Author Archives: RAM Chandrakausika राम च 51

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...




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: “Geetamvadayam 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
specialimportance. Perhaps, this feature is so unique that no where around
the world can onefind this sought of a tradition. The Gharana system is followed by boththe 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, theeducation of Indian Classical Music is also imparted inseveral institutions,
schools, colleges and universities. However, history and statistics reveal that even nowthe finest artists of the Indian Classical Music are produced through the “Guru-Shishya” tradition.n India, the Gharana system has contributed to all thethree 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 practicecreates a sense of uniqueness and exclusivity and therebyinculcates a special eminence into his form of music. These attributes and traits are amicably transferred into the talented “Shishya” and the particular form of theperforming 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 nameof the Gharana can be same as the nameof 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 AgraGharana etc. Similarly, under the Instrumental Music the Senia Gharana, the Senia Maihar
Gharana, the Etawah Gharanaand 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(1848-1920)

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

Credit remunerates to Ustad Enayat Khan for making the art of Sitar playing more affable and popular for a largeraudience 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 wasintroduced 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 ofspecializing 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 EnayetKhan 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 ofthe 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
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)




                                                       The Etawah Gharana

(Courtes by Shahid Parvez)

This style comes from of the most ancient school of music, the Gwalior gharana. It is also known as the Imdadkhani gharana after Ustad Imdad Khan, the son of Ustad Sahebdad Khan. Ustad Sahebdad Khan was trained and influenced by Ustad Haddu and Ustad Hassu Khan of the Gwalior gharana, and thus dhrupad and khayal vocal genres can be glimpsed in the playing style and in the choice of ragas. To the techniques of Been and Rebab many new techniques have been added.Ustad Imdad Khan and his sons Ustad Inayat Khan and Ustad Wahid Khan made this gharana famous. Ustad Vilayat Khan, son of Ustad Inayat Khan, furthur developed his father and uncle’s handling of midh and murki. He also modified the structure of Sitar.

Based on the classical structure of the raga, this gharana includes alap, jor and jhala (slow then accelerating improvisation) without percussion as it is played in dhrupad, followed by the khayal composition called Gat, with the tabla, developed in numerous improvisations on rhythm and note like tans and layakaris (modified version, source:
Ustad Imdad Khan

Instrumental in developing the unique style that characterizes the Etawah Gharana, Ustad Imdad Khan was one of the most influential instrumentalists of Indian Classical Music. He helped to establish the Etawah Gharana, which is also known as the Imdadkhani Gharana.Ustad Imdad Khan was born into a musical family. His father was Ustad Sahabdab Khan, the founder of the Etawah Gharana.

Ustad Sahabdab Khan was a close relative of Ustad Haddu Khan of Gwalior Gharana. Initially Sahabdab Khan was taught khayal vocals by Ustad Haddu Khan, but later took up Sitar. He later moved to Etawah, from which the gharana’s name is derived.

Although Ustad Sahabdab Khan was the founder of the gharana, It was Ustad Imdad Khan who developed the instruments, and created an innovative instrumental style that became characteristic of the gharana. Imdad Khan heard and studied the contemporary styles of various stalwarts of music of his time. He then developed an original style, one that was radically different from the then prevalent Senia style for playing the surbahar and sitar, thus ushering in a new era.

Ustad Imdad Khan introduced elements of khayal gayaki into the alap for the first time. All gayaki ornamentations were implemented and systematically developed into the techniques for this newly developed style for playing sitar. All khayal taans, tabla and pakhawaj bols, and the numerous rhythmic variations and subdivisions of the tempo were interspersed, strengthening the interaction of the swara and the laya. Jhala and thok jhala were introduced as separate sections. A definite sequence was brought into playing the gat toda, and the composition of exciting todas with matching tihais added new grandeur to a sitar recital. This new style that was to gain in popularity throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and that continues to flourish with proponents like Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan, has come to be known as Imdadkhani.

Commissioned by Mysore kings in whose courts he served, Ustad Imdad Khan became the first Sitar player to come out with a recording. RPG / EMI has brought out those timeless recordings in a two CD album. Chairman’s Choice – Great Gharana – Imdadkhani (CMC 882507-08).Ustad Imdad Khan had two sons, Ustad Enayet Khan and Ustad Waheed Khan who took up Sitar and Surbahar

Ustad Wahid Khan

Instrumental in developing the unique style that characterizes the Etawah Gharana, Ustad Imdad Khan was one of the most influential instrumentalists of Indian Classical Music.

He helped to establish the Etawah Gharana, which is also known as the Imdadkhani Gharana. Ustad Imdad Khan was born into a musical family. His father was Ustad Sahabdab Khan, the founder of the Etawah Gharana.

Ustad Enayet Khan was a master of Sitar and Surbahar. He developed the ‘Gayaki Ang’ in sitar, which his father had developed for the surbahar and his sons would further develop this, which would come to be known as a trademark of their gharana.

He gave a new dimension to the crafting and manufacture of the sitar and his structural modifications of the instrument are still used in the instruments of today whilst his musical contributions are standardized practice for today’s musicians. The flair with which he played made him one of the greatest musicians of his generation and his legendary recordings illustrate and record the contributions he has made to music. Ustad Enayet Khan was a great ambassador for Indian classical music in India. He popularized the sitar and made it accessible for the general population. This was a time when many of the famous Indian music festivals were started. His music was the soul of India in those times of change and he had a great and unrivalled following throughout the country. This contribution to popular arts and culture can be illustrated by his friendship with Rabindranath Tagore, the legendary writer, artist and poet. Together these two giants of culture put poetry to music to bring it alive in some of the most famous Indian folk songs and anthems. Each inspired the other to take the arts of India to dizzying new heights.

Ustad Enayet Khan dedicated his life to music; He played, taught and lived with an equal passion to strengthen the name of his gharana and the profile of classical music in his country.
Ustad Waheed Khan

One of the greatest musicians in the canon of Indian Classical Music, Ustad Waheed Khan is an important figure in the Etawah gharana’s history. An acclaimed musician on both the sitar and surbahar, Waheed Khan’s life’s purpose was to be a herald for Indian Classical Music; he devoted his life to spreading his music everywhere. Living his life modestly, he made his home in different parts of India for brief periods of time, spreading the innovative style of his gharana with unwavering devotion and elegance. One such initiative included appearance in legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s “Jalsaghar” (The Music Room,1958) where Ustad Waheed Khan performs on the surbahar in one of the scenes.A true emissary, he lived well into his 70s and his immense contribution to Indian Classical Music was recognized when he became the first musician to receive the illustrious “Sangeet Natak Academy Award” the highest national recognition given to performing artists in India.

He was the father of Ustad Aziz Khan and Ustad Hafeez Khan. Ustad Hafeez Khan was a celebrated playback singer, known in the film industry as ‘H. Khan Mastana’. His brother, Ustad Aziz Khan would also carry on the family’s musical traditions and go on to make significant contributions to Indian Classical Music
Ustad Hafeez Khan

A select few are born with an extraordinary gift of talent yet, more often, these people end up being oblivious to their own talent, and people are left wondering what would have happened had this person lived up to his full potential. Ustad Hafeez Khan was on of them. He was the eldest son of the legendary musician Ustad Waheed Khan Saab. He not only received extensive training on the sitar and surbahar but also in vocal music. After the independence of India, the patrons of Indian Classical Music that is the Maharajas and Nawabs became commoners and classical musicians suffered as a result. Classical music, at that time, was still a form of chanber-music, and with the demise of the great Ustads like Allahdiya Khan Saab, Abdul Kareem Khan Saab, Enayat Khan Saab, Faiyyaz Khan Saab, the future of a performing classical musician was looking very bleak. It was at this time that Ustad Hafeez Khan decided to enter the Bombay Film Industry as a playback singer to earn his daily bread. He went on to become a celebrated playback singer known in the film industry as H.R Khan Mastana. Incidentally, one of the most famous playback singers of all time, Mohammed Rafi started his playback career as a chorus singer in one of his songs. He also composed music for several films. Ustad Shahid Parvez being his nephew received extensive taleem in vocal music and surbahar from Ustad Hafeez Khan Saab.

Be it as a vocalist or instrumentalist Ustad Hafeez Khan could have easily gone on to become one of the foremost musicians of his generation, yet he never gave it a real try. A rare recording of Ustad Hafeez Khan, present in the family archives, reveals the virtuosity of this talented musician both as a vocalist and instrumentalist. People are left wondering what would have happened had this person perused a career as a performing Indian Classical Musician.
Ustad Aziz Khan

Ustad Aziz Khan is the youngest son of sitar and surbahar maestro Ustad Waheed Khansaab. The young Gunna Bhai, as Aziz Khansaab was lovingly addressed by his family members, was introduced to music at a very young age and as years passed by he received extensive “taleem” (lessons) in the music of the gharana from his lengendary Guru and father Ustad Waheed Khansaab, in vocal music, sitar and surbahar.

He also received some taleem from his equally legendary uncle Ustad Enayat Khansaab.Although his repertoire of traditional taleem was highly enviable, he did not take up sitar or surbahar as a source of lively hood. Instead, he took up music – composition as his profession. However, he never left his “sadana” that is music and performed in occasional concerts from time to time. He became a professional music composer in the Bollywood film industry composing under the pseudonym Aziz-Hindi. Even here his musical talents came to the fore. He enjoyed considerable success while composing for films like “Intezar ke bad,” “parvartan -1949,” “Putli – 1950,” “Actor 1952,” “Thoop Chaon – 1954,” “Danka -1954,” “Chalta Poorza – 1958.” Ustad Aziz Khan also composed music for several other films in partnership with another lyricist and composer, Khaiyyam. In these films, they use to call themselves “Sharma ji – Varma ji.” The very first film that they composed for was a huge hit called “Heer- Ranjha”. A few other films for which the “Sharma ji – Varma ji” duo composed music were “Parda,” “Biwi,” “Pyar ki batein,” etc, which were all musical hits. However, no matter how good he was as a composer or how famous he became as a composer, Aziz Khansaab’s taking up music as a profession did not go down well with his father. Ustad Waheed Khansaab was of the idea that a “gharanadar” and “khandani” musician, who has received so much taleem, must earn his bread through “mujlishs” (concerts) only and not through any other means. Ustad Waheed Khansaad made his displeasure known to his sons and told that he could only be pleased if and only if, he was assured that his grandchild would be trained in the music of the gharana and his grandchild would pick up sitar or surbahar as his profession, so that his grandchild could one day go on to become the torchbearer of the Etawah Gharana.

In fact, after this incident, Ustad Aziz Khan’s life long quest was to train his son. He was demanding and very strict as a Guru. He would often say to his son, the young Shahid Parvez, – “I want you to play like this and I will make you play like this, no matter what it takes.” Often the Ustad’s wife would bring in food and he would forget about the food and go on teaching his son oblivious of the fact that his son would also be hungry. Ustad Aziz Khan Saab was a very hounest man. He didn’t believe in taking students for the sake of it or just to increase the numbers. However, he had quite a few students other than his foremost disciple and son Shahid Parvez Khan; and whoever was fortunate enough to receive his blessings as a student, has become established as a musician in his life. He was very strict but even more honest as a Guru.

However, those that have listened to his sitar or surbahar or to the songs that he has composed will know that Ustad Aziz Khansaab was a true artist; and music was the love of his life.
Ustad Vilayat Khan

Ustad Vilayat Khan stands out as one of the greatest sitar players of all time. He was born in year 1928 in the village of Gauripur (present day Bangladesh). During his lifetime, he became one of the most influential musicians of Indian Classical Music. Several people influenced Khan sahib’s music. Ustad Enayet Khan, his father, Ustad Waheed Khan, his uncle, Ustad Zinda Hussain Khan, his maternal uncle, Ustad Faiyaz Khan and Ustad Abdul Karim Khan deserve special mention in this regard. He developed the “Gayaki Ang” which became his trademark. Khan sahib made several changes to the structure of the sitar and these include the concept of “Gol Jawari”.Ustad Vilayat Khan’s professional career was extensive. He made several international tours, he has numerous recordings, and has scored music for several films, including Satyajit Ray’s “Jalsaghar”.

He was a longtime critic of the political machinations that were behind the awarding of many of India’s honours. He refused the Padmabhushan (one of India’s top civilian honours), and was a longtime critic of the manner in which All India Radio was run. The only title that he ever embraced was the title Aftab-e-Sitar (Sun of Sitar). Ustad Vilayat Khan died of lung cancer at the Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai on March 13th, 2004. He was 76 years of age.


                                                          Imdad Khani Gharana
also known as:
Etawah Gharana
Imdadkhani Gharana
Imdad Khani Sitar and Surbahar Gharana

Haddu Khan, Hassu Khan, Sahabdad Khan

There was a Rajput in the middle of the 19th century in Gwalior. At that time there were two leaders of the Gwalior musical darbar, two brothers, Haddu and Hassu Khan. Haddu Khan was a dhrupad, and Hassu Khan was a khyal singer. They have their own unique style, and they practice only at night. Sahib Singh – who was probably a relative of Haddu Khan – was refused as a disciple, so paid for a servant to lock him in the huge bird cage of the room where the brothers practice. He had listend to them to practice every night for 7 years. Once the two brothers were roaming the streets of Gwalior where they heard their style form a house. They wanted to see which disciple of them was practicing, but they found Sahib Singh only. Haddu wanted to kill him, but Hassu made calm him down, because he realized the love for the music in the boy. Sahib Singhet was accepted as a disciple. Later he converted to Muslim so he got the new name: Sahabdad Khan. He also learned from the Senia musician Nirmal Shah, and played the surbahar, invented by himself, and jaltarang as well. He lived in Etawah (so sometimes they call the gharana: Etawah Gharana ) where he was a musician of the Naugaon darbar. He had two sons, the older was Imdad Khan and the younger was Karimdad Khan, both had been thought for twelve years by their father.

Imdad Khan (1858-1920)

Imdad Khan: Raga Darbari Kanada (1904)

Ustad Imdad Khan was born in Agra, as the second generation of what was to become the Etawah Gharana (school) or Imdadkhani , named after the village outside Agra where the family soon moved. He was taught by his father, Sahabdad Khan, a trained vocalist and self-taught sitar player, but Imdad Khan came to greatly develop and define the family style and techniques. Imdad Khan was also trined by the legendary beenkar Ustad Bande Ali Khan (disciple and son-in-law of Ustad Haddu Khan. In the 19th Century, the instrumental classical music of North India was dominated by the Senia style, passed down through the musical dynasty of Miyan Tansen’s descendants, who played in the dhrupad ang. Imdad instead evolved a style based on the newer, more popular khyal singing. It is said that in his youth at Etawah, Imdad practiced on the sitar in a state of chilla (isolation) for some twelve years.

Imdad attained great fame in his lifetime: he played for Queen Victoria in Delhi; he served as a court musician in Mysore (even though he was a northerner and South India has its own classical music, different from that of the north); and he was the first sitar player ever to be recorded. Some of these recordings have been released on CD, on the Great Gharanas: Imdadkhani compilation in RPG/EMI’s Chairman’s Choice series.

He taught the sitar and surbahar to his two sons, Enayat and Waheed Khan. He used to say that his two sons were his two hands, and although both of them played the sitar and the surbahar equally well, Enayat Khan’s specialization was the sitar and Waheed khan’s specialization was the surbahar. Ustad Imdad Khan actually shifted base from Etawah to Kolkata with his two sons and the house in which they lived was named “riyaz”.

Enayat Khan (1894-1938)

Enayat Khan: Raga Bhairavi (1920)

Enayat Khan was born in Uttar Pradesh into a family of musicians. His father was sitar great Imdad Khan, who taught him the sitar and surbahar in the family style, known as the Imdadkhani Gharana or Etawah Gharana, after a village outside Agra where Imdad once lived. He married Basiran Bibi, daughter of khyal singer Bande Hussain, and settled with his family in Calcutta, where, though he only lived to 43, he did much pioneering work on the sitar. For example, he standardised its physical dimensions and added the upper resonator gourd, which is very popular with today’s players (though his own descendants have not kept using it). In a place rapidly developing into an important North Indian centre of the arts, at a time where interest in national culture was strong fuelled by the struggle for independence, he brought sitar music out from its narrow connoisseur circles to new mass audiences. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore was a musical collaborator and personal friend. Some of Enayat Khan’s recordings have been released on CD, on the Great Gharanas: Imdadkhani compilation in RPG/EMI’s Chairman’s Choice series.

Enayat died young, with four children. His two sons, Vilayat and Imrat, were trained in the Imdadkhani style by other members of his extended family. Vilayat learned the sitar and Imrat the surbahar; both were to become very famous classical musicians.

Vilayat Khan (1927-2004)

Vilayat Khan, Shankar Ghosh (tabla): Raga Darbari Kanada gat (exception)

Vilayat Khan, Kashinath Mishra (tabla): Raga Vilayat Khani Kanada gat (exception)

Vilayat Khan, Sabir Khan (tabla): Raga Sanjh Saravali

Vilayat Khan was born into a family of musicians tracing its pedigree generations back to the court musicians of the Mughal rulers. His father was Enayat Khan (1895–1938), recognised as a leading sitar and surbahar (bass sitar) player of his time, as had been the grandfather, Imdad Khan (1848–1920), before him. Vilayat was taught in the family style, known as the Imdadkhani Gharana, or Etawah Gharana, after a village outside Agra where Imdad lived.

However, Enayat Khan died when Vilayat was only nine, so much of his education came from the rest of his family: his uncle, sitar and surbahar maestro Wahid Khan, his maternal grandfather, singer Bande Hassan Khan, and his mother, Bashiran Begum, who had studied the practice procedure of Imdad, Enayat and Wahid. Vilayat’s uncle Zinde Hassan looked after his riyaz (practice). As a boy, Vilayat wanted to be a singer; but his mother, herself from a family of vocalists, felt he had a strong responsibility to bear the family torch as a sitar maestro.

The Imdadkhani Gharana never added the bass string to their sitar, which is a smaller, lighter instrument, easier to handle, than for example Ravi Shankar’s. In the 1950s, both Vilayat and Ravi worked closely with instrument makers to further develop their respective instruments, but it was in different directions. As a result, their sounds and playing styles were also wildly different. Whereas Ravi Shankar’s sitar was large and vina-like, intended for play across multiple registers using multiple melody strings, Vilayat’s was small, with a clean and metallic sound, completely without buzz; it did not reach to the lowest register; and it perfectly facilitated his enormous playing speed. Also, Vilayat liked to perform without a tanpura drone, filling out the silence with strokes to his chikari strings. There was much more going on in his playing than the melody itself.

