Perhaps, this feature
is so unique that no where around the world can one find this sought of a tradition. The Gharana system is followed by both
the North-Indian as well as the South-Indian forms of Indian classical music. In south India, the term Gharana is
acknowledged by the word “Sampraya”. In ancient times, there existed several Samprayas such as the “Shivmat”, the
“Bhramamat” and the “Bharatmat” (Pranjpay, 1992). It is believed that in ancient times, there existed a single form of the style
of Indian Classical Music. However, the advent of the Muslims had a great impact on the Indian Classical Music and this
created a division into this form of music. This lead to the regeneration of two forms of Indian Classical Music: the Carnatic
Music (The South Indian and otherwise the original version of Indian Classical Music.) and the Hindustani Music (The North
Indian and the improvised version of the Indian Classical Music).

One of the most unique and exclusive feature which is incorporated in the teaching of Indian Classical Music is the “Guru-
Shishya” tradition. Perhaps, in recent times, the education of Indian Classical Music is also imparted in several institutions,
schools, colleges and universities. However, history and statistics reveal that even now the finest artists of the Indian
Classical Music are produced through the “Guru-Shishya” tradition. In India, the Gharana system has contributed to all the
three forms of music, that is vocal, instrumental and dance.

The Gharana comes into existence through the confluence of the “Guru” and the “Shishya” (Chaubey, 1977). A talented
“Guru” through his intelligence, aptitude and shear practice creates a sense of uniqueness and exclusivity and thereby
inculcates a special eminence into his form of music. These attributes and traits are amicably transferred into the talented
“Shishya” and the particular form of the performing arts thus becomes a tradition. These exceptional qualities are in fact so
strong and prominent that the audiences can immediately recognize the Gharana of the artist.

It is believed that when so ever the form or style created by the founder “Guru” is carried forth till three generations; it
turns in to the form of “Gharana”. The name of the Gharana can be same as the name of the founder “Guru”, or came be
named after the place where the founder “Guru” resided. For example, in the field of Hindustani Vocal Music, there exists
several Gharanas (Deshpandey 1973) such as the Gwalior Gharana, the Dilli Gharana, the Kirana Gharana, the Agra
Gharana etc. Similarly, under the Instrumental Music the Senia Gharana, the Senia Maihar Gharana, the Etawah Gharana
and the Imdadkhani Gharana hold special place (Mankaran, 2000). Likewise, the Jaipur Gharana and the Lucknow Gharana
are famous for dance (Shrivastav, 1985).

The Imdadakhani Gharana (BUDHADITYA, 2012), school of music traces its stems from the very ancient Gwalior
Gharana. The founder of the tradition of the Imdadkhani Gharana was Ustad Sahabdad Hussain. He was intimately related to
Ustad Haddu Khan of the Gwalior Gharana. In fact, he was brought up in his house and received training in Khayal singing
from him. Ustad Shahabdad Hussain also used to play sitar.

The Imdadkhani Gharana is named after Ustad Imdad Khan, the son of Ustad Shahabdad Hussain. Ustad Imdad Khan
was born in Agra. He was the court musician of Indore. Ustad Imdad Khan was initially instigated into vocal music and later
into sitar by his father. Subsequently, he listened and learnt from a number of stalwarts and connoisseurs in this particular
field and consequently cultivated a completely new style of Sitar and Surbahar playing. This eventually led to the
establishment of a new Gharana called the Imdadkhani Gharana, also called the Etawah Gharana, after a village outside
Agra where Ustad Imdad Khan lived. The Imdadkhani Gharana proliferated over from Etawah to Kolkata, Indore, Hyderabad,
Mumbai and subsequently through the whole country.
Invariably as Ustad Imdad Khan, his son Ustad Enayat Khan was one of the most renowned Sitarists of the early 20th
century. Credit remunerates to Ustad Enayat Khan for making the art of Sitar playing more affable and popular for a larger
audience in the cultural capital of India, which is Kolkata. Earlier to this, the Sitar was heard primarily in a lesser circle by
music fanatics. Apart from popularization of this art, Ustad Enayat Khan also developed and improvised the
architecture/design of the Sitar. Ustad Enayat Khan died at a very early age of only 43 and left four children. His son, the
illustrious sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan (VILAYAT, 2012, MEDIEVAL, 2012, WAJAHATKHAN, 2012) was the greatest
exponents of the Imdadkhani Gharana and one the most magnificent sitar player of all times. Pandit Bimalendu Mukherjee,
the well-known sitarist and doyen of the Imdadkhani Gharana was also a disciple of Ustad Enayat Khan. His son and disciple,
one of the greatest sitar players of all times, the world renowned sitarist, Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee is the greatest stalwart
of the Imdadkani Gharana.
Section 2 of this manuscript provides a detailed description of the major features of the Imdadkhani Gharana. The
detailed intricacies of the technique of playing the instrument have been analyzed. Tuning system and the structural
modulations of the sitar under the Imdadkhani Gharana are described in section 3. A detailed study reveals the exclusive
implications of the modulations, along with a brief comparison amongst the instrument design corresponding to the other
Gharanas. This is followed by the raga repertoire in section 4. An informative and sequential study is made in this particular
section. Finally, the conclusions are drawn in section 5.