When he died from lung cancer in 2004, Vilayat Khan had been recording for over 65 years, broadcasting on All-India Radio since almost as far back and been seen as a master (Ustad) for 60. He had been touring outside India off and on for more than 50 years, and was probably the first Indian musician to play in England after independence (1951). In the 1990s, his recording career reached a climax of sorts with a series of ambitious CDs for India Archive Music in New York, some traditional, some controversial, some eccentric. Towards the end of his life, he also performed and recorded sporadically on the surbahar.

Vilayat Khan spent much of his life living in Calcutta. He was married twice, his first marriage ending in divorce; he had two daughters, Zila and Yaman (named after ragas), and two sons, Shujaat (b. 1960) and Hidayat (b. 1975), who both play the sitar. He was survived also by his younger brother, Imrat Khan, the post-war star of the surbahar field. The brothers played celebrated duets in their youth. Vilayat took few disciples other than his sons; among the best-known are Kasinath Mukherjee, Arvind Parikh and Kalyani Roy.

Away from the sitar he enjoyed horse-riding, pool playing, swimming and ballroom dancing. His successes made him rich, and though he grew more pious late in life, he used to drive sports cars and dress in haute couture, and also collected such various items as firearms, smoking pipes, antique European crockery, cut glass and chandeliers.

Fans and media alike liked to play up Vilayat Khan’s rivalry with and animosity towards Ravi Shankar. However, in calmer moments Vilayat would admit there was not much to it. His animosity for the politics and institutions of India’s cultural life was another matter. In 1964 and 1968, respectively, he was awarded the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards – India’s fourth and third highest civilian honours for service to the nation – but refused to accept them, declaring the committee musically incompetent to judge him.

In January 2000, when he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award, he again refused, going so far as to call it “an insult”. This time, his criticism had a slightly different twist: he would not accept any award that other sitar players, his juniors and in his opinion less deserving, had been given before him. “If there is any award for sitar in India, I must get it first”, he said, adding that “there has always been a story of wrong time, wrong person and wrong award in this country”.

Among other honours he turned down was the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. For a while, he also boycotted All-India Radio. The only titles he accepted were the special decorations of “Bharat Sitar Samrat” by the Artistes Association of India and “Aftab-e-Sitar” (Sun of the Sitar) from President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.

Bimalendu Mukherjee (1925-2010)

Acharya Bimalendu Mukherjee was born in an art-loving Bengali family at Chinsurah West Bengal, on 2nd January 1925. Bimalendu Mukherjee is a learned musician – although he was an Imdadkhani sitar student of Enayat Khan, a full list of his teachers also includes sitarist Balaram Pathak, khyal singers Badri Prasad and Jaichand Bhatt of the Patiala and Kirana Gharanas, Rampur Gharana beenkar Jotish Chandra Chowdhury, sarangi and esraj maestros Halkeram Bhat (Maihar Gharana) and Chandrikaprasad Dube (Gaya Gharana) and pakhawaj drummer Madhavrao Alkutkar. He also studied with Birendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury, the zamindar of Gouripur in present-day Bangladesh, who taught him the moribund sursringar (bass sarod).

Bimalendu Mukherjee is primarily a Sitarist, though he is proficient in almost all traditional Indian instruments like Rudra-Vina, Saraswati Vina, Surbahar, Sursingar, Mandrabahar, Dilruba, Esraj, Tar Shehnai, Sarod and Pakhavaj. He is equally adept in vocal music.

His contributions to the family of stringed musical instruments are the unique “Aditya Veena” – named after his son Budhaditya – and the “Bijoy Veena” – named after his grandson Bijoyaditya. He has also revived the ‘Ektantri’ single-stringed Veena – an instrument referred to by Sharangdev – and the Sur Kanan. Besides, he has experimented, modified and improved the structure and tonal quality of many stringed instruments like the Sitar , Sarod, Surbahar, Rudraveena, Esraj, Guitar, Dilruba and the Veena.

Pandit Mukherjee has been constantly experimenting with the Western and Eastern philosophy of medical treatment. He has created Raga Anandamayee in That Kafi. His son has recorded the Raga in a novel way on the Sitar . This recording, released with the title “Anandamayee” (full of bliss and happiness), has been successfully experimented on patients of hypertension.

Pandit Mukherjee was a member of various organizations such as The International Society of Music Education, AL-MAESTRO and Hindustani Classical Music. He was formerly Additional Director, CRMM SAIL; General Manager M and Q, Bhilai Steel Plant; Vice Chancellor, Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh (M.P.) (1983-85 and 1988- 91). He also figures in Five Hundred Leaders Of Influence 1997 American Biographical Institute (U.S.A.); Reference Asia 5; Biography International 1991; Learned Asia 1; India Who’s Who 1993-94; International Who’s Who of Intellectuals 1997 and International Biographical Center Cambridge (U.K.) .

(Courtesy of Tóth Szabi)



The Gharanas of India



Music and Society

Introduction to Indian Musical Dynasties

This page aim to provide a general introduction on the traditional Indian musical institution called gharana. Indian Classical music can be described a religion whereby the music, knowledge and musical research was traditionally passed down from guru to disciple by word of mouth.  In many old musical families the guru or teacher, is the father and the disciple or student, the son.   A gharana, or musical dynasty is formed when this process of teaching is passed down for five or six generations. There  are two types of gharana in India, direct gharanas in which music has  remained within a family and indirect gharanas, where in the absence of  sons or musically talented sons, the teacher chooses to pass on his  knowledge to a talented student.  In India there are very few direct or true gharanas left.  Students will find here few articles written by renowned specialists in the field of Indian classical music.


David Courtney, Ph.D.

The concept of gharana was peculiar to North Indian music.  The word “Gharana” literally means “house” and it implies the house of the teacher.  It was linked to the very ancient concept of the Guru-Shishya-Parampara (linage of teacher /disciple) but it had some interesting twists. The names of the gharanas were almost always derived from a geographical location.  This was usually the city, district or state that the founder lived in.  Two examples are the Gwalior Gharana (vocal) or the Farukhabad Gharana (tabla). The gharana system as we think of it today was not really very old.  Most of the gharanas began not more than 100-300 years old.  The modern gharanas were generally traceable to the period when the Mogul empire collapsed. Gharanas were found throughout the North in every field of dance, vocal and instrumental music.  They tend to be distinct among themselves.  That is to say that you generally do not find tabla players saying that they are from a vocal gharana or a vocalist claiming to come from a kathak gharana.  This is reasonable.  One would not expect an accountant to use his golf skills as and endorsement of his abilities as an accountant. In the professional sense a gharana had some of the characteristics of a guild.  It was always understood that tracing ones linage to a major gharana was a prerequisite for obtaining a position in the royal courts.  The gharanas were entrusted with the duty of maintaining a certain standard of musicianship. In the artistic sense the gharana was somewhat comparable to a “style” or “school”.  Over the years poor transportation and communication caused the various gharanas to adopt their own particular approach to presentation, technique and repertoire. In the 20th century the gharana system had a negative impact on the standard of musicianship.  Improvements in communications made it a professional imperative for musicians to have as broad of a background as possible.  The secretive nature of the gharana system coupled with the fact that gharanas tended to specialize in only one technique or approach was inconsistent with modern pedagogic and professional requirements.  In the end of the 20th century, musicians who proclaim loudest that they were “such-and-such” gharana often had the least rounded background.  It is for this reason that many of the aspects of this system were abandoned by modern music colleges in India. Today the gharana exists in its vestigial form.  Although musicians routinely declare that they are such and such gharana, it usually has no practical meaning.  The loss of royal patronage coupled with the loss of artistic identity have virtually destroyed the system. Gharana is used in Hindi and Urdu to refer to the core component in the organizational structure of North Indian (or Hindustani) music and dance, in other words a family of hereditary occupational specialists. Traditionally the gharana is headed by an authoritative musician-teacher called the Khalifa, and comprises members related by blood and/or musical knowledge (talim).

David Courtney, Ph.D. has been performing on the tabla since 1972.  He first studied pakhawaj (an ancient barrel shaped drum) under the famous Zakir Hussain at the Ali Akbar College of Music.  He then moved to India and spent a number of years learning tabla under the late Ustad Shaik Dawood Khan of Hyderabad.  He has performed extensively on stage, TV, disk, and radio, in India, Europe and the United States.  Along with his wife, he composed the theme music for Houston’s Indian TV program called “ASIANA” and recorded the theme music for the radio program “INDIA FILE” which aired in the Austin area.  He has accompanied many great musicians including Ashish Khan, Lakshmi Shankar, and Pandit Jasraj He is well versed in the academic side of music.  During the 80s he received great acclaim in academic circles for his pioneering work in the application of computers to Indian music.  This work is found in his doctoral dissertation “A Low Cost System for the Computerization of North Indian Classical Music”.  He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subject of Indian music including, Introduction to Tabla, Elementary North Indian Vocal, Learning the Tabla, Fundamentals of Tabla, Advanced Theory of Tabla, Manufacture and Repair of Tabla and Focus on the Kaidas of Tabla.  His articles have appeared in “Modern Drummer” and “Percussive Notes”.  He is presently on the Board of Directors of the Texas Institute for Indian Studies.  Recently along with his wife Chandra, he was given an award of recognition for outstanding contributions to the arts by the American Telugu Association. He is very active today in musical activities.  He is an artist with Young Audiences.  He is also the percussionist in the fusion group Vani, and has several CDs to his credit.  Recently he composed and performed some music for the film “Dancing in Twilight”, a film staring Erick Avari, Louise Fletcher, Mimi Rogers, Kal Penn, Sheetal Shet.


Genealogical musings
A brief discussion of the Delhi tabla gharana

James Kippen

Delhi has been a locus for tabla playing since the early to mid-eighteenth century. Many people argue it was “invented” there, and that its inventor’s lineage is the oldest continuous tabla tradition. This is a brief outline of the Delhi lineage, including genealogical information and a little historical analysis/commentary. The information comes largely from the gharana’s khalifa, or head, the late Ustad Inam Ali Khan and his uncle, Ustad Munnu Khan. It was collected during the early 1980s, and recorded interviews with these gharana members took place in Delhi in April 1984. I hope to add further information about the repertoire as time goes on.

Caveat: I do not wish to get into a debate with my friend Daniel Neuman (The Life of Music in North India. New Delhi: Manohar, 1980) about the validity of the term “gharana” for tabla lineages. He and others know my views, and I am using the term here as those Delhi informants used it when speaking directly with me in the Urdu language. I am aware that the term came into existence only around the end of the nineteenth century, that it was used primarily by “soloists” (using Neuman’s term), and that “accompanists” like tabla players probably began using the term to validate their knowledge, raise their music to the status of an art, and to elevate their own social status.  As with all genealogies, the one I give here is incomplete and probably somewhat selective. In anthropology we call this kind of selectivity “structural amnesia”. I take the view that history is a reconstruction of the past that justifies the present. Notwithstanding, my primary source was the genealogy I saw written in Urdu. I read and speak Urdu, and I have therefore been able to verify what Delhi gharana members believe to be true. Whether the document reflects this knowledge, or the knowledge has been crystallized because this version of the family tree exists on paper, is worthy of a future debate.


No documentary evidence yet exists for the “invention” of tabla. Many scholars have tried to show either that (1) tabla existed over 2,000 years ago (temple carvings seem to indicate horizontally played drums, but alas with no organological similarity), or that (2) tabla resulted from the chopping in half of a pakhavaj. The pakhavaj theory has some credibility because of the similarity of the smaller head of that drum to the right head of the tabla pair (dahina, dayan, or simply tabla). As the excellent study of tabla by Rebecca Stewart has suggested (The Tabla in Perspective. Unpublished thesis, UCLA, 1974), tabla was most likely a hybrid drum set resulting from experiments with and adaptations of existing drums such as pakhavaj, dholak, and naqqara. The origins of tabla repertoire and technique may be found in all three, and in physical structure and playing technique there are also elements of all three: for example, the smaller pakhavaj head for the dahina, the naqqara kettledrum for the bayan, and the flexible use of the bass of the dholak. Tabla first appears in writings and in miniatures from the 1740s on. We therefore assume tabla to have first appeared sometime in the early eighteenth century. The first tabla players were undoubtedly also experts on other drums. Socially these early tabla musicians were mainly from the Dhari community (Mirasi “caste”). Some were Sunni Muslims, but a large and significant group belonged to (or at some stage had opted to convert from Hinduism to) the Shia Muslim sect. One of these Shias was Sudhar Khan Dhari. Sudhar Khan is the earliest tabla player we know of through genealogical record, and many believe he was responsible for creating this instrument. Sudhar Khan is the forefather to whom members of the Delhi tabla lineage trace their ancestry. It seems natural, therefore, that Sudhar Khan would be attributed with the tabla’s invention by default.


It is not easy to visualize a family tree from a linear description such as the one I provide below. There is a graphic representation on page 68 my book, The Tabla of Lucknow, Cambridge University Press, 1988. However, it can be quite useful and instructive if readers map out the relationships for themselves on a sheet of paper. Sudhar Khan Dhari had two sons: Chote Khan and Husain Khan. Let us deal with the younger son first, Husain Khan. On the Delhi genealogical chart I saw noted that Husain Khan had four sons, only one of whom was named: Chajju Khan. Both Delhi and Lucknow lore tell of two brothers from Delhi leaving to seek patronage in Lucknow. One of these brothers might well have been the founder of the Lucknow tabla gharana, Miyan Bakhshu Khan Dhari. There is a professed clan linkage between Delhi and Lucknow, and they are both Shia. However, somewhat confusingly, Lucknow lore tells of Bakhshu Khan arriving in Lucknow from Qasur in the Panjab (now in Pakistan, just south of Lahore).  Chote Khan had three sons: Bugara Khan, Chand Khan, and Lalle Masit Khan. Bugara Khan had two sons: Shitab Ali Khan and Gulab Ali Khan. Chand Khan had no sons. Lalle Masit Khan had one son, Nanne Khan, who in turn had no sons. Shitab Ali Khan had two sons: Muhammad Khan and Nazar Ali Khan. Gulab Ali Khan had no sons. Muhammad Khan had one son: Chote Khan. Nazar Ali Khan had no sons. Chote Khan had two sons: Gamay Khan (1883-1958) and Munnu Khan (?1900-90?), who was one of my informants. Gamay Khan had one son: Inam Ali Khan (1924-90), who was my other informant. Inam Ali has several sons, but the only one who plays tabla is Ghulam Haider Khan (though reports suggest he is not particularly accomplished). There is another twist in the genealogy. Remember Bugara Khan had two sons? He also had a daughter (her name not recorded) who was married to one Makkhu Khan. Makkhu Khan had a son, Bare Kale Khan. Bare Kale Khan had a son, Wali Bakhsh Khan (? some uncertainty about the name). Wali Bakhsh Khan had a son, Natthu Khan. Natthu Khan (1875-1940) was one of the great players of his age. Wali Bakhsh Khan also had a daughter who married Gamay Khan. Now perhaps you see what I mean about structural amnesia. Everything in this lineage explains the evolution of Ustad Inam Ali Khan and his links to the two Delhi greats of recent times: Gamay Khan and Natthu Khan. Whether all these other ancestors actually had no sons is debatable. Also, women do not figure in the genealogical tree unless they justify the existence of certain male figures. Many of these female links could indeed be important, specially since there is in Indian Muslim society a pattern of endogamous (i.e. within the clan) marriage. Nevertheless, there is likely to be a high degree of accuracy in the names and relationships that are mentioned, even if it is selective. And as for dates, no one is very clear about this but it seems reasonable to suggest that Sudhar Khan Dhari was born in the early 1700s. By adding 30 years (as an average) for each generation thereafter one obtains a reasonable diachronic mapping of generations to the present day. There has been no mention so far of Latif Ahmed Khan (1941-90), arguably one of the greatest tabla players of the 20th century, though in later years he suffered greatly from alcohol abuse and died an untimely death. A Sunni Muslim, he was a disciple of both Gamay Khan and Inam Ali, though relationships with Inam Ali soured in later years. My assessment is that this tabla tradition died with Inam Ali and Latif Ahmed. They in turn left a number of disciples in India and Europe, but none that I know of has the range of knowledge or the technique to project that knowledge as a living performance tradition into the future.

James Kippen teaches a range of ethnomusicology courses at the University of Toronto. He studied Social Anthropology and Ethnomusicology under John Blacking and John Baily at Queen’s University, Belfast. His doctoral research in Lucknow, India, dealt with tabla drumming in its socio-cultural context, particularly as interpreted by his teacher, the hereditary master Afaq Hussain Khan; the study was later published as The Tabla of Lucknow: A Cultural Analysis of a Musical Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 1988). He held two post-doctoral fellowships for computer-assisted musical analysis, and taught Anthropology and Ethnomusicology courses at Queen’s before joining the University of Toronto in January 1990. Since then he has been awarded two major research grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada to pursue an investigation of cultural concepts of time in Indian music and society, and the changing theory and practice of rhythm and metre in Hindustani music. He continues to study and practise both tabla and pakhavaj drums.

James Kippen has published in a variety of scholarly journals such as Anthropological Quarterly, Music Perception, Computers and the Humanities, Minds and Machines, World of Music, Journal of the Indian Musicological Society, Asian Music etc., and has contributed a key article on North Indian metric theory and drumming to the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. His most recent book, Gurudev’s Drumming Legacy: Music, Theory and Nationalism in the Mrdang aur Tabla Vadanpaddhati of Gurudev Patwardhan, translates, transcribes and analyses an early reformist text on Indian drumming, and places the work in rich historical and socio-cultural contexts. It is soon to be published late in 2005 by Ashgate as part of its School of Oriental and African Studies Musicology Series.


The Gwalior Gharana

In the history of Hindustani classical music Gwalior stands out as prominently as, if not more than Delhi, Luck now, Rampur, Jaipur and Deccan-Hyderabad. The traditions of this music are inextricably associated with Gwalior. Our sources of information about the modes of Indian music prior to the Muslim period are scanty and so our notions on them are rather hazy. The “Bharatha Natya Sastra” of Bharat Muni, the “Brihaddesi” by Matanga and “Sangeetaratnakara” are the earliest treatises we have. It was during the Muslim period that the music that we now call Hindustani music blossomed, thanks to unforgettable names like Amir Khusro, who not only invented and introduced new ragas, tolas and instruments, but effectively blended Persian touches into Indian music. “Art being a living organism, it is bound to expand” and music being pre-eminently an Art, it is of an extremely changing nature. Musical fashions, like all other fashions, have always undergone change after change and have been molded and remolded to suit changed tastes and trends through every era. In this process, Hindustani music, as it is to-day stands inseparably associated with, and deeply indebted to Gwalior.

Dhrupad: The inception of music all over the world has been from Religion. In today’s classical music, the ‘Dhrupad” occupies the most exalted place, and this originated from the old “Temple-music”. It has, therefore, had a long and checkered history. Its themes are sometimes devotional, sometimes didactic, sometimes descriptive (of the beauties of creation), sometimes heroic (recital of heroic actions); they may also pertain to Puranic stories or Divine Romances. But these Dhrupads having originated from the ancient Prabandhas (in Sanskrit and other provincial languages), and being sung in temples, we do not know how far these old Dhrupads afforded scope for the display of musical skill. To Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior goes the credit for making them part of classical music and thus popularising them. Rajah Man is remembered to this day as one of the greatest patrons, scholars, and lovers of music we have ever had. Memorials to his patronage of music are still visible in Gwalior. Once, he summoned a great conference of artists and musicians) and the essence of the valuable discussions held there has been compiled by him into a book, “Wanakutuhal.” It throws valuable light on the condition of music in the early Muhammadan period, and is still available for reference in certain State libraries. The Dhrupad-style of singing was a great contribution of the Gwalior school to Hindustani ‘ragdari’ (Classical) music. This brings us to the eve of the brightest period in the history of Hindustani music – the era of Tansen and his illustrious descendants.


In the history of Indian Music, who has not heard the immortal name of Tansen? He was justly idolised in his time, and today we worship him almost as a saint. He was the greatest of all Dhrupadiyas (a Kalawant) and was a product or the Gwalior school of music. Originally he was a Gaud Brahmin and his name was Tanna Misra (son of Makarand Pande). He became the disciple of Swami Haridas Dagur of Brindaban. Still later, he came under the influence of a great Muslim Saint or Pir, Mohammad Ghaus of Gwalior under whose guidance, Tansen achieved unprecedented fame. His fame spread so far and wide. that Emperor Akbar personally fetched him to his Court and kept him in the highest esteem. Tansen and his descendants were strict Dhrupadiyas and have been the leaders of, and authorities on, Hindustani classical music.

Adarang and Sadarang

Nyamathkhan and Naubatkhati who later on adorned the court of Mohmad Shah of Delhi, were Tansen’s descendants and naturally Dhrupadiyas. But Dhrupad-singing, as it existed then, was bound down by strict and scientific rules which left very little scope for the singer to show his flights of fancy. Moreover, the particular type of voice necessary for Dhrupad singing is very difficult to cultivate. Hence the Khayals. The slow Khayals were patterned very much like the Dhrupads but in such a way as to afford plenty of scope for alap-singing, tanas, and other niceties along with the composition. Khayals, as such, existed long before Adarang and Sadarang. The fast Khayals were based on the Qawwal style and were thus the contribution of the Qawwal Bani. But the credit for composing hundreds of Khayals and popularising thumri forever goes to Sadarang and Adarang. Nyamat and Naubat assumed the pseudonyms Adarang and Sadarang while composing their Khayals, and it is by these pseudonyms, rather than by their real names, that they are known today. In many khayals, they have mentioned the name of their patron Mohammed Shah. They composed hundreds of khayals and taught them to their disciples. These khayals have come down to us, and to-day, not a day goes without our hearing- their immortal names in some khayal or other. 01′ the three kinds of khayals, the slow (vilambit) khayals were modeled after the Dhrupads, whereas the medium (Madhyalaya) and fast (drut) ones were couched in the Qawwal Vani The originator of Qawwalis was Amir Khusru, the versatile poet-cum-musician-cum-statesman. As Islam forbade music strictly, these Qawwalis or Muslim Bhajans were composed for purely devotional recitations are the model of the Hindu Bhajans that existed already. Gradually, however, there arose a class of professionals who earned their livelihood by Qawwali-singing. These singers known as “Qawwals”-began to make free use of “tans” and “paltas” in the course of Qawwal-singing. Out of these “Qawwals”, Adarang, Sadarang and Manarang composed their beautiful rnadhyalaya and drut khayals. What Amir Khusro and his followers contributed to Indian music arc probably the modes of expression, the style, the broad open-mouthed voice-production, tanas, liquid pronunciation of words and so forth which have certainly made the music quite effective.

Bye and bye, however, these. khayals became so popular as to oust the Dhrupads! To-day one notes with immense regret that Dhrupad-singing is almost becoming extinct. The day the Dhrupads regain their old popularity will be an auspicious day for our Music. For, training in Dhrupad-singing alone can make the voice at once steady, strong, full-throated and sweet. Lately, however, quite a few seem to have been attracted by the sublime words and meanings of Dhrupads. This is a healthy and hopeful augury. The names of Bade Muhammad Khan; Haddu, Hassu, Nathu and Wazirkhans, Tanaraskhan, Mahmud Ali, Ali Bux, Miyajan, etc., are unforgettable. Of these, Haddu, Hassu and Bade Muhammad Khan were court-musicians of Gwalior. This last was the son of Shakkar Khan and considered peerless in the matter of tan-singing-. He was employed as court-musician (on a four-digit salary) by Daulat Rao Scindia ! He sang khayals in the Qawwali style, i.e., with various delicacies and dexterity. In the same durbar were Kadir Bux’s 3 sons, Haddu, Hassu and Nathu who won precocious mastery in music at very early ages. They were Khayalists of the elaborate Kalavant style. Later on, they evolved a beautiful and exquisite combination of the Kalavant and Qawwali styles of Khayal-singing. It is- interesting to note that this unique combination too should have been evolved in Tansen’s birth place ! Is it then, any wonder that Khayal singers have looked upon Gwalior as a sort of sacred-spot? It was the birth-place of the Dhrupad and the Khayal as well as of all the eminent Dhrupadiyas and Khayalists. Nearly all the reputed musicians of Akbar’s court were from Gwalior. It gave us Tansen.


Maharashtrian Musicians at Gwalior

The popularization of classical music in Maharashtra began through Gwalior. The Maharashtrian-Brahmin singers of Gwalior were greatly benefited by the current Gwalior school of music. Many of the pupils of Hassu and Haddu were Maharashtrian Brahmins among whom were eminent singers like Babasabib Dixit, Vasudeva Rou Joshi, and Balasoheb Curuji. Their disciples have preserved classical traditions to a great extent. We also owe a lot to the Maharashtrian disciples of Nissar Hussain (of Hassu-Haddu family). The late reputed musician Shanker.Rao Pandit was a favourite pupil of his. Music-lovers still recall Shanker Pandit’s name with great love and respect. His son Krishna Rao Shanker Pandit is today a court musician of Gwalior, and is running a Music school in his father’s name-“Shanker Gandbarv Vidyalaya”. Raja Bhaiyya Poonchwale:-the Principal of the “Madho Sangeet Mahavidyalaya” is another reputed disciple of Shanker Pandit. He had the privilege of learning a large number of Dhrupads from the great Dhrupadiya, Wamanbuva Deshpande ; and later on, Khayals from Shanker Pandit. What was more, since the opening of the Pandit music school, he was fox- a long time able to avail himself of Bhatkhand ji’s valuable association and Guidance -thanks to which today raja Bhaiya is regarded as a skilled singer and a learned scholar in the art of music. Chaturpandit Bhatkhandeji:-The Madho Sangeet Mahavidyalaya is the triumphant fruit of Guruvarya Bhatkhandeji’s selfless endeavours and a proof of Madhav Rao Mahara ‘s lofty musical tastes and patronage of music. This and similar schools of music have contributed in no small measure to the revival of interest in classical music which had cooled down to a deplorable level. Among the long array of Maharashtrian musicians who went to Gwalior and achieved -commendable mastery over the Gwalior-style of ragdari sangeet, comes the name of Balkrishnabuva-a pupil of Vasudevrau Joshi (Hassu’s [pupil)- After under going a prolonged training, he returned to his native town and devoted the rest of his life rekindling musical tastes among his people. The most eminent of his pupils of course was Vishnu Diagambar Paluskar whose name is familiar to all. We all know how ceaselessly lie strove to popularise music by establishing music schools at various places. But his training and efforts were not comprehensive. The limitation may have been due to the queer circumstances of those days when musicians selfishly concealed their art. Anyway Digambar did revive interest in one aspect of our music-namely, the devotional aspect of it (Bhajans) and for this we shall be always grateful to him. Balakrishnabuva’s son Annabuva was a good musician but he died prematurely. The former’s disciples Anantbuva Joshi of Oundh and Mirasibuva of Poona are two of our contemporaries. They have tried to Preserve the musical traditions of their schools. Another pupil is Gunduhiiva whose son is still the court musician of Ichalkaran” Classical music penetrated into Maharashtra from Gwalior, but since its penetration there, it has undergone numerous changes, under various influences. For instance, good musicians of Aera, Delhi, Jaipur etc., migrated into the big cities of India (Bombay, Calcutta and Madras ) when they ceased to get royal patronage ; and in these big cities they were forced to earn their livelihood by giving music performances. The names of Tanaraskhan, Haider Khan, Nath ti Khan, Mahmud Khan, Miyajan, etc., are familiar in this connection. They have influenced music in Maharashtra to a great extent. Though the original G Gwalior-style is rarely to be heard in its pristine purity today, the traditions have been preserved to some extent luckily. Characteristics of the Gwalior style:-Some of the requisites of good Khayal-singing are:-a clear-cut presentation of “Asthai” and “Antara” (the 2 portions of the songs) with proper pauses, a skillfully slow pace, and proper combinations of Swaras (notes) and Sahitya (words). Those who have luckily had training in the Gwalior-style of Khayal singing are very particular about the niffat presentation of the “asthayi” and “antara” at the very outset. Inability to do this, is rightly considered disgraceful by them, and so they pay special attention to the neat presentation of the song with correct pronunciation of the words. “Alap” at the outset is usually done in “akar” (without words) but consistent with the tempo of the song. After finishing slow alaps, the speed is slowly increased, and what is known as Bol-alaps (words of the song deftly presented in various combinations of notes) are started. Cleverly the Bol-tans (words woven into quick combinations of notes) and plain tans are introduced. When the tempo and pace have been somewhat quickened, the skilled musician harmoniously passes on to a quicker song (drut) or a fast “tarana” in the same raga. In the fast Khayal also, the parts of the song are legibly presented at first, after which the singer begins his extempore elaborations, rapid tans and various other beautiful intricacies and delicate embellishments which afford plenty of scope for the display of personal skill, or industry. The tans of the Gwalior school are justly famous and admired. ‘The tans are straight, clear, full-throated and varied. Effective little “running passages of notes” are interwoven into the Khayals. On the whole, there is something extremely dignified and impressive about the Gwalior-style of classical music. “Musical Gwalior” that was! – There had been a time when Gwalior used to be so intensely music-mad that “the very leaves would not tremble but to the sounds of music,”. Music-festivals used to be part of the daily routine in the durbars. The Princes and the people were alike absorbed in the ecstatic enjoyment and appreciation of music day and night. Even half-clad street-urchins would try to hum tans “Will that idyllic state of affairs ever come back to be” one wonders…….. Bye and bye the zeal for khayal-singing and for classical music began to flag and ebb to a very low level, because good musicians (like Nisar Hussain Khan, Rahmat Khan, and other Brahmin singers) began to become thorough stay-at-homes, teaching only those who went to them in their seclusion. Under such circumstances, one cannot guess what would have become of the Gwalior -style of classical music, had not Pandit Bhatkhandeji dedicated his life to the revival of classical music and succeeded in opening the Classical Music colleges at Gwalior and Lucknow whose branches have sprouted up in numerous other cities now, like Bombay, Calcutta and so on.


The Sarod Gharanas of India

S. P. Bhattacharyya

In this article we discuss, informally, the evolution of the Sarode and the art of Sarode playing as developed by some outstanding musicians and Gharanas (musical families) of the North Indian classical music tradition, over the last four hundred years.


Khayal music is represented by a number of more or less stylistically different schools called Gharanas. These  schools have their basis in the traditional mode of musical training and education. Every  Gharana has a few discernible features, which allow us to distinguish between schools and  also enable us to identify different approaches to interpretation of the ragas. The main  areas where differences arise, relate to the raga repertoire adopted by the Gharana, the  manner in which the notes are sung, particularly the relative emphasis given in the  Gharana philosophy to swara and laya, the role and importance of the Bandish in  the aesthetic viewpoint of the Gharana, the manner in which the raga is presented, and the  type of Tans employed.

Gwalior: This is the oldest among all the Khayal Gayaki (vocal) styles.  The distinctive feature of this style of singing has been noted as its lucidity and  simplicity. This gayaki is also characterized by serious mien and slow singing pace. This  Gharana involves presenting familiar and well known ragas such as Alakya Bilawal, Yaman, Bhairav, Sarang, Multani, Sri, Bhoop, Kamod, Hamir, Basant, etc. It also pays great  attention to singing Khayals using traditional Bandishes. This Gharana is also noted for  its straight and simple Tans, while stressing on the use of Meendh and Gamak in its  Dhrupad-style khayals. The best known artistes of this Gharana were Balkrishna BaIchal  Karanjikar (1849 – 1927) and his student Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1872 – 1931), Pandit  Omkarnath Thakur (1897 – 1967) and in recent times, Veena Sahasrabuddhe and Malini  Rajurkar.

Kirana: This Gharana derives its name from the birthplace of Abdul Kharim  Khan (1872 – 1937), Kirana near Kurukshetra. This style of singing was influenced by the distinctive style of playing music on the Bin (Vina), with emphasis on the resonance of  notes and maintaining note continuity through Meendh and Gamak. Importance was also given  to Alap and Vilambit laya in the course of performance. This style also stresses on the  role of individual notes and their study (swar-sadhana). In the Kirana style of  singing, the swara is used to create an emotional mood by means of elongation and use of Kana-s.  This effect is further heightened by tuning the Tanpura (a drone instrument) for certain  ragas to the seventh note, the Nishad, rather than Pancham. In this Gharana, the practice  of rendering the Alap as Bol-Alap using the bols  of the Bandish and not in Akar is  to enable the Alap to be developed gradually. The Gharana repertoire consists mainly of  ragas like Shuddha Kalyan, Darbari, Malkauns, Bhimplasi, Todi etc. Many Carnatic ragas  feature in this Gharana. Another aspect of the Kirana Gharana is that it is one of the few  Gharanas of Khayal Gayaki that includes Thumri singing as a part of its performances. The  important singers in this Gharana are Abdul Karim Khan, Hirabhai Barodekar, Begum Akhtar,  and in recent times, Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal and Prabha Atre.

Atrauli – Jaipur: Another of the important ones, this Gharana is  associated with Alladiya Khan (1855 – 1943), the great singer of the late 19th and early  20th century. This style has great complexities because of its use of melodic phrases  having Vakra (twisted/crooked) turns. The most distinctive feature of the Jaipur  Gharana can be best described as its complex and lilting melodic form which arises out of  the involuted and undulating phrases that constitute the piece. The Badhat is  very clear and is done in short sequences, each lasting for an Avartan and the Tans are  very intricate. As a consequence the term ‘filigree-like workmanship’ is often  used in the context of the Jaipur Gharana singing. This impression is created by the  linking of successive notes through a particular manner of delivery without blurring their  individual characteristics or shapes, while continuously varying the swara-patterns to  avoid repetition. This is done through a slow tempo, which continues uncharged from the  beginning to the end with the duration of its cycle being kept constant. The Gharana, in  its repertoire, has a dominance of rare and compound ragas such as Sampoorna-Malkauns,  Basant Kedar, Basant-Bahar, Kaunsi-Kanada and Nat-Kamod. This Gharana tends to use the  traditional Bandishes and shuns the creation of new compositions. The Badhat is sung using  the bols of the Bandish instead of the Akar. The Tans are also full of spiral shaped fast  passages or Vakra passages. The important vocalists of this tradition are Alladiya Khan,  Mallikarjun Mansur, Kesarbhai Kerkar and in recent times, Kishori Amonkar, Shruti  Sadolikar, Padma Talwalkar and Ashwini Bhide Deshpande.


Faiyaz khan

Agra: This style of Khayal gayaki is usually associated with Faiyaz khan  (1886 – 1950). The founders of the Agra gharana were originally singers of Dhrupad. Dhamar  and Khayal singing came to be adopted in the Gharana. It was Ustad Faiyaz Khan who  transformed the traditional and austere Agra style and left his colourful imprint on the Gharana. The Agra Gharana places great importance on developing forcefulness and deepness  in the voice so that the notes are powerful and resonant. This Gharana pays special  attention to ragas like Megh and Darbarikanada. In the Alap, the shape of the raga is  broadly outlined through key phrases and structures, rather than in a note by note manner.  The Bandish plays a very important role. The purity of the Bandish is stressed and the  entire Bandish forms the central point of the performance. The use of the Meendh in order  to make the presentation effective is stressed. The Agra Gharana maintains this aspect of  Dhrupad by the frequent use of Meendh and Gamaks for Alapchari and shuns the use of  ornaments such as Murkis. One of the most notable features of the Agra Gayaki is its  Layakari and the manifestation of rhythm in all the aspects of the khayal presentation.  The important singers of this Gharana are C R Vyas, S N Ratanjankar and of late, Jitendra  Abhisheki, Vijay Kitchlu and Sumati Mutatkar.