The Imdadkhani Gharana inculcates a distinctive characteristic for the sitar playing called the gayaki ang. This refers to the
technique where the Sitar player is intended to come as close as possible to the articulate potency and variety of human
voice. Thus, this refers to the intonation of the human voice on the instrument. Under the Imdadakhani Gharana, the Raag
Alaap was initiated in the conduct in which it is practiced in the khayal singing. The entire vocal embellishment of the khayal
style was absorbed and integrated into the art of sitar playing. According to the capacity of the instrument, the string
deflections were enlarged to at least five notes. The raga development inculcated the ‘Khatka-jhatka’ type of ‘alankars’ and
the maximum exploitation of the ‘aans’, which is the continuity of the sound after the string plucking. Also, the plucking work
was constrained to the right index finger. Furthermore, the ‘Jhala’ and the ‘Thok-jhala’ were instituted as discrete sections.
The rhythmic pattern was enriched tremendously by incorporating all the khayal taans, tabla-pakhwaj bols and the
introduction of several rhythmic variations and subdivision of tempo. An explicit sequence and progression was inculcated into
the playing of ‘gat-toda’ and the composition of splendid ‘todas’, with the subsequent matching ‘tehais’. Major structural
transformations to both the Sitar and Surbahar & Foundation and development of the instrumental style known as the ‘gayaki
ang’ are amongst the major achievements of the Imdadkhani Gharana.


Tuning of an instrument depends prominently on the instrumentalist’s Gharana or style, convention and each artist’s
respective inclination. The tonic in the Hindustani Classical system is insinuated as “Sadaj”. It refers to ‘sa’ or ‘kharaj’.
Traditionally, the principal playing string is virtually tuned a perfect fourth above the tonic. Generally, the second string is
tuned to the tonic. Subsequently, the sympathetic strings are tuned to the notes of the raga being played. Perhaps, there
exists a minor aesthetic modification to the order of these and how they are tuned. Every Raga demands the re-tuning of the
instrument. The strings are tuned by tuning hooks. Furthermore, the key playing strings can be fine-tuned by sliding a bead
threaded on each string just below the bridge and also by very small and efficient steel pegs which are nowadays gaining
popularity. A comparative analysis between the common tuning “Kharaj-Pancham” sitar (exercised by Pt. Ravi Shankar) and
“Gandhar Pancham” (exercised under the Imdadkhani Gharana) is as follows:
In the “Kharaj-Pancham” sitar, the Chikari strings are tuned as: Sa (high), Sa (middle) and Pa, whereas in the Imdadkhani
school, the Kharaj string is detached and substituted by a fourth String, which is tuned to Ga. Inculcating these combinations,
the sitarist produces a harmony Sa, Sa, Pa, Ga, or Sa, Sa, Ma, Ga or Sa, Sa, Dha, Ga, contingent to the Raga which is being
played. However, the Jod and the Baaj strings are tuned in the similar fashion in both the Gharanas. The Jod string is tuned
to Sa and the Baaj string is tuned to Ma.

Under the Imdadkhani Gharana, a large number of improvisations were made to the instrument for executing the Gayaki
ang into the instrument. Ustad Vilayat Khan increased the thickness of the Tabli and the Tar-gahan. Also, a joint was
introduced between the tumba and the stem, so that the instrument could withhold larger stress and strain. Furthermore, with
the passage of time, the tumba was enlarged and stem became slightly broader. In order to cut down the metallic sound of
the frets, Ustad Vilayat Khan supplanted the brass frets with an alloy of superior quality. Furthermore, the material and
thickness of the strings were also critically modulated. The Baaj, Gandhar and the Pancham strings were steel strings of
gauge number 3. The Jod string was made from brass with gauge number 27. All the Tarabs and the two Chikari strings were
made of steel with gauge number 0.