Patiala: This Gharana is regarded as an offshoot of the Delhi Gharana and  the famous duo ‘Allu-Fattu’, [Ali Baksh (1850 – 1920) and Fateh Ali Khan (1850 –  1909)], are usually acclaimed as the originators of this style. It was Ustad Bade Ghulam  Ali Khan (1901 – 1969), who popularized this style of singing and brought this Gharana to  the public notice. This style was influenced, to a large extent, by the qualities of Bade  Ghulam Ali’s voice and its wide span of three octaves. While the Patiala Gharana  gives pride of place to speed in execution of Tans, the Patiala Gharana repertoire also  includes slow Tans, which are akin to the Gamak. Thus, the Patiala Gharana is characterized by the use of greater rhythm play and by Layakari with the abundant use of  Bols, particularly Bol-tans. As part of its aesthetic approach, this style focusses more  on emotion and sensuality. This style was criticised for neglecting musical form and  organization and also lacking in aesthetic balance. The ragas preferred by this Gharana  are Malkauns, Bhoopali, Gunakali, Megh Malhar, etc. Ek-tal and Teen-tal are usually chosen  by this Gharana. This is another Gharana, which considers Thumri singing as its forte. The  major singers in this style Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ajoy Chakravarti, Parveen Sultana and  others.

Rampur-Sahaswan: The Rampur-Sahaswan Gharana can be said to have been  established by Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan (1849 – 1919). There is a stress on the clarity  of swara in this style and the development and elaboration of the raga is done through a  stepwise progression. The characteristic features of the Rampur-Sahaswan Gayaki are that  the development of the Alap adheres closely to the structure of the Bandish that is being  sung and is not sung as a free exposition before the Bandish. It is presented in the form  of a Bol-alap. The stress in the Alap is on developing the Bhava (mood) and the rasa  (emotion) of the raga. Singing in Akar is given great importance in training and also the  use of natural voice. The preferred tempo is Madhya laya (medium tempo) and the use of a  very slow tempo is discouraged. This Gharana lays stress on the literary content of the  Bandish. The speciality of the Rampur school lies in its Tans, which cover a much larger  range and are marked by their speed of execution. These Tans, which are noticeable for  their boldness and clarity, are employed to bring out the Layakari. This style is also  marked by a wide variety of Tans and its repertoire consists of ragas like Bhupali-Todi,  Bahaduri-Todi, Gaudsarang, Yaman, Kedar, Chhaya Nat, Bihag, etc. The main representatives  of this Gharana are Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan and in recent times,  Ustad Rashid Khan.

Mewati: The founder of Mewati Gharana was Ghagge Nazir Khan. This Gharana  adopts the Sapat Tan and Merkhand in its ornamentation. This style gives  importance to developing the mood of the raga through the notes forming it and its style  is Bhava Pradhan. It also gives equal importance to the meaning of the text. The  Gayaki regards words as important and does not believe in stretching words to make the  text and rhythm synchronize. It resorts to Tans and Sargams in case the words fall short.  This Gayaki also adopts Meendh as a prominent ornament. This Gharana presents  semi-classical music in the form of Bhajans and there is a strong Vaishnavite influence in their style. The current exponents of this style are Sanjeev Abhyankar and Rattan Sharma,  both students of Pandit Jasraj.

Bhundi Bazar Gharana: This  Gharana is less known in comparison to others. The most distinctive feature of this  Gharana is that their presentations of Khayals are open voice, using Akar. There is a  stress on breath-control and singing of long passages in one breath is highly regarded in  this Gharana. Another feature is the intricate method of Sargam singing in which  permutations and combinations of a given set of notes are made to give rise to complex  note and Tan patterns This Gayaki makes use of this method for the raga Badhat in order to  have an extended Alap. This method also permits play with rhythms. In addition, this  Gharana stresses clear note intonation and word articulation. Ornaments such as Sapat-tans,  Gamak-tans are given precedence along with the use of Meendh. The important singers  are Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Anjanibai Malpekar.


1. The Evolution of Sarod

The Sarod is one of the most exotic musical instruments in the world today. Its tonal quality, emotional range and dynamics are unmatched by any other instrument. The present form of the Sarode was developed about 200-250 years ago in India. Since then the art of Sarode playing has undergone continuous improvement in the hands of some exceptional and dedicated geniuses and it has now reached a level that seems difficult to improve upon. It is believed that the predecessor of the modern Sarode is the Rabab, an instrument that originated in the Middle East. The Rabab has a wooden fingerboard and strings of catgut and was used mainly as an instrument to accompany military marching bands. The Rabab was already in use in India in the 16th century during the reign of Akbar, and the Akbar-Nama of the 16th century traveler Abul Fazl mentions several Rabab players in Akbar’s court.

The Sarod, however is believed to have been developed initially by the Rababiyas of Afghanistan after their migration to India. Ghulam Bandegi Khan of Bangash, Afghanistan, who was a Rabab player, soldier and horse trader, migrated to India about 300 years ago. He was commissioned as a soldier in the army of Raja Vishwanath Singh of Rewa. Bandegi Khan trained his son Haider Khan and grandson Ghulam Ali Khan in the art of Rabab playing. Ghulam Ali also received musical training from Pyar Khan and Jaffar Khan, who were distinguished Rabab players and direct descendents of Tansen. Raja Vishwanath Singh also gave him instruction in Dhrupad singing, the slow, ornate and dignified style of vocal music, that was prevalent then.

Ghulam Ali later became a court musician in Gwalior, the most important musical center for North Indian music at that time. His exposure to the Gayaki (vocal music) style of Gwalior as well as the Dhrupad style of the Seni Gharana (Tansen’s musical family) must have influenced him to improve the relatively unsonorous and staccato sounding Rabab into one capable of executing the Meends (glides) and curves necessary in the Gayaki style. He is generally credited with the idea of modifying the Rabab by adding a metal fingerboard and metallic strings and also with the addition of the Chikari (Jhala) and Tarab (sympathetic) strings. Thus the Sarode was born. Further embellishments to the Sarode were made by Ustad Allauddin Khan in this century, and the modern Sarode has 15 Tarab strings, 6 Chikari strings and 4 main strings.

The name Sarode is linked to the Arabic “Sahrood” or Persian “Sarood” meaning music, as well as the Sanskrit “Sho-rode” (“good noise”). It is important to mention that Ustad Ali Akbar Khan has stated in recent times that the Sarode was known in ancient India as it has been found depicted in the 2000 year old Champa temple in Madhya Pradesh.


2. The Rababiya Gharanas

The early Sarode players were the descendents of the Afghan Rababiyas. There were three such families but the most important such Gharana was the one founded by Ghulam Ali Khan (see the accompanying chart). Ghulam Ali Khan had three sons, Hossain Ali (eldest), Murad Ali and Nanhe Khan (youngest) who were all Sarode players. Nanhe Khan’s son was the Late Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan (1988-1972) one of the outstanding Sarode players of the last generation. Hafiz Ali Khan’s musical education was completed by his training under the Late UstadWazir Khan of Rampur who was the leading representative of the Seni Beenkar Gharana in the last century. Hafiz Ali’s son Amjad Ali Khan is one of the most accomplished Sarode players of the present day.

Murad Ali Khan was childless, and on a certain occasion, when taunted  about this, decided to leave home, vowing to adopt a son and give him such a Taleem (musical training) that he would “rob the brothers of their sleep”. He moved to Shahjahanpur and adopted an orphan boy, Abdullah Khan, who under his training became an outstanding Sarode player. Murad Ali Khan passed away in 1932, but his musical line continued with Abdullah Khan, whose disciple Mohammed Amir Khan was the Guru of the Late Radhika Mohan Moitra (1917-1981) a brilliant Sarodiya of the last generation. Pandit Buddhadev Das Gupta is the foremost disciples of Radhika Mohan Moitra and is one of three most outstanding Sarode players of India today. His playing reflects the beauty of his Guru’s melodic style which is a perfect blend of the Rababiya and Beenkar traditions.


3. The Seni Beenkar Gharana

To complete our story we need to establish a most important link, namely the connection between the great Sarode players of the last generation and the Seni Beenkar Gharana. For this let us go back to Emperor Akbar’s court in the 16th century.  The brightest sun in Akbar’s court was Tansen (1520-1589), a musical genius from Gwalior whom the Emperor had brought and installed as one of the Nine Jewels of his court. Tansen composed many new Ragas, such as Miya-ki-Malhar, Darbari Kanhra and Miya-ki-Todi, and laid down the foundations of North Indian classical music through 300 Dhrupad compositions. Although Akbar had a policy to convert talented people to Islam his reverence for Tansen was such that he never forced him to convert, but tactfully gave him the title Miya Tansen.

Tansen had a Hindu wife as well as a Muslim wife, called Mehrunissa. From the latter he got a son Bilas Khan (composer of the Raga Bilaskhani Todi) and from the Hindu wife he had three children; Tan-Taranga, Suratsen and Saraswati Devi. Suratsen later founded the Jaipur Sitar Gharana. Saraswati was a famous Dhrupad singer who married Raja Misar Singh, a noted Beenkar (Veena player) of Rajasthan. Misar Singh eventually became a state musician in Akbar’s court and was converted to Islam and renamed Naubat Khan.

The descendants of Saraswati and Misar Singh were Beenkars as well Dhrupadiyas and they continued and developed the traditions of Sitar, Sursringar and Rabab playing as well as vocal music. They established what is now known as the Seni Beenkar Gharana, the most important musical family in North Indian music. Although they officially had Muslim names, they also had dual Hindu names; thusWazir Khan, for example was also called Chhatrapal Singh. These descendents include Niyamat Khan (vocalist, also known as Sadarang in many Khayal compositions), Amritsen (Jaipur Sitar Gharana, 1814-1894) , Omrao Khan (Vina, Surbahar, Sarode), Gholam Mohammed Khan (Lucknow Sitar Gharana), Bahadur Hussain Khan (inventor of Tarana) and Ustad Wazir Khan.

Ustad Wazir Khan was a brilliant teacher, performer and composer and the leader of the Seni Gharana in the last century. His family line could be traced back directly to Tansen and his musical knowledge included many of Tansen’s original Dhrupad compositions. Perhaps the most important occurence in the history of Sarode playing is the fact that two of the foremost Sarodiyas of the last generation Allauddin Khan and Hafiz Ali Khan came to be Wazir Khan’s disciples. Thus the full power and accumulated musical knowledge of the Seni Gharana was incorporated into the Sarode art of these two outstanding musicians. The result was that a style of Sarode playing developed in which the vocal traditions of Dhrupad and Khyal and the instrumental traditions of Veena (slides and glides) and Rabab (rhythmic, staccato and plucked) came to be blended beautifully and aesthetically into this one majestic instrument. This is why today’s Sarode playing has such a wide dynamic range from the most tender Meends to thunderous Jhalas and lightning speed Taans (musical sentences).

Ustad Baba Allauddin Khan (1862-1972) as we know is a legendary figure in Indian music. He was born in Tripura, East Bengal and from a very young age developed a thirst for music and musical knowledge that eventually led to one of the most incredible musical journeys of this century. He mastered many instruments including Tabla, violin, Sursringar and Surbahar but finally turned to the Sarode and became a student of the Sarode wizard Ahmed Ali Khan. After six years of living with Ahmed Ali, Baba had learnt everything that Ahmed Ali had to offer and the teacher recommended that Baba should seek training from his Guru the great Wazir Khan of Rampur. Baba had to confront many difficulties in becoming Wazir Khan’s disciple, but eventually Wazir Khan opened up his treasure house of musical compositions and taught Baba for 12 years after his eldest son, who was being trained to succeed him, died suddenly.

Baba Allauddin lived only to serve the cause of music. He was a lifelong devotee of the Goddess Kali and later as a court musician in Maihar worshipped Sharda Devi, also known as Maihar Devi, and a form of Goddess Kali. He avoided fame and wealth, pursued music as a path to spiritual salvation and offered his creations at the feet of Sharda Devi. In later years Baba’s salary was paid from the earnings of the Sharda temple. He was regarded throughout India as a musical saint and many students journeyed to Maihar to learn from him. He himself remained a student of music till the age of 70 completely mastering the Dhrupad and instrumental compositions of the Seni Gharana and adding innumerable new compositions and many new Ragas, such as Hemant, Shobhavati and Durgeshwari. His eventual contributions are so outstanding that today this Gharana is known as the Seni Allauddin Gharana.

Baba openly and generously transferred the vast wealth of his musical knowledge to a large number of disciples. Of these the most famous are his son the supreme Sarodist Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and the Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. The dazzling virtuosity, musical depth and brilliance of these two musicians and their extensive touring over the last 40 years have exposed audiences all over the world to the treasures of the Seni Gharana, the art and magic of Sitar and Sarode, and the exquisite beauty, creativity and sophistication of North Indian classical music.

With such a fantastic heritage the future of instrumental music and the Sarode in particular is bright indeed!

(Portions of this article are based on conversations with Pandit Buddhadev DasGupta.)
S.P. Bhattacharyya is Professor of Electrical Engineering and a faculty adviser to SPICMACAY at Texas A&M University.  He is also a disciple of Sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and a performing concert artist


The Kirana Gharana

The origin of the Kirana gharana is shrouded in an air of mystery and, to some extent, controversy. It is generally believed that Gopal Nayak, a contemporary of Amir Khusru, is the fountainhead of the gharana. He lived on the banks of the Jumna in a town called Dutai. Later, when Dutai was ravaged by floods he moved inland 10 Kirana, a small town in the Muzaffarnagar district. He is believed to have embraced Islam. Four different offshoots of the Kirana dynasty are claimed to have descended from him. One of the branches boasts of great names like Ustad Azim Baksh, Maula Baksh and Abdul Ghani Khan. The second branch is studded with names like Ustad Bande Ali Khan, Nanne Khan, Kale Khan and the legendary Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. Yet another offshoot includes in its Kirana lineage the names of Gafoor Khan, Abdul Wahid Khan, Shakoor Khan, Mashkoor Ali and Mubarak Ali. Finally, the distinguished family tradition of Mehboob Baksh, Rehman Khan, Abdul Majid Khan, Abdul Hamid Khan, Abdul Bashir Khan, followed by his sons Niaz Ahmed and Fayyaz Ahmed Khan, express their allegiance to the Kirana tradition. The precise roots of the gharana are lost in antiquity and shrouded with controversy. There are some who believe that Ustad Abdul Karim Khan is the true fountainhead of Gandharva, Roshanara Begum, Balkhshnabuva Kapileshwari, Behrebuva, Sureshbabu Mane and Hirabai Barodekar. From this mainstream of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, in turn, came Pandit Sawai Gandharva whose centenary was recently celebrated with great 6clat in Bombay, and the ranks of the gharana have swelled, majestically. The leading lights include Gangubai Hangal, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Feroze Dastoor, Dr Prabha Atre and Pandit Sangame-shwar Gaurav. Among their disciples, Krishna Hangal Shrikant Deshpande, Madhav Gudi, Narayanrao Deshpande, Ramkrishna Patwardhan, Milind Chittal and Alka Joglekar have already made their mark and ensured the continued popularity of the gharana. This phenomenal popularity has been achieved through the characteristic expansive alapchari which unfolds the raga note by note with tantalising languor. The induction of sargams was another alankar which Abdul Karim Khan inducted into Hindustani music with a Carnatic flair Admittedly, the gharana has undergone a vigorous transformation with the vibrant personality of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, who has brought into play his own stylistic nuances. It is obvious that the Kirana gharana is riding the wave of popularity. the gharana and the lineage that emanates from him is the main stream of the gharana, while the rest are tributaries. Be that as it may, it is an incontrovertible fact that the Kirana gharana remains the most popular and prolific in the sheer number of its practitioners on the contemporary scene.Ustad Abdul Karim Khan ushered in a new era of romanticism in the rendition of Hindustani classical music which was captivating because it was at once sweet, soothing, serene and sensuous. Although the ustad’s own singing seemed to lack fullbodied masculine sonorousness, his romanticism won for the Kirana gharana a strong following which included names that have become legends like Sawai


The Agra Gharana

The Agra gharana derived from the dhrupad tradition of the Nauhar Bani and was founded by Saras Khuda during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb. Thereafter, his grandson Ghagge Khudabaksh received rigorous training from Natthan Khan of the Gwalior gharana in khayal gayaki and thus developed a happy synthesis of the majestic dhrupad tradition and the melodious khayal gayaki. Apart from this, a series of alliances between the houses(gharanas)of the original Agra gharana and the Atrauli gharana have further brought together these two great tradition and it would be more correct to describe the gharana as the Agra-Atrauli gharana. It is significant that the gharana now has within its fold no less than three. Banis: the Gobarhar Bani or the Gwalior gharana as derived from Mehboob Khan alias Daas Piya the Dagur Bani of the original Atrauli Dhrupad gharana which underwent a transformation when Ustad Alladiya Khan took to khayal gayaki from Mubarak Ali of Jaipur (since then called Jaipur-Atrauli gharana) and finally the inflow of the Nauhar Bani of the third Atrauli offshoot as derived through Puttan Khan, maternal uncle of Ustad Mushtaq Husain of the Rampur Sahaswan gharana. Probably this is what accounts for the manysplendoured appeal of this ‘Rangeeli’ gayaki as it came to be known, particularly since the advent of Aftab-e-mousiqi Ustad Faiyaz Khan whom many regard as the fountainhead of Agra-Atrauli gharana.


Great artists of India

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan can be described as an artiste who has had the maximum impact on the 20th Century Hindustani Classical Music scenario. Born in 1902 into a great musical lineage from Kasur in the Western Punjab, this great savant amalgamated the best of four traditions; his own Patiala – Kasur style, sculpturesque Behram Khani elements of Dhrupad, the intricate gyrations of Jaipur and finally the robust behlavas (embellishments) of Gwaiior. But what actually characterised Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was an effervescent melodic quality which was concertised in a masterly flow of ideas which were delivered with a unique sense of alacrity, aided by one of the most pliable and dextrous voices ever heard in living memory in this land. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan had a relatively short career span. He blazed the trails of Calcutta in 1938 and in the 1944 All India Music Conference in Bombay, was virtually anointed Lord of all he surveyed in the field of Indian Music. But 24 years later, he was dead, prematurely at 66, having given the World less of himself than it would have wished to have. The maestro’s approach to khyal was essentially traditional – as seen in the medium pace of his vilambit Khayal presentation and his style of straightforward sthaibharana avoiding permutations. The character of his Gayaki was derived from an inclination towards looking beyond the traditional method of intoning a Swara to discover unchartered facets of beauteous melody, often achieved by very subtle inflexions of notes. This approach was bom of a mind which always strove to find that beauty in Indian Music which went beyond the Raga itself. For Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, ‘Taleem’ was but a means to a greater end where sheer melody and freedom of movement became unified His music was the joyous expression of an unfettered musical psyche. In ‘Thumri’, Bade Gliulam Ali Khan looked beyond the tradition of bol-banav where verbal and musical expressions are unified. He saw in Thumri an avenue for playing with notes with even greater abandon than was possible in the raga-restrained Khayal. From this perspective was born the now well-established Punjab-ang of Thumri.


Pt. Pannalal Ghosh
31 July, 1911 – 20 April, 1960

Born in Barisal, East Bengal (now Bangladesh) on July 31, 1911, Amulya Jyoti (nicknamed Pannalal) Ghosh was a child prodigy. He inherited his love of music and the bamboo flute (bansuri) from his grandfather, Hari Kumar Ghosh who played sitar,tabla,and pakhawaj and learned sitar from his father, Akshay Kumar Ghosh. He also learned music from his maternal uncle, Bhavaranjan Mazumdar who was a vocalist. The family first lived in the village of Amarnathganj and later moved to the town of Fatehpur.

Two apocryphal incidents happened to young Pannalal which had an influential bearing on his later life. First, at age 9 while looking for a stick, Pannalal found a flute floating in the river. He retrieved the instrument and so began his lifelong relationship with the bansuri. Two years later at age 11 Pannalal met a sadhu who held both a conch and a flute. The sadhu asked Pannalal if he could play the flute, and young Pannalal obliged. The sadhu gave him the flute and told the boy that music would be his salvation.There was a political unrest in 1928, and every youth was possessed with the freedom movement. Pannalal also joined this freedom movement. He enrolled in a gymnasium where he learned martial arts, boxing, and stick fighting and practiced physical culture. Pannalal was very fond of physical culture. He became the best student and champion of this gymnasium. He became more involved in the freedom movement and the British Government started keeping a watch on his movements. So at the age of seventeen Pannalal left Barisal and went to Calcutta in search of livelihood. In the teeming metropolis he found himself without any credentials except that he was a boxing champion and had won the All Bengal competition in boxing. With his skill as a boxer and martial art expert he landed a job as a coach in an athletic club. One year later, at the age of 18, Pannnalal lost his father.

At this time Pannalal, who was already playing sitar, began to focus his attention on bansuri. Economic necessity drove him into performing music for the silent films in Calcutta. At an All India music competition he met music director and composer Anil Biswas and began to play in his musical productions. It was during one such production when Anil Biswas was directing music for a dramatization of a work by the renowned poet Kazi Nazrul Islam that Pannalal decided that he needed a bigger flute who’s pitch and sonority would be more appropriate for both classical and light music. He met an old Muslim toy vendor who was also proficient in making flutes. With his help Pannalal experimented with various materials including metal and other types of wood, but decided bamboo was still the most suitable medium for a larger instrument. He finally settled on a bansuri which was thirty two inches long, with a sa (tonic) at kali doe (the second black key on the old harmonium scale). As a flute of this size was hitherto unknown, a rumor arose that Pannalal had had surgery to cut the webbing between his fingers to facilitate the large span required to cover the finger holes of the instrument. Of course, he had no such surgery, but through dedicated riyaz (practice), Pannalal invented and perfected the technique to play the large instrument. At this time he would get his bamboo to make flutes from discarded packing materials found at Diamond Harbor, the large port of Calcutta. Deforestation had not yet consumed the forest around Calcutta, and the bamboo was believed to have grown close to the city itself. He practiced hard and perfected the technique of vocal music on flute. At this time he realized the need for meend from madhyama swar to nishad or dhaivat shrutis in ragas like Bihag, Yaman, Bageshree and many others. He experimented and invented the seventh hole of madhyama.

He became famous for his flute playing and started getting performances at the major music conferences. At this time he came in close contact with great maestros like Ustad Inayat Khan (sitar), Ustad Dabir Khan (Been), Ustad Amir Khan (sarod), Ustad Badal khan (sarangi), and vocalists such as Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Majid Khan, Pt. Tarapoda Chkraborty, Pt. Bhismadev Chattopadhyay and many others. His quest for knowledge and purity of tradition made him acquire intricacies of music from these erudite musicians. In 1936 Pannalal began working with Raichandra Boral, music director of the well known ‘New Theater’ and one year later he met his first guru, Kushi Mohammed Khan – the ‘Harmonium Wizard’. In 1938 as music director of the dance troupe of the princely kingdom of Seraikella State, Panna Babu (as he was affectionately known) was one of the first classical musicians to visit and perform in Europe, which he found rather agitating and unsettling. Soon after his return to India his guru expired. Thereafter he underwent training from Girija Shankar Chakravarti. In 1940, Pannalal moved to Bombay on the advice of his first disciple Haripada Choudhary (who had himself recently moved to Bombay). There he joined the Bombay Talkies film studio and gave music to quite a few films including ‘Basant.’ Panna Babu’s wife, Parul Biswas, (sister of Anil Biswas), was a graceful singer of kirtans who became one of the first well known playback singers for the new ‘talking’ films. Pannalal first met the legendary Ustad Allaudin Khansahib, (reverentialy known as ‘Baba’) in 1946, when Baba came to Bombay with his disciple, Pandit Ravi Shankar. Initially, when Pannalal asked Baba to teach him Khansaheb replied, “You are already great, you don’t need to study more.” Pannalal implored Baba to please teach him so that he could learn “authentic music and sur.” In 1947, Pannalal’s lifelong yearning to learn music from a true guru was fulfilled when Allaudin Khansaheb , convinced of Pannalal’s sincerity to learn, accepted Pannalal as his disciple. Pannalal then accompanied Baba to his home in Maihar, where he received intensive taalim (training) from Khansaheb for the next six months. Under Baba’s firm yet understanding tutelage, he blossomed into the wizard of the bamboo reed. Panna Babu earned fame through his regular broadcasts on AIR (All India Radio) and his many live performances at music festivals throughout India. The eminent vocalists Ustad Fayaz Khan and Pandit Omkarnath Thakur appreciated his music very much and requested Pannalal to accompany their vocal recitals on bansuri. He was praised for his adaptation and rendering on the bansuri of the khayal-ang- gayaki (the classical vocal style), particularly influenced by the great master of the Kirana gharana, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. Pannalal also incorporated alap, dhrupad-ang-gayaki, tantrakari, jhala, thumri, dadra and folk music into his performance style on bansuri. Well versed in tabla and rhythm, he would perform in such difficult tals as jhoomra and tilwara. His music was steeped in devotion and had an intangible ethereal element, immense emotional depth and was infused with spiritual profundity. In addition to introducing the larger instrument, Pannalal Ghosh is credited with inventing the bass bansuri and introducing the six-stringed tanpura, high-pitched tanpuri and the surpeti or sruti box into Hindustani music. He created and popularized several new ragas including Deepawali, Pushpachandrika, Hansanarayani, Chandramauli, Panchavati and Nupurdwani, as well as multitudinous vilambit and drut compositions in many well known ragas. Panna Babu practiced daily meditation and observed maun by not speaking on Thursdays. He took the vows of Ramakrishna and put his faith in music. He took Mantra Diksha from Swami Birjanandji Maharaj who was a direct disciple of Swami Vivekananda. Because of his intense spiritual practice he started loosing interest in day to day life and decided to take Sanyasa. When he expressed his desire to Swamiji, his Guru, he was told that he would attain Moksha through music only. He should practice music as religiously as his spiritual practice. His music showed total spirituality, simplicity and purity. Pannalal continued composing and recording music for films, but began to find film work distasteful. Panna Babu’s impressive rendition of Raga Darbari Kannada in his 1956 National Programme broadcast from AIR Delhi fetched him further acclaim and at this time B.B Keskar, director of AIR, awarded him the meritorious post of composer-conductor of the Indian National Orchestra and producer for AIR Delhi. He held the post and maintained his devotion to the interpretation of classical music on the bamboo flute until his untimely and sudden death due to heart attack at the age of 49 on April 20, 1960 in New Delhi. He left his musical legacy in the capable hands of his principal disciples: the late Haripada Choudary, Devendra Murdeshwar, V.G. Karnad and Nityanand Haldipur .


Raga Shree: vilambit (slow) Tilwara Tal (16 beats) and fast Teen Tal (16 beats) This is the entire original HMV Recording – 19 minutes. It was the first LP recording of bansuri, with Rag Yaman on the A side.


                                          Gharanas of Hindustani Music

There is a rich tradition of Gharanas in classical Hindustani music. The music Gharanas are also called styles. These schools or Gharanas have their basis in the traditional mode of musical training and education. Every Gharana has its own distinct features. The main area of difference between Gharanas is the manner in which the notes are sung. The concept of a Guru- Shishya leads to the development of Gharanas. The Gharanas emerge from the creative style of a genius, who gives existing structures a totally new approach, form and interpretation. The new approach, form and interpretation apply to include the tone of the voice, the pitch, the inflexions and the intonations, and the specific application of the various nuances. Let’s have a quick look at popular Gharanas of Hindustani classical music.

Gwalior Gharana – This is the oldest among all the Khayal Gayaki (vocal) styles. The distinctive feature of this style of singing has been noted as its lucidity and simplicity.
Founders – Ustad Hassu Khan, Ustad Haddu Khan, Ustad Nathu Khan
Exponents – Bal Krishna BaIchal Karanjikar, Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Veena Sahasrabuddhe and Malini Rajurkar

Agra Gharana-The Agra Gharana places great importance on developing forcefulness and deepness in the voice so that the notes are powerful and resonant.
Founders- Haji Sujan Khan, Ustad Ghagghe Khuda Baksh
Exponents-The important singers of this Gharana are Faiyyaz Khan, Latafat Hussein Khan and Dinkar Kakini.

Kirana Gharana – It derives its name from the birthplace of Abdul Kharim Khan of Kirana near Kurukshetra. In the Kirana style of singing, the swara is used to create an emotional mood by means of elongation and use of Kana-s.
Founders – Abdul Karim Khan and Abdul Wahid Khan
Exponents – Hirabhai Barodekar, Begum Akhtar, Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal and Prabha Atre.

Jaipur – Atrauli Gharana- The most distinctive feature of the Jaipur Gharana can be best described as its complex and melodic form which arises out of the involutedly and undulating phrases that comprise the piece.
Founders – Ustad Alladiya Khan
Exponents – Alladiya Khan, Mallikarjun Mansur, Kesarbhai Kerkar, Kishori Amonkar, Shruti Sadolikar, Padma Talwalkar and Ashwini Bhide Deshpande.

Rampur Sahaswan Gharana- The Rampur Sahaswan Gharana there is a stress on the clarity of swara in this style and the development and elaboration of the raga is done through a stepwise progression.
Founders – Ustad Inayat Khan
Exponents – Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan, Ustad Rashid Khan, Sulochana and Brihaspati.

Patiala Gharana – Patiala Gharana is regarded as an offshoot of the Delhi Gharana. The Patiala Gharana is characterized by the use of greater rhythm play and by Layakari with the abundant use of Bols, particularly Bol-tans.
Founders – Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and Ustad Ali Baksh
Exponents – The major singers of the Patiala Gharana are Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ajoy Chakravarti, Raza Ali Khan, Beghum Akhtar, Nirmala Deni, Naina Devi, Parveen Sultana and others.

Delhi Gharana – The Delhi Ghaana was represented by Tanras Khan and Shabbu Khan. The highlights of Delhi Gharana are pleasing vistaar and exquisite compositions.
Founders – Ustad Mamman Khan
Exponents – Some of the notable exponents of Delhi Gharana are Chand Khan, Nasir Ahmed Khan, Usman Khan, Iqbal Ahmed Khan and Krishna Bisht.

Bhendi Bazaar Gharana – The most distinctive feature of the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana is the presentation of Khayal, which is open voice, using Akar. There is a stress on breath-control and singing of long passages in one breath is highly regarded in this Gharana
Founders – Ustad Chajju Khan
Exponents – The important singers of this Gharana are Ustad Aman Ali Khan, Shashikala Koratkar and Anjanibai Malpekar.

Benaras Gharana – The Benaras Gharana evolved as a result of great lilting style of khayal singing known by Thumri singers of Benaras and Gaya.
Founders – Pt Gopal Mishra
Exponents – The chief exponents of the Benaras Gharana are Rajan Mishra, Sajan Mishra, Girija Devi and others.

Mewati Gharana – The Mewati Gharana gives importance to developing the mood of the raga through the notes forming it and its style is Bhava Pradhan. It also gives equal importance to the meaning of the text.
Founders – The founder of Mewati Gharana was Ghagge Nazir Khan.
Exponents – The exponents of the Mewati Gharana are Pandit Jasraj, Moti Ram, Mani Ram, Sanjeev Abhyankar and others.


The gharanas of khayal gayaki (singing) are :
Gwalior gharana Kirana gharana Jaipur-Atrauli gharana Agra gharana Patiala gharana …
Rampur-Sahaswan gharana Mewati gharana Bhendi Bazar gharana

Gwalior gharana

The oldest of the gharanas and one to which most others can and do trace the origins of their style is the Gwalior gharana. Some sources believe that Nathan Khan and Peer Baksh settled in Gwalior and evolved the style features that led to this gharana. Others claim that individuals named Nathan Peer Baksh and Nathe Khan founded the gharana. The accepted version is that Nathan Peer Baksh left Lucknow (in Uttar Pradesh) to escape the professional rivalry with Shakkar Khan that had taken an ugly turn. He arrived in Gwalior with his grandsons Haddu Khan and Hassu Khan.

Another great khayal singer, also originally from Lucknow, was Bade Mohammed Khan who brought the t n into khayal singing. Haddu and Hassu Khan further enhanced the style into the Gwalior gharana as we recognize it today. Haddu Khan’s son, Rehmet Khan (1852-1922) was a widely acclaimed singer who liberated the Gwalior style from the methodical form it followed to the emotional style that he preferred.

Apart from the emphasis on notes (swara), another distinguishing feature of the gharana is its simplicity because through simplicity alone can the singer and the listener arrive at the full beauty and impact of the raga. One means to this is of course the selection of well-known ragas so that the listener is saved the effort of trying to identify the raga. Attention can be focussed on the raga and the presentation of it. While the khayal singer does include raga vistar (melody expansion) and raga alankara (melody ornamentation to enhance the beauty and meaning of the raga, there is no attempt to include the tirobhava feature i.e. using melodic phrases to obscure the identity of the raga in the interest of adding interest or mystery to the listener’s experience.

The singing itself places bandish (the composition) at the heart of the presentation because of the gharana’s belief that the full melody of the raga and guidance on its singing is provided by the bandish. The sthayi section is sung twice before the antara, to be followed by the slow tempo of the swara vistar (note expansion). This slow rendition of the notes is known as the behlava, and is sung from Ma in the lower register to Pa in the higher register, following the pattern of the aroha (ascent) and avaroha (descent) of the raga.

The behlava is divided into the sthayi (from Ma to Sa) and antara (from Ma, Pa, or Dha to Pa of the higher register). The dugun-ka-alap follows in which groups of two or four note combinations are sung in quicker succession but the basic tempo remains the same. Thus the drumming pattern of the table (i.e. tabla theka) is left unaltered.

The bol-alap is next in which the different words of the text are sung in different ways, to be followed by murkis in which notes are sung with ornamentation to a faster pace. Bol-t ns entail the formation of melodic sequences with the words of the song. The other t ns, including the gamak, follow.

The sapat t n is important to the Gwalior style and refers to the singing of notes in a straight sequence and at a slow pace.

Both dhrupad and khayal singing evolved in Gwalior and there are many overlaps. In the khayal style there is one form, mundi dhrupad, that incorporates all the features of dhrupad singing but without the mukhda. The Gwalior gharana usually prefers to begin ragas in the medium tempo (madhya laya) rather then the slow tempo (vilambit laya) as is the norm with other gharanas.

The chosen ragas include Alahya-Bilawal, Yaman, Bhairav, Sarang, Shri, Hamir, Gaud-Malhar, Miya-ki-Malhar.

Renowned singers of this gharana are Balkrishnabua Ichalkaranjikar, Vishnu Digamber Paluskar, Nissar Hussain Khan, Shankarrao Pandit, Krishnarao Pandit, Eknath Pandit, Pandit Vinayakrao Parwardhan, Narayanrao Vyas, Dattaraya Vishnu Paluskar, Sharat Chandra Arolkar, and Pandit Omkarnath Thakur who authored the Sangitanjali (a text on the nature of ragas).

Contemporary singers include Pandit V.R. Athavale, Pandit Vinaychandra Maudgalaya, Pandit Jal B8alporia. Others while not performing in the pure Gwalior style nevertheless retain the distinctive features of the gharana. Malini Rajurkar is an example of this. Her singing reveals influences of the Kirana style as well as that of the independent singer Kumar Gandharva but the clear rendition of each word in the manner of a short t n stamps her singing with the Gwalior tradition.
Kirana gharana

The emphasis on elongating the notes and the importance to their resonance is a distinctive feature of this gharana. The founder, Khan Sahab Abdul Karim Khan (1872-1937), believed in the serene rendition of the notes as when playing the bin (a plucked instrument with resonators at both ends). Rehmet Khan of the Gwalior gharana is believed to have influenced Ustad Karim Khan’s adoption of the direct style of presentation. Some have also indicated the influence of the sarangi (a string instrument) on the voice features of this gharana.

Kirana is the birth place of the Ustad, and situated near Kurukshetra. Ustad Karim Khan served as a musician at the Baroda and the Mysore courts and had a tremendous influence on the music of western India.

His own somewhat nasal voice led him to adopt the Carnatic style for singing the saptak (the seven notes). He preferred to sing in the slower tempo and stress the bol-alap through consonants because his own voice was not wholly suited to the lower register of notes. The aesthetic appeal was thus never marred and the continuity he desired was achieved. Other singers of the gharana, including his disciple Sawai Gandharva, used the upper register far more often than the lower. Some later singers, including Roshanara Begum and Bhimsen Joshi, sing almost equally in both octaves.

This factor has influenced the choice of ragas to those appropriate for the emphasis on the alap rather than the bandish. Karuna rasa (pathetic or sympathetic mood) is the foremost of the sentiments expressed through renditions that extend the notes gradually and use kanas (grace notes ) to fully express the raga. However, the lack of emphasis on voice projection and words led to a blurring of the lines as far as different ragas were concerned.

The emphasis on swara has led to a rather subtle tempo and rhythmic pattern, both factors allowing for the sentiment and mood to be highlighted. Due to this, the words of the bandish are not clearly enunciated and there are only a few in the Kirana gharana repertoire.