Another major structural modification of the instrument was the removal of the upper tumba. During early times, when
electronic amplification, were not plausible, this upper tumba was beneficiary in boosting the volume of the instrument with a
better delivery of the harmonics. However, with the advancement of technology, the Imdadkhani Gharana sitar got devoid of
this part and the stem efficiently served as a resonator. The jawari-bridge was considerably modified in a manner to provide a
better acoustic experience. Moreover, the traditional ivory jawaris were replaced by ebony and polymer jawaris. The
conventional sitar incorporated seven strings streaming over the main bridge. However, under the Imdadkhani Gharana the
number of strings reduced to six. This lead to the removal of the lowest octave, but were replaced with strings tuned to the
middle, which acted as fillers over and above the Chikari strings. These structural and tuning vicissitudes directly inculcated
the Gayaki ang into the instrument.


The Imdadkhani Gharana is receptive to all the ancient, rare and well-established Ragas, but it has a convention of
specializing in a certain Ragas for concert performances. However, this situation varies from artist to artist, as every individual
has a different musical temperament, even if he or she belongs to the same Gharana. As per the historians , Ustad Enayet
Khan and Ustad Imdad Khan concentrated on very few Ragas for concert performances. On the other hand, Ustad Vilayat
Khan rendered the rarest Ragas to his audiences. Statistics suggest that the following Ragas have been extensively explored
and performed by the stalwarts of the Imdadkhani Gharana: Ahir Bhairav, Lalit , Miyan ki Todi, Bhimpalasi, Shuddha Sarang,
Marwa, Puriya, Puriya Kalyan, Bihag, Kedar, Kamod, Hameer, Shuddha Kalyan,Yaman, Jog, Vachaspati, Darbari Kanada
Yet another distinct feature of the Imdadkhani Gharana is that most of the renditions are performed in the Teen taal,
though explorations are also made in the Ek taal as well as Jhap taal. The various stalwarts of this Gharana have ardently
played and explored the traditional and the mature ragas of the Hindustani Classical Music. They have shown little zeal and
enthusiasm towards the creation of the new ragas. Every phrase of the raga is tried out in diverse ways and explored deeply
to render the coveted harmonic melodious acoustics anticipated by the artist.


It is quite evident that the Imdadkhani Gharana has emerged as one of the most prominent and enduring pillar of the
Hindustani Classical Music. The simplicity and exclusive magnificence of the Gharana has brewed it into a much coveted
school of music. The “gayaki ang” is the biggest asset of this Gharana and leads to breaking of barriers between the vocal
and instrumental music. The main attribute to the success and widespread popularity of the Gharana goes to its founder
“gurus” and stalwarts, who brought about revolutions in the field of Indian Classical Music. This manuscript ascribes a detailed
description of the basic traits inherent to this Gharana. Furthermore, a brief comparative analysis is also performed between
this Gharana and the other prevalent Gharanas, based basically upon the tuning systems and the structural modification
details of the instrument.


1. Brahaspati A. Sangeet Ratnakar, Sangeet Karyalay, Hathras, 2002
2. Pranjpay S. S. Sangeet Bodh, Madya Pradesh Hindi Granth Academy, Bhopal, 1992
3. Chaubey S. K. Sangeet ke Gharano ki Charcha, Uttar Pradesh Hindi Granth Academy, Lucknow, 1977
4. Deshpandey V. H. Gharanedar Gayaki, Oriental Longman Limited, New Delhi, 1973
5. Mankaran V. Sangeet Saar, Raj Publishers, Jalandhar 2000
6. Shrivastav H. Raga Parichay, Sangeet Sadan Prakashan, Allahabad, 1985
7. BUDHADITYA (2012) Accessed on 10 th November, 2012
8. VILAYAT (2012) Accessed on 21 st November 2012
9. MEDIEVAL (2012) Accessed on 12th December 2012
10. WAJAHATKHAN(2012) Accessed on 12th December 2012

(Courtesy of  Gagandeep Hothi*
1. Research Scholar, Dept. of Performing Arts, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla-5, India1. Research Scholar, Dept. of Performing Arts, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla-5, India)



About RAM Chandrakausika राम च 51

Ram51 is a researcher in the various fields of Musicology, Philosophy and History as well as old languages. One of his first topics is the wide scope of Indo-arabic cultures as represented in various art-forms religion and history. Below a list of selected Research topics which sum up partitionally the task of anthropological Frameworks in totaliter : Sanskrit Hinduism and Mythology Hindustani Music, The Muqhal Empire Gharanas from North India Kashmir Sufiyana The Kashmir Santoor Traditional Folk Music from USA Philosophy in Orient and Okzident Genealogy of musical instruments Ethnomusicology, Arabic Maqams, No Theatre fromJapan, North american poetry, Cultural heritage of mankind and Islamic architecture... View all posts by RAM Chandrakausika राम च 51

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