Kirana includes thumri singing in its repertoire, but with the emphasis on swara rather than on emotion and an absence of the characteristic lilt of thumri singing.

Contemporary singers like Bhimsen Joshi cannot be said to sing in the pure Kirana style because of the diverse influences apparent in his singing. The swara orientation is not as strong and the tempo is no longer latent as is characteristic of the gharana. However, the emotional appeal of the pure Kirana style remains and so do the Kirana compositions.

Ragas traditionally performed by the gharana: Shuddha Kalyan, Darbari, Malkauns, Bhimpalasi, Todi, to name a few. Some ragas of Carnatic music – for example, Jogiya – are included in the repertoire.

Renowned singers include: Bhimsen Joshi, Abdul Wahid Khan (he taught Begum Akhtar), Surash Babu Mane, Prabha Atre Malati, Hirabai Barodekar, Gangubhai Hangal, her daughter Krishna Hangal, and Pandit Feroze Dastur.
Jaipur-Atrauli gharana

Born in Atrauli and singing at the Jaipur court, Alladiya Khan (1855-1943) made both cities famous through the gharana he founded. His training in both dhrupad and khayal genres enabled him to bring the complexities of both into his style that can be best described as filigree. The variation of note patterns serves to enhance the rendition of notes that are linked in a characteristic manner. This in no way impinges on the individual quality of the notes. The tempo is consistently slow (but not as slow as in the Kirana style), with the varying note patterns providing the rhythm.

Many feel that the gharana follows an intellectual approach, and this does not lend itself to layakari (the development and play of tempo). However, the intellectual nature of presentation in no way precludes laya. It is very much in existence through the changing pitch and volume and the note patterns themselves: these factors comprise what Deshpande terms ‘functional rhythm’.

The time factor permeates every performance. The attention to every beat and half-beat is a vital feature of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana and requires both singer and musician to co-ordinate on the sam. The sam is the most emphatic beat of the tabla (a drum) and is usually played at the beginning of the rhythm cycle and at other specific moments. The singer maintains this rhythm by coinciding the singing with the sam. In khayal singing, the sam may occur at the end of the mukhada (first melodic phrase) and the singer and musician do not consistently coincide their emphases. The Jaipur-Atraul gharana has elevated this to an art form by arriving at the emphatic beat in a specific but unexpected manner. By remaining aware of every beat and fraction of a beat even at the slow tempo, the singer can impart a great aesthetic value to the experience. Alladiya Khan was a master at this technique.

The bandishes are always the traditional ones, and no new compositions are present in the repertoire. The text itself comes second to the melodic movements and tempo of the bandish, the gharana preferring to emphasize the meaning and emotion through note combinations. Thus the musical element dominates. The akar (singing a part of the raga through the vowels ‘aa’) is not traditionally used (the singer Kishori Amonkar is an exception). The bols (words) are sung, and ornamented with t ns and murkis, the ornamentation being in drut laya (fast tempo). The bada khayal is sung spanning all three registers and the antara section is omitted. While vakra t ns (spiralling notes to embellish the raga) are to be found in the presentation, there is a rarity of other t ns like kanas (grace notes) and sargam t ns (sargam – a term comprised of the solfege names of the first four notes, and denoting all seven notes).

The choice of ragas reflects the school’s selectivity of manner and presentation: acchob (rare) ragas and jod (compound) ragas like Sampurna-Malkauns, Basant-Kedar, Basant-Bahar, Kaunsi-Kanada and Nat-Kamod.

Renowned singers include Kesarbai Kerkar who trained under Ustad Alladiya Khan, Mallikarjun Mansur, Shruti Sadolikar Katkar, Padma Tralwalkar, Padmavati Shaligram Gokhale.
Agra gharana

The founders of the Agra gharana, Shamrang and Sasrang, were originally dhrupad and dhamar singers, and khayal singing was a later addition by Ghagge Khuda Baksh. The latter was trained by Nathan Peer Baksh of the Gwalior gharana. The emphasis on layakari in the Agra gharana is a result of these beginnings. Ustad Faiyaz Khan (1886-1950), widely regarded as the founder of this gharana, trained under both his maternal grandfather Ghulam Abbas and Natthan Khan of the Agra school. His paternal great-grandfather was Ustad Ramzan Khan ‘Rangile’ and Faiyaz Khan’s singing is often considered the ‘Rangile’ style rather than the Agra style.

The Ustad himself had a powerful voice and sang in a low register. Through voice modulation as well as stress on alap and the rhythmic patterns in the bandish, he was able to evolve a distinctive style. The nom-tom alap remains popular with this gharana as does the use of ekar rather than akar. He employed a clear style in the enunciation of words which were sung (many believe they were spoken) according to the mood of the section. To add drama, he would often allow for a break in the rendition – a stylistic device is known as phut.

It was Faiyaz Khan’s belief that a raga should commence with the note shadja and that the note be accorded a focal position. While classical texts accepted the shadja as the first note, in practice the opening note (graha swara) was not necessarily the shadja. The current practice of commencing the alap with Sa began with Ustad Faiyaz Khan.

This gharana begins a raga with an extended alap replete with ornamentation, and the mukhda and other phrases are sung with equal emphasis. The bandish in medium tempo follows. The words of the text are accompanied by close attention to rhythm and in vilambit laya. The words of the sthayi may be repeated, if the section is deemed too short. Bol tans are next, sung at double or even treble the past tempo, followed by other tans in madhya laya. The ladant (duel with the tabla) is occasionally included, and at the close, a khayal sung in drut laya.

Like the Jaipur gharana, the Agra school emphasizes the melodic aspect of the raga, while the importance of the bandish is a legacy of the Gwalior style. Again, the sam (the most emphatic beat of the tabla) and the arrival at it by musician and singer is an interesting and much anticipated feature.

Renowned singers of this school include Sharafat Hussain Khan (believed to have a style very close to Faiyaz Khan’s), Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan ‘Agrawale’, Latafat Hussain Khan, Yunus Hussain, Vijay Kitchlu, Jyotsna Bhole, Deepali Nag, Sumuti Mutatkar. A famous independent singer taught by Faiyaz Khan was Kanhaiya Lal Sehgal. Besides, the Agra gharana had a profound influence on luminaries such as Pandit Bhatkhande.
Patiala gharana

The well-known Allu-Fattu are often credited with establishing this gharana even though Kale Khan is the person responsible for this achievement. He provided preliminary training to both his son Ali Baksh (Allu) and Ali’s friend Fateh Ali Khan (Fattu), and Kale Khan’s illustrious teachers continued the instruction. The Patiala gharana is considered an off-shoot of the Delhi gharana.

Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (1901-69) brought glory to this singing tradition, and brought much of his own style into the gharana’s stamp. His voice had an astounding range and clarity, and the effortless execution of even the most complex ragas is a strength that others owing allegiance to this gharana lean toward.

Close attention is paid to swara, layakari, and bols (perfect enunciation being a hallmark of the gharana). Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s ability to span all three octaves while singing the satta-t ns (short spiralling patterns) and the shortened tonal aspect brought glimpses of the tappa (fast-paced, short, light-classical songs of Punjab) into this classical forte. However, this was appropriately restricted to the chhota khayal. But he did grant a special place to both tappa and thumri (a light classical style) singing, and went on to sing thumris in the tappa style! The clear enunciation of notes notwithstanding, there was and is an abundance of ornamentation that has been criticized as being entirely superfluous. Sargams often replace the text, and note-combinations are used in unconventional placements. The gharana regards these as being integral to the mood and emotion of the raga which became in many ways a means of expressing the singer’s response to the raga.

The shringara rasa of the tappas and thumris is a fitting mood for the singing style of this gharana, and the raga selection in its repertoire reflects this.

Malkauns, Bhupali, Gunakali were the ragas of Bade Ghulam Ali’s choice, and even today, these and similar ragas such as Megh Malhar predominate.

Renowned singers of the Patiala gharana include Munnawar Ali Khan (Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s son), Pandit Ajoy Charavorty, Raza Ali Khan, Parveen Sultana.
Rampur-Sahaswan gharana

The founder of this gharana is Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan (1849-1919), son-in-law of Haddu Khan of the Gwalior gharana, and disciple of, among others, Ustad Bahadur Hussain Khan (Tansen’s descendant). Inayat Hussain Khan was born in Sahaswan and lived his professional life in Rampur. The city was an important centre of dhrupad singing, and together with the fact of Haddu Khan’s teaching, there are definite influences of dhrupad, and the Gwalior gharana. For example, the prevalence of ornaments in the Rampur-Shahaswan singing style. Hence, the gharana is regarded as an off-shoot of the Gwalior gharana.

The alap of this gharana is structured and uses techniques like the behlava to express the mood of the raga. The bandish section stretches through the sthayi and antara sections, both of which are sung fully. The text is sung clear and strong so as to wholly reveal its literary nature. This is followed by sargams, akars and bols sung in all three tempos – slow, medium, and fast. Madhya laya is the preferred tempo for raga performance. These features are very similar to those of the Gwalior gharana.

The t ns of this gharana are executed in the characteristic style, and end on the shadja. The number of t ns popular in the Rampur-Sahaswan style is far more than in the other gharanas, and includes sapat-t ns, halaq-t ns, chut-t ns, bol-t ns, and tappa t ns.

Apart from the classical ragas in its repertoire, the gharana favours tarana singing. This is clearly seen in the choice of ragas like Bhupali-Todi, Bahadur-Todi, Yaman, Kedar, Bihag, Gaud-Sarang, Chhaya Nat.

The renowned singers of this gharana include Ustad Mushtaq Hussain Khan (trained by Inayat Hussain Khan himself), Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan (Inayat Hussain Khan’s son-in-law), Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Rashid Khan, Ghulam Sadiq Khan, Shanno Khurana, Sulochana Brihaspati.
Mewati gharana

The semi-classical music of this gharana founded by Ghagge Nazir Khan avoids the accepted norm of elongating words for the sake of rhythm. Sargams and t ns (such as sapat-t ns) are employed to provide the versatile link that is needed. The literary context and the emotional appeal of the raga are stressed, and expressed through the use of techniques such as the murchhana technique (enhancing the raga by changing the tonic).

This last is important because of the emphasis on the mood (rasa, bhava) of the raga. This school can be said to be bhava-pradhan (pradhan: of great importance, superior), and as such the ornamentations and the structure of the performance are geared to ensuring a continuity. This, the akar is conspicuous by its absence (as in the Kirana gharana). The bandish section is characterised by the notes and the raga itself that span all three octaves; the mukhda of both sthayi and antara sections is developed through bol alap. This part closes with the mukhda of the sthayi section, to be followed by layakari and ornamental devices particularly the gamak and sapat t ns.

The bhajan quality of the performances is a feature unique to this gharana, and reveals a religious influence.

The gharana is represented by Pandit Jasraj and his two disciples Sanjeev Abhyankar and Rattan Sharma. This is reminiscent of Ghagge Nazir Khan and his two disciples, Nathulal and Chamanlal. Nathulal’s nephew Pandit Motiram continued the tradition through his sons Pandit Maniram and Pandit Jasraj.
Bhendi Bazar gharana

A lesser-known but influential gharana, the Bhendi Bazar school was founded by Ustad Chhajju Khan, Ustad Nazir Khan and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan in the late nineteenth century. They trained under their father Dilawar Hussain Khan, and Inayat Hussain Khan of the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana.

The akar sung in an open voice, the prevalence of merkhand (intricate singing of the sargam), and a clear articulation and intonation are the characteristic features of this gharana. Stringent practice of breath control permits the singer to sing a long stretch of the raga without pausing.

Renowned singers of this gharana include Ustad Aman Ali (who specialized in complex sargams without sidelining swara and laya, and taught Lata Mangeshwar, known also as ‘India’s nightingale’), Anjanibai Malpekar (who taught Kishori Amonkar).
(Courtesy of India Heritage)



Selected Audio Probes :


The Gwalior Gharana


The Agra Gharana


The Kirana Gharana


The Jaipur Gharana


The Rampur Sahaswan Gharana


The Patiala Gharana


The Delhi Gharana


The Bhendi Bazar Gharana


The Banaras Gharana


The Mewati Gharana


The   Etawa   Gharana

by Imrat Khan Saheb

A Gharana

Indian Classical music can be described a religion whereby the music, knowledge and musical research was traditionally passed down from guru to disciple by word of mouth. In many old musical families the guru or teacher, is the father and the disciple or student, the son. A Gharana, or Musical Dynasty is formed when this process of teaching is passed down for five or six generations.

There are two types of gharana in India, direct gharanas in which music has remained within a family and indirect gharanas, where in the absence of sons or musically talented sons, the teacher chooses to pass on his knowledge to a talented student. In India there are very few direct or true gharanas left. Ustad Imrat Khan’s Etawa Gharana is one of them.

The Etawa Gharana

The Etawa Gharana, also fondly know as the ImdadKhani Gharana after Ustad Imrat Khan’s grandfather Ustad Imdad Khan, is one of the oldest, most illustrious gharanas of Indian classical music. It traces its origins back through an unbroken line of celebrated musicians to the 16th Century where music has been passed down from father to son for almost 400 years. With its roots in Agra, the Gharana was later moved to Etawa on the outskirts of Agra before finally moving to Calcutta with Ustad Inayat Khan, the father of Ustad Imrat Khan. The true value of the Gharana can be understood by looking at its accomplishments. The ancestors of Imrat Khan were fascinated with musicology and searching for the most perfect and purest sounds. Through their research modern Indian Classical music has been redefined. The Gharanas major achievements are the development of the surbahar, major structural changes to both the sitar and surbahar and the creation and development of the instrumental style known as the gayaki ang. Not only has the true art and knowledge of music been preserved by this Gharana despite external pressures of a changing country but it has also produced the most legendary names in Indian classical music through each generation.


                             The Vishnupur Gharana

Gharana, as the word suggests, is a school of thought or a particular system or a style in music. Presentation of the same raga with stylistic variations led to the origin of these gharanas or schools of music. These gharanas formed the nucleus of demonstrative art. The glorious heritage of Hindustani music, as we find it to this day, has been preserved by great musicians of the past who have handed down their rich resources in the classic tradition of guru-shishya parampara, maintaining in each case the individual trends of their gharanas.

The Vishnupur Gharana of Bengal has a prestigious past, the history of which has little been revealed. Vishnupur, the town of Lord Vishnu, is at present a subdivision town of Bankura district in West Bengal. The historic name of the Rarh region of West Bengal is Mallabhum. Though not vast in area, the region holds a significant position in matters such as political vigour, civilization and culture. Historians suggest that Mallabhum had once been the cultural centre of Eastern India. Among its cultural achievements, music had the highest honour. Here I am to discuss some features of the Vishnupur Gharana, along with a few major historical references, that have left indelible impressions upon the music of Bengal.

In the later part of the eighteenth century and towards the early and mid-nineteenth century, when music of different gharanas were gradually having their assimilation in the city-centre of Calcutta, the dhrupad style flourished among the musicians of Vishnupur. To recapitulate history, the Maharaja of Vishnupur was a contemporary of Emperor Aurangzeb. The Senia Gharana was then in full bloom and its reputation spread throughout India. Its influence on the music of Vishnupur was enormous. It was around this time that the famous dhrupad singer Bahadur Khan of the Senia Gharana, descendant of Tansen, came at Vishnupur and made his gharana popular. The next Maharaja of Vishnupur, Raghunath Singh Deo II, steered his attention towards popularizing Bahadur Khan. At this time, the Ustad expressed his desire to settle down in Vishnupur and the Maharaja made all arrangements to honour him as his court singer. The Maharaja also announced that anyone having a sweet voice and interested in music could learn from Bahadur Khan without any fees. He also bore the financial liability for the poor students. In time, a good number of students became the disciples of Bahadur Khan.

Among the disciples of Bahadur Khan, the name of Gadadhar Chakravorty is noteworthy. Bahadur Khan was not only a vocalist but could also efficiently play on such instruments as the veena, the rabab and the sursringar. Gadadhar Chakravorty learned from his master both vocal and instrumental music. Among his worthy disciples were such talents as Ram Shankar Bhattacharya and Jadu Bhatta, whose name spread throughout India.

Most of the exponents of Vishnupur learned dhrupad song and instrumental music simultaneously. Vishnupur was at that time the cultural capital of India.

Shri Anantalal Banerjee of Vishnupur was an illustrious musician who had his training from Shri Ramshankar Bhattacharya in both vocal and instrumental music. Anantalal’s sons, Shri Ramprasanna Banerjee, Shri Gopeswar Banerjee and Shri Surendranath Banerjee, were prodigies of this gharana. Shri Radhika Prosad Goswami, disciple of Anantalal Banerjee, earned great fame as a dhrupad singer. Among the students of Shri Radhika Prosad were Shri Girijashankar Chakravorty, Jogendra Nath Banerjee and Dhirendra Nath Bhattacharya who won their acclamation in the early conferences of Calcutta. Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakravorty, Jamini Ganguli, Sailen Banerjee and many others learned from Girijashankar Chakravorty. Our great poet, Rabindranath Tagore had his trainings in the dhrupad style from Radhika Prosad Goswami and Jadu Bhakti of Vishnupur. The dhrupad style of Vishnupur had a good deal of influence on many of the songs composed by Tagore.

Shri Ramprasanna Banerjee, the guru of my father the late Gokul Nag, also received his training from Sajjad Muhammed, son of Gulam Muhammed. Sajjad Muhammed was then staying at Jorasanko Rajbati of Raja Sourendra Mohan Tagore of Calcutta. During that time Shri Nilmadhab Chakravorty, the grandson of Gadadhar Chakravorty was teaching Raja Jotindra Mohan Tagore. Ustad Allauddin Khan of Maihar took his lessons in surbahar from Shri Nilmadhab Chakravorty. Shri Ganendra Prosad Goswami, the nephew of Radhika Prosad Goswami was a very famous musician. He recorded many songs for the Gramophone Company of India.

I have mentioned before the name of Shri Gopeswar Banerjee, a great pioneer of the music of Vishnupur. He was the court musician of the Maharaja of Burdwan, Narajol and Mayurbhanj. He wrote a number of books on musicology as Sangeet Chandrika, Geet-Darpan, Geet-Praveshika, Sangeet Lahari and others. Shri K. C. Dey, the uncle of Manna Dey, the popular light music singer of Bengal, also learned dhrupad from Shri Gopeswar Banerjee. Kshetramohan Goswami, another maestro in this area, was a disciple of Ramshankar Bhattacharya. It was he who invented the Dandamatrik system of notation in Bengal.

Until a few years ago the name of the late Satyakinkar Banerjee was well-known among the music lovers of Calcutta. Besides vocal music, he was adept in surbahar and sitar: the late Pandit Nikhil Banerjee and myself, have listened to his playing in his house at Calcutta. His sons, Shri Amiya Ranjan Banerjee, ex-professor of Rabindra Bharati University, Shri Nihar Ranjan Banerjee, Professor of Rabindra Bharati University and Shri Monoranjan Banerjee, are now representing the Vishnupur Gharana, almost in its twilight days, bearing just a few glimpses from its age-old tradition.

I would like to draw the conclusion of my discussion with this opinion that, although every gharana has its own distinctive style of presentation, no creative art can develop within any rigorous binding. Music is the highest among fine arts. Every individual has his own build-up of the mind, his own environmental influences that will leave remarkable traces upon his music. Through his creation the artist, in a sense, manifests his soul – the Atma. While presenting his art, he is in a state of emotional exaltation. Hence, two artistes, belonging to the same gharana, need not necessarily have the same way of presentation. Variations must be accepted, otherwise creative music would have become identical with composed music. The artiste’s quest should not be after what genre he belongs to but after what he is. —

(A paper presented by Pandit Manilal Nag at the Seminar on Sitar organized by the Sangeet Research Academy, 23 September 1990, Bombay.)

(For a demonstration Please note also :  )


                            The Bishnupur Gharana


The Bishnupur Gharana (alternatively spelt Vishnupur Gharana) is a form of  the Drupad tradition of Hindustani music. It originated in Bishnupur, which derived its name as “city of Vishnu” in Bengali. In the ancient past, this area, known as Mallabhum was the abode of Malla Kings, once the cultural centre of Eastern India. Bishnupur Gharana was established in 1370 A.D. by the court musicians Bahadur Khan of Malla Kings.Bahadur Khan was not only a vocalist but could also dexterous instrumentalist. Historical evidence points to Pt. Ramachandra Bhattacharya, a disciple of Ud. Bahadur Khan as the founder of the gharana.

Bishnupur Gharana therefore has a strong link to Betia Gharana through this unbroken relationship. In the later part of the eighteenth century and towards the early and mid-nineteenth century, when music of different Gharanas were gradually assimilating around the Khayal style, the Dhrupad style continued flourishing among the musicians of Bishnupur. In this style, the artist excels in unfolding the beauty of the Raga through the alap. It is simple, devoid of heavy, cumbersome ornamentation. It is free from intricate play with the rhythm. Layakari is however allowed in Dhamar, another form of vocalization. The Khayal of the Bishnupur School is noted for its sweet, lilting melody. It is adorned with the usual ornaments, which add variety to the melodic presentation of the Raaga.

The dhrupad of the Bishnupur gharana uses shuddha dhaivata in raga vasanta, a touch of komal nisada in the descending notes of Raga bhairava. It has abandoned kadi madhyam (proper center) in raga ramakeli, and uses suddha dhaivata in raga puravi and komal nisad in raga vehaga. It has also developed its own character with regard to rhythm. Its origins and the development have led to a great openness in the teaching and evolution within this gharana. Gadadhar Chakraborty, his main disciple helped him to create Bishnupur Gharana. Later Krishna Mohan Goswami, Ram Sankar Bhattacharya and his son Ram Keshab Bhattacharya continued the tradition. During this period appeared Jadu Bhatta (Jadunath Bhattacharya), who took this music to a higher region and made a well known through out India. Other important contributors are Dinabandhu Goswami, Ananta Lal Bandyopadhyay. Rama Prasanna Bandyopadhyay, Radhika Prasad Goswami, Gopeshwar Bandyopadhyay, Surendranath Bandyopadhyay are the next generation musicians, who were the great exponents of Bishnupur Gharana. The disciples of Rama Prasanna Bandyopadhyay, Sri Gokul Nag (Sitar) and Asesh Chandra Bandyopadhyay (son, Esraj) carried the reputation of Bishnupur Gharana to higher standard.

Poet and Nobel laureate, Rabindra Nath Tagore had his training in the Dhrupad style from Radhika Prosad Goswami. The Dhrupad style of Bishnupur had a good deal of influence on many of the songs composed by Tagore. One of the great exponents of this Gharana was the famous Jadubhatta. Bishnupur Gharana has not only enriched the Hindusthani classical music but also brought a subtle variation in style. Its Dhrupad is unmatched. Ranadhir Roy (1943 – 1989) was a noted connoisseur of Esraj. Further Surendranath Bandyopadhyay son of Anantalal Bandyopadhyay and Bindubasini Devi, daughter of Surendranath are the names to be mentioned. Sri Manilal Nag son of Gokul Nag is an acclaimed Sitar player today, who hails from Bishnupur Gharana. Dr. Debabrata Singha Thakur, a disciple of Gopeswar Bandopadhaya and a direct descendent of Kuchiakol lineage of Malla dynasty is another exponent of Bishnupur Gharana. At present, Ram Saran Music College is dedicatedly popularizing the Bishnupur Gharana before the world community.

The Ramsaran Music College was established in the year of 1897 by Sangeet Guru Ramsankar Bhattacharyay, after the name

of Late Ramsaran Mukhopadhyay, who contributed Rs.40,000.00 at that time. It is considered to be the oldest Music college in India. Initially it was constituted as a music school. Desikottam Dr. Gopeswar Bandopadhyay was the founder principal of this college. in the year of 1943, he converted this institution as College. After his death, his brother Padmasree Sangeet Ratnakar Surendranath Bandopadhyay succeeded as the Principal of this college.


The primary objective of this college is to preserve, popularize and improvise the rich cultural tradition of Bishnupur Gharana and present before the world community. It devotes in integrating Bishnupur Gharana with other Indian Gharanas. It devotes on training of Bishnupur Gharana by observing strict discipline of Guru-Sishya Parampara. It renders financial assistance to the meritorious scholars for continuation of studies in music.


The Bishnupur Gharana: an interview with Pandit Sujit Gangopadhyay

Arijit Mahalanabis (1)

Of all of the Dhrupad traditions in India, perhaps the most obscure is the Dhrupad tradition of Bishnupur. The Bishnupur Gharana has significantly influenced the popular, urban and folk music of Bengal. However, its contributions to the world of classical music have not necessarily been well understood, or indeed, even appreciated.

One of the difficult realities of Indian classical music today is that one’s geographic location, to a great extent, limits one’s ability to be heard or appreciated. This is certainly the case with the musicians who practice in Bishnupur. Removed from the urban musical stronghold of Kolkata many of these musicians toil in obscurity without the benefit of popular acclaim. It is difficult to say that Pandit Sujit Gangopadhyay is one such musician. As a prolific and accomplished performer, active teacher and able administrator, Sujit Babu is a well established figure of the Gharana. However, as a musician living and performing in Bishnupur, his views on the issues related to the gharana’s present, past and future are rather enlightening, and perhaps more thought-provoking than those of his contemporaries who perform Bishnupuri music in Kolkata and elsewhere. In this interview conducted on 5th September, 2009, I asked Pandit Gangopadhyay about a variety of different aspects of his gharana.

Arijit Mahalanabis [AM]: Namaskar Panditji. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about the Bishnupur Gharana. Can you begin by saying a few words about the gharana’s present state and its past achievements?

Sujit Gangopadhyay [SG]: The Bishnupur Gharana passed through a golden age a long time ago. Many great musicians from the gharana practiced music contemporaneously, and the gharana was famous throughout India. This may not be the case today, but the gharana is seeing something of a revival. More students are studying this music, and demand amongst audiences too is growing. Of course, musical giants are not born every day. However those who are involved with the gharana at present are doing their work, practicing music, and teaching and learning the tradition. Our age-old tradition manages to continue.

AM: Can you tell me something about your gurus? What contributions did they make to the gharana especially with regard to Dhrupad and Dhamar?

SG: My father, Amarnath Gangopadhyay, practiced both Khayal and Dhrupad. He was my first guru. He studied with Atulkrishna Bandhopadhyay, one of the great musicians of our gharana. Atulkrishna in turn, was a student of Gopeshwar Bandhopadhyay[2], and Ustad Tusiruddhujin Khan. He studied Dhrupad and Dhamar from Gopeshwar Babu, and Khayal from the Ustad.[3]

As for me, I went on to study with Amiya Ranjan Bandhopadhyay, a major figure in our gharana at present. Amiya Babu is considered to be the senior-most artist in the state of West Bengal today. He belongs to a much respected family in our gharana. His father was Satyakinkar Bandhopadhyay, a great exponent of both Khayal and Dhrupad. I should point out that a very significant aspect of Satyakinkar Babu and Amiya Babu’s music is that they have both put equal emphasis on the practice of Dhrupad and Khayal, and have maintained both styles side-by-side.[4] This was true of Gopeshwar Babu’s music also. It is a common notion that Bishnupur Gharana is a Dhrupad gharana. But really, it is a gharana that puts equal emphasis on both Dhrupad and Khayal. Certainly Dhrupad occupies a hallowed ground in the gharana. But the great musician Ramprasanna Bandhopadhyay, who was Gopeshwar Babu’s elder brother and guru, and the son of Anantalal Bandhopadhyay, was an accomplished instrumentalist. His student was sitarist Gokul Nag, the father of Manilal Nag, and one of Ravi Shankar’s gurus. Sitar, as you know, is a Khayal ang instrument. Ashesh Badhopadhyay, the son of Ramprasanna Babu, was a great Esraj player. In fact, Rabindranath was very fond of him, and he spent his life at Vishwa Bharati. So although Dhrupad is very important in the Bishnupur Gharana, it is not the only music found in the gharana. Bishnupur as a gharana encompasses Dhrupad, Khayal and Instrumental music in a very complete and exhaustive way. As a member of this gharana, I personally practice both Dhrupad and Khayal.[5]

AM: Can you describe the process of receiving talim from your gurus?

SG: As I said I received my training from my father. As you know, our guru-shishya parampara requires us to sit with the guru, learn the chalan, roop and overall emotion of the raga, and then repeat the guru’s musical phrases over and over again. I too learned in this traditional way. For example, my father might say to me, look at the komal re and ga in Todi. Both these are somewhat flatter than the usual komal re and komal ga. One might say they are atikomal. Many ragas use these notes, but Todi is special. These things are best learned by listening to and repeatedly singing with one’s guru. It is very difficult to write such things down on a sheet of paper. See how the komal re in Bhairav is different than Todi! It is a bit higher than the usual komal re. Also as you know Bhairav has andolit Re and Dha. They are andolit in Ramkali also. But the Re-Dha andolan in Bhairav is somewhat wider, with a more Tivra bent. For this reason, when Dha is taken andolit in Bhairav, a small touch of Komal Ni also appears, from the extensive upswing of the note. It now shows as a vivadi swar regularly in performances of the raga. The same is true of Re. Its upswing in the andolan places it at a shruti that is quite a bit Tivra from the usual Komal Re. While we wouldn’t say these vivadis are part of the raga, in performance they do happen. Ramkali on the other hand has these andolans, but they are not nearly as Tivra, and as a result these vivadi chhayas of the Re and Dha do not arise. The only way to learn such subtleties is through the medium of the guru. One cannot learn these from a page. This is the kind of training I received in the Guru-Shishya Parampara.

AM: Did your gurus describe such subtleties in words, the way you have just done, or were these principles that you gleaned by singing with them?

SG: First they would speak about it, and then demonstrate musically.[6]

AM: As you know, some gharanas like the Agra Gharana are known for Bolbant and Layakari. Others like the Dagar Bani are known for their work with the shrutis. What would you say are the stylistic characteristics of the Bishnupur Gharana?

SG: Vaishnav thought is central to the Bishnupur Gharana. Our kings were adherents and philosophers of Vaishnavism. Hence the entire culture revolved around the idea of Bhakti. When you come to Bishnupur, you will see there are uncountable numbers of temples devoted to Krishna and Radha. For this reason, the music of our gharana, instead of focusing on virtuosity and ustadi, is centered more on Bhakti ras, and giving rise to feelings of devotion in both the musician and the listener. This is why Rabindranath found this musical style more to his liking. Because many Dhrupad gharanas do not focus on the Bhakti aspect of the composition, some musicians belonging to such gharanas do not even sing the four parts of the composition clearly! Many musicians start by singing the sthayi and then begin doing bolbant and layakari on the sthayi. Then they sing the antara and launch into bolbant and layakari on the antara. And often the sanchari and abhog are dropped altogether! Here, we sing all four parts clearly first. After that, we do some Bolbant. Because of this approach, the gravity of the composition stands out.[7] By the way, the word Dhrupad refers to a composition. Alap is not part of a Dhrupad. It is a separate genre altogether. We sing it before a Dhrupad because when Dhrupad is sung on its own, the presentation is too short. The ras that is within the raga that can attract the human mind becomes obscured. Therefore, by singing the Alap, the beauty of the raga becomes apparent, and the direct appeal of the raga to the heart becomes clear. But Alap is a totally different form of music from Dhrupad. It is anibaddha first of all. Dhrupad by its very name and nature cannot be anibaddha.[8] But coming back to your question, singing the four parts clearly and without distortion is very important in our Gharana, so that the depth of meaning and feeling, the resonance of bhakti that is in the text, in full measure finds a home in the listener’s mind. In my limited experience, most other gharanas do not treat the four parts clearly. And as I said, musicians start doing Bolbant in the middle without first showing the full composition. But another issue is that sometimes the Bolbant becomes too much and overwhelms the composition and its intent. There is a lack of a sense of proportionality in this respect. So, to sum up, in the Bishnupur Gharana, the full form of the composition is more important than a display of virtuosity in Bolbant.

AM: But it is not the case that you don’t do any Bolbant at all, is it?

SG: No, no. It is definitely a part of the performance. But it is secondary in importance. You see, the Bolbant is the alankar or the ornamentation of Dhrupad. In Dhrupad one cannot do ornamentation that is often associated with other musical genres, because these reduce the overall gravity of the composition. So the Bolbant is the only way to ornament the composition. But it is a secondary feature of the performance, and we don’t let it overwhelm the Dhrupad.[9]

AM: Is there a particular manner in which the Bolbant of Bishnupur is meant to unfold in a performance?

SG: When you first start learning Bolbant, you learn to move in dugun, tigun, chaugun, chhegun, and so on, in a very methodical manner. But when we perform, we don’t progress in such a systematic manner from dugun to tigun, to chaugun, etc. I, for one, mostly improvise in dugun and tigun. I try to be as creative as possible in my own way in these layas, keeping in mind the positioning of the taal. Bolbant in Dhrupad is like Taankari in Khayal. In Khayal, you set a tempo and move as per your thinking. Just like that, a Dhrupadiya unfolds his creativity in the present tempo using Bolbant as a device. On the odd occasion I might sing one pre-determined movement. But it is largely extemporaneous in nature.

AM: But in teaching students, you systematically teach them dugun, tigun, chaugun and so on?

SG: Yes, when basic training is being done, we teach fixed movements in each type of laya. Often the focus is on retaining the melody of the composition while changing the laya.[10] But as I said, in performance, it is done extemporaneously.

AM: Can you tell me more about the compositions that make up the Bandish repertoire of the Bishnupur Gharana? What is their origin? Were they mostly written by Bishnupur musicians?

SG: No, no, not at all. The Bishnupur Gharana is really an offshoot of the Seni Gharana. It is differentiated stylistically because after Tansen’s descendent Bahadur Khan, the founder of our gharana, came to Bishnupur, he imparted his knowledge to Gadadhar Chakrabarty, and he in turn taught Ramshankar Bhattacharya, and in the process the Seni style changed into something distinctive and quite able to stand on its own. But the majority of the compositions are attributable to Tansen, Baiju Bavara, Bahadur Khan’s son, etc.[11]

AM: But a little while ago, you mentioned that the Bishnupur Gharana is characterized by Bhakti ras. Then, where did these texts come from? It seems unlikely that Bahadur Khansaheb would write these compositions.

SG: No, some of these came from Gopeshwar Bandhopadhyay, Surendranath Bandhopadhyay, Ramprasanna Bandhopadhyay and others. But there are many compositions of Tansen’s and Baiju Bavara’s as well.[12]

AM: If I remember correctly, the Bishnupur Gharana had another line of musicians that included the vocalist Gyanendra Prasad Goswami.

SG: Well, the truth is that Gyanendra Prasad Goswami was not that involved with classical music. He did not sing Dhrupad, Dhamar and Khayal as much, and therefore is somewhat removed from the gharana. His uncle, Radhika Prasad Goswami was a classical musician of Bishnupur Gharana. But Gyanendra Prasad Goswami, although he had studied everything, was better known for Ragashray Bangla Gaan.[13] He had an incredibly beautiful voice that together with his command of Ragashray Bangla Gaan created a somewhat different stream of music from the classical Bishnupur Gharana. Further Gyanendra Prasad had taken talim from Ustad Faiyaz Khan, and as a result had veered somewhat towards the Agra Gharana.[14]

AM: Is the Ragashray Gaan tradition continuing in your gharana?

SG: Well, actually, the gharana tilts more towards the classical side. There is more emphasis put on Dhrupad and Khayal.[15]

AM: In many gharanas, there is no real differentiation between Dhrupad and Dhamar. The Dhamar is sung like a Dhrupad, just in a cycle of 14 beats. What is the position of the Bishnupur Gharana on the differentiation between Dhrupad and Dhamar?

SG: Dhrupad and Dhamar are completely separate genres. Khayal and Thumri are not the same, are they? Similarly Dhrupad and Dhamar are not the same. Dhamar is sung after Dhrupad, to appeal to the heart of the common listener, just like Thumri is sung as a light piece after Khayal. Dhamar is called “Hori Gaan”, a song sung to represent the color play of Radha and Krishna. On the other hand, we think of classical Dhrupad as being sung in praise of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. There are certainly Dhrupad compositions that are dedicated to Radha and Krishna, or to some historical figure, a king or an important person. But those aren’t considered classical Dhrupad compositions. The truly classical ones are in praise of one of the Hindu trinity.[16]

AM: Do you do Bolbant in Dhamar?

SG: We not only do bolbant in Dhamar, it is often found to a greater degree in Dhamar than in Dhrupad. We also often do not sing all four parts in Dhamar. It is limited to two, to appeal more to the common listener. In my opinion, one can say that Dhamar is a Dhrupad ‘ang’ song, but not a Dhrupad. Dhamar is the ‘laghu’ of Dhrupad. Dhamar has a lower status than Dhrupad, and is meant to follow up after the heavy dhrupad to lighten the mind and mood. At least this is what I feel.[17]

AM: I am a little confused about the history of your gharana. In a number of sources the beginning of the gharana is attributed to Ustad Bahadur Khan. But in a number of other sources, the beginning of the gharana is dated to the 12th or 13th century.[18]

SG: No, such an early date would be inaccurate. Before Bahadur Khan came to Bishnupur, there was indeed music here. But it was in the form of kirtan, musical storytelling, and folk music. Classical music was not present. The enthusiasm that King Raghunath Singha II showed for classical music must have had an origin somewhere in the music of the region. But it was only after he brought Bahadur Khan to Bishnupur that classical music took hold. Further, it is only after the transmission of musical knowledge to Gadadhar Chakrabarty and Ramshankar Bhattacharya that a coherent and distinctive style of musical presentation formed and became known as the Bishnupur Gharana. Therefore, the Bishnupur Gharana can only be spoken of after the time of Ustad Bahadur Khan. You see, at that time, there was no communication with classical musicians. There was no way for them to visit and perform their music in Bishnupur on a regular basis. As a result, no classical music culture formed. It was for this reason that King Raghunath Singha II brought Bahadur Khan to Bishnupur and had him settle here and teach here. As a result a culture of classical music began to develop that finally found full expression in the music of Ramshankar Bhattacharya. For this reason, in the Bishnupur Gharana, Ramshankar Bhattacharya is referred to as Sangeet Guru. And in turn, he trained a generation of great musicians: Anantalal Bandhopadhyay, Kshetramohan Goswami, Jaddu Bhatta, and others.[19]

AM: In many gharanas you see a slight differentiation in style between artists. For example in the Atrauli-Jaipur Gharana, the approach taken by Mallikarjun Mansur is distinct from the approach taken by Kishori Amonkar. Do you see differentiation of this sort in Bishnupur Gharana as well?

SG: Let me address a broader question. Take Mallikarjun Mansur as an example. He had a very distinctive style. But after him very few if any have followed his way of singing. There has been a total change in Hindustani music across India after Amir Khansaheb. Khayal music, in the time of Faiyaz Khansaheb was sung in a Dhrupad ang, and didn’t sound at all like the Khayal that is heard across India today. The Agra Gharana today has come to an end. You’ll find no one singing that old style of music. After Amir Khansaheb, the very nature of Ragadari has changed. The way we hear ragas—and why just us, all of India for that matter—take the case of Bhimsen Joshi who is a great admirer of Amir Khansaheb’s music and once even approached Khansaheb about learning from him—it is all different today.[20] See, progress and development are ever present. Each human being interprets change based on his/her musical thinking, timbre of the voice, emotional expression, and musical training. As a result no two musicians will sound the same. It is impossible to hold things in a static state. Because of the changes that are happening to our environment, even the way human beings look is changing. So why won’t the music change? Changes in attitudes and societal expectations, what is considered aesthetic, how audiences receive music inevitably impact the music of musicians. So what we can say is that there is an emerging new style of music. And there are deviations from this style by each musician to some extent that take into account his/her experience. Now coming to the Bishnupur Gharana, if you listen to Satyakinkar Bandhopadhyay, you will find a distinct style. If you listen to Ramesh Bandhopadhyay, you will find a different style. Ramesh Babu’s is more moderate in nature, just as his nature was moderate. I have not heard many of the old time musicians of the gharana, although I have heard Gopeshwar Babu. I must say that the approach taken by his descendants was rather more moderate than Gopeshwar Babu’s. And there is good reason. As time passes, progress happens and thinking changes. These younger musicians had access to Gopeshwar Babu’s innovations at a young age, and could build on his thinking. But despite the differences, we are all trying to understand and follow the main aesthetic of the gharana in the best way we each can. If I were to describe my own approach, you see, I sing both Khayal and Dhrupad. So when I do Alap, my approach is informed by both. There are so many musicians today who sing Alap that might be technically very difficult, but fails to bring the raga alive. I don’t think of Alap as just a tool for showing the raga swaroop. It is a form of song, just like the other genres. The only thing is that it is anibaddha. Therefore, it should not be a dry exercise. It should enliven the mind and make the listener happy and satisfied. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the only form of song that allows us to express our inner feelings in the medium of the raga fully is Alap. It is that important!

AM: You have made clear that the Bishnupur Gharana has a very clear relationship with the Seni Gharana. Are there other gharanas of Dhrupad to which the Bishnupur Gharana is related?

SG: It seems like there is some sort of a relationship with Bettiah Gharana. There are some shared characteristics between the two gharanas musically, so it would seem to me that there must have been some sort of a relationship. But I really don’t know for sure. I don’t think there is much of a relationship with other Dhrupad gharanas.

AM: What relationship did Rabindranath have to the Bishnupur Gharana? I had heard that he had studied with Jaddu Bhatta.

SG: Yes, in a manner of speaking he did. But very importantly we should examine Rabindranath’s connection to Gopeshwar Bandhopadhyay. Although Gopeshwar Babu was much younger, Rabindranath respected him very much. Gopeshwar Babu provided the musical notation for many of Rabindranath’s songs, and through him Rabindranath modeled many of his songs on Dhrupads from the gharana. Rabindranath himself said that he didn’t learn from Jaddu Bhatta in the traditional manner. He never had that opportunity. But he would stand by the window and listen to Jaddu Bhatta as he sang in their house. The Tagore household always had musicians and music in the house. And when Jaddu Bhatta visited, Rabindranath was always at the ready to listen and be influenced by the music.

AM: Do you consider Rabindranath to be an artist of the Bishnupur Gharana?

SG: Rabindranath wasn’t a musician or artist of the gharana. But he took songs and music from the gharana. Certainly the text of some of his Bengali compositions would hew closely to some traditional compositions of the gharana. But we cannot say he is from the Bishnupur Gharana. One can say that he was deeply influenced by the gharana certainly. Rabindranath said that he didn’t like the Ustadi of the other gharanas. He very much appreciated the Bhakti ras that was part of the Bishnupur approach to music. And further, since he was a poet and writer and his main concern was literature, he needed a musical framework that respected the depth of the literary content. From this perspective Bishnupur Gharana was ideal.

AM: As you have said many times, the Dhrupad and Dhamar genres of Bishnupur are full of Bhakti ras. So, was this music performed in the temples or in the darbars?

SG: They were most definitely performed in the temples! If you come to Bishnupur you will see that the kings and rulers of the land were extremely powerful. But even then, they did not build a royal palace.[21] Instead they put their wealth into the building of temples. Here you will find uncountable numbers of stone temples, each decorated with terracotta sculptures depicting music and musical activity. One of the major landmarks of the city is Ras Mancha, a temple of 108 doors, where music and the playing of ras holi were an integral part of the temple life.

AM: And what about music at the royal court?

SG: Since there was no royal palace, the king held his court in front of the temple of Ma Mrinmayee.[22] There is a very old Banyan tree in front of this temple, which has a stone courtyard around its base. The king would sit in this courtyard and hold his court. That’s how strong their belief in Vaishnavism was! For them there were two main responsibilities. One was to maintain their Vaishnav faith. And the other was to maintain the culture of classical music in the kingdom. They seldom indulged themselves in the manner of other royal families.

AM: Today, where is Dhrupad performed in Bishnupur?

SG: There are a number of yearly concerts that are held purely for Dhrupad. There is an annual Dhrupad conference during the time of the Dol Festival. Musicians from Kolkata and elsewhere come to Bishnupur for this conference. We have a very good auditorium in town named after Jaddu Bhatta where this conference is held. In the last few years, we have had performances by Ritwik Sanyal, Falguni Mitra, Fahimuddin Dagarsaheb, Bahauddin Dagar, to name a few. I too participate in this conference. The whole conference is sponsored by the Central Government. Dr. Sanyal did an excellent workshop on Dhrupad. He expressed the opinion that Alap is an ang of Dhrupad. But I prefer to think of Dhrupad and Alap as separate types of music. This difference came up in the question-answer session after the workshop. But it was on the whole a very well-done workshop. These types of programs are often held in Bishnupur.[23]

AM: Is there still music in the temples?

SG: No, the governmental department that looks after the temples has forbidden music in the temples. We are not allowed to sing within 100 meters of any temple. This is to protect the structural integrity of the temples. At Ras Mancha, there used to be a lot of music making and playing of colors during the festival of Dol. But not so anymore! Now we do our music next to Ras Mancha, outside of the required perimeter.

[Continued in Part III]


11. There is a basic disconnect here between the idea that the gharana is deeply rooted in Vaishnav philosophy, and the idea that the majority of its compositions come from non-Vaishnav sources. This is the contradiction I was trying to get at with the subsequent question.

12. My sense of the situation is that while a number of Vaishnav texts were contributed by gharana musicians, much of the legitimacy of the gharana derives from its possession of compositions by Tansen, Baiju Bavara and their contemporaries. It would be interesting to see how many compositions of these individuals have been syncretized into a Vaishnav mold to suit the philosophy of the gharana.

13. Ragashray Gaan are Bengali songs set in ragas.

14. The distancing from Gyanendra Prasad Goswami is quite interesting. Clearly Gyanendra Prasad was not classical enough to warrant inclusion (at least to the same degree) as someone like Gopeshwar Bandhopadhyay, in the gharana. Further, the fact that he took talim from Faiyaz Khan is seen as a polluting influence on his Bishnupur credentials.

15. This is interesting because SG has described the Bishnupur Gharana as a collection of various song types: Alap, Dhrupad, Khayal and Instrumental music. However, Bengali songs, even based in classical music are considered to be non-classical. Hence the need for a complete, comprehensive gharana appears to be limited to song types that are considered very strictly classical.

16. SG establishes increasingly higher standards of classicism in describing the repertoire. Dhrupads in praise of the trinity alone are considered truly classical. The remainder falls into another class of somewhat less classical songs. And in SG’s opinion, therefore, Dhamars are less classical than Dhrupads.

17. It is interesting to note that certain sections of the Dagar Gharana actually treat Dhamar in a very deliberate and classical manner, quite to the contrary of what SG is describing. It is fairly clear that this is an artistic choice that arises from the different philosophical directions of these two gharanas.

18. For example, see the Wikipedia entry on Bishnupur Gharana.

19. Here SG acknowledges that musical styles that cannot be considered classical existed in Bishnupur prior to the arrival of Bahadur Khan. Again, these he treats as distinct from the classical tradition, which he considers to be the proper Bishnupur Gharana. Because of the direct lineage from the Seni Gharana, in a sense the claim being made is that the Bishnupur Gharana preserves the repertoire of the Seni tradition which, as far as vocal music, has largely died out elsewhere in India.

20. My sense was that while SG would never state it this way, there was a certain musical oppression in operation. The aesthetic that Amir Khan espoused appears to be so ingrained in the connoisseur population that stylistic alternatives are not even under consideration in this part of India. The apparent uniformity of stylistic approach that one sees amongst the newer set of musicians (including those from the Bishnupur Gharana) appears to be an attempt to cater to the “mean” aesthetic established by Amir Khan. This is purely my analysis of the situation based on what SG had to say. He did not espouse this position himself.

21. This does not seem to fit with the impression I’ve gotten from sources on the ground. There does appear to be some sort of a “Rajbari” structure, suggesting the existence of a royal palace. I didn’t question SG on this issue as I felt he was trying to make a larger point. Even if there is a Rajbari, there is one structure, as opposed to hundreds of temples. The intent of Bishnupuri kings was clear.

22. Curiously, for all of the belief in Vaishnavism, court was held in front of the oldest temple in Bishnupur, a shrine to the goddess Mrinmayee.

23. This divergence in perception of Alap as an independent art form (Bishnupur) as opposed to an integrated portion of the Dhrupad (Dagar) appears to be a result of the distinct view these two schools hold on the place of the composition. The depth, form and meaning of the composition seem to be central to Bishnupur, while this is the case with only some Dagar Bani musicians. The deconstruction of a raga down to its microtones is something that preoccupies the musical intellect of the Dagar musicians to a much greater extent.


1. Director, Seattle Indian Music Academy. The author would like to thank Tanmoy Ganguly for his invaluable assistance.

2. Gopeshwar Bandhopadhyay (1880-1963) is one of the most notable names of the gharana, and achieved all-India fame as a Dhrupadiya and composer of much merit.

3. SG credits Atukrishna Bandhopadhyay’s Dhrupad training to Gopeshwar Babu and his Khayal training to the Muslim Ustad. This is interesting. Although Ustad Bahadur Khan is credited with starting the Gharana and thus importing the majority of Dhrupads into Bishnupur, I felt there might be a slight distinction here between the Hindu keeper of the tradition, who provided the Dhrupad repertoire and the Muslim keeper of the tradition, who provided the Khayal repertoire. This may not have been a distinction SG wanted to make, but it was something that struck my mind while I talked to him.

4. Here SG begins to lay out the characteristics of the gharana. This is the first characteristic. The gharana takes pride in its equal contributions to Dhrupad and Khayal.

5. In SG’s view therefore, the gharana itself is distinguished by the fact that it never limited itself to one or the other discipline. Dhrupad, Khayal and Instrumental music all found homes in Bishnupur. His views on other musical styles fostered in Bishnupur appear later in the interview.

6. This seems like a significant bit of insight in to pedagogy in Bishnupur. A number of traditional musicians in my experience frown on speaking about the music explicitly. Repeated demonstration through music is used as the only tools of instructing the student. Here SG indicates that verbal discourse was an integral part of the training.

7. There are two very interesting things about these statements. First, a key differentiator between Bishnupur and other gharanas according to SG is that the Bishnupur Gharana is centered on the idea of Bhakti as the main driving force for presentation. Thematic differentiation of this sort across gharanas, as far as I know is never seen. But what legitimizes this claim is his subsequent description of this ideology’s impact on musical style. There is a certain coherence of intent that is not found in what musicians of other gharanas have to say on this topic.

8. Setting Alap aside as a separate ‘song type’ is an unusual view. But this also bolsters the idea of Khayal being an integration of Nibaddha (Dhrupad) and Anibadhha (Alap) into a single form. Here SG seems to be arguing that Dhrupad is a deconstructed form, in which the ‘bhaav’ of the composition in the form of a Dhrupad, is maintained quite distinctly from the ‘ras’ of the raga in the form of the Alap.

9. SG here is drawing a parallel between Bolbant in Dhrupad and Taankari in Khayal, something he will elaborate on later in the interview.

10. That is, the fixed melody and the words of the Dhrupad are sung in dugun, tigun, etc. The composition is essentially sped up while retaining the tempo of the taal.


(For demonstration Please note also:




                             The Kotali Gharana

The Chakraborty family of Kotalipara, Faridpur, of the then East Bengal (now in Bangladesh), is believed to have been originated from Kanauj (U.P.). They were Mishra Brahmins and later migrated to Kotalipara and settled there for about thousand years. Somehow they inherited with them a musical trend specially oriented by Prabandha geeti, Saam gaan and some folk tradition. One of the ancestors of the family, Acharya Biswambhar Chakraborty was drawn towards the mainstream of Indian Classical Music long time ago. He was initiated to Seni Gharana and brought the trend. Tarapada Chakraborty’s father Late Pandit Kulachandra Chakraborty and his uncle Late Pandit Ramchandra Chakraborty had their training from Ustad Jahur Khan of Khurja gharana. Ramchandra had the honour of being the Dwarpandit (court scholar) and the distinguished musician at the court of Maharaja of Natore. Thus, both the brothers had a wide contact with many leading musicians of their time and had a phenomenal collection of musical wealth. Having moved to Calcutta with this rich inheritance, Tarapada Chakraborty first took lessons from Late Pandit Satkari Malakar of Gwalior and Betia gharana especially in Khayal and Tappa. Later, under the guidance of the Great Maestro Late Sangeetacharya Girija Sankar Chakraborty he acquired the distinguished features of various Ragas, styles and traditional Dhrupad, Dhamar and Khayal Bandishes of different gharanas, mainly Seni, Vishnupur, Betia, Delhi, Gwalior, Rampur, Agra, Rangila, Jaipur and Kirana. Girijashankar being a pioneer of Thumri style of singing at that time gave Tarapada Chakraborty an intensive training on the Thumri style of mainly Banaras and Kirana as well. In fact, it is quite discernibly evident that Khayal received a rare authenticity and completeness in the heralding Gayaki of Tarapada Chakraborty in his own way. Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty, the pioneer of this Kotali Gayaki is the legend adored all over India for his contribution towards Hindustani Classical Music.

His worthy son Pt. Manas Chakraborty, the devout pursuer of various sources and streams of Indian Classical Music is enriched by his keen interest in Indian Philosophical traditions of all the existing Gharanas and Gayakies. Exposure to the corresponding confluences of his family’s assertively partisan art of music has focused his attention on the necessity of discarding in order to select and the necessity of differentiating in order to unite. The musical phenomenon of Pt. Manas Chakraborty has attained a new altitude which is his very own and individual and has initiated a new dynamics of allegiance to the human efforts towards life and its values. He sets his Khayal Gayaki in accordance with the character of Raga. His recitals have earned an enviable distinction as an’ “Artist of Artists ”, in various concerts in both at home and abroad. ‘Talim’, ‘tabiat’ and ‘taiari’ with inborn artistry, profound knowledge, intellectuality and cerebral ability has given a new dimension to his unique style of rendition which is now being followed by many artists along with his own disciples. Thus presenting the obscure reality of music in a tangibly graceful elocutionary form with his kalawant gayaki, nayaki and majestic mizaaj has made him an institution by himself in the international realm of Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet. His contribution towards the Hindustani Classical Music for the last fifty years is undoubtedly worth-mentioning and as a ‘Guru’ he is great. The schooling of Indian Classical Music through the mentors of his family and the torchbearers, established around the globe has already entered the seventh- generation and now the new trend of ‘Kotali Gayaki’ is his single handed orchestration, which with the synthesis of diversities has finally created and defined the ultimate shape of ‘ Kotali Gayaki’. His highly technical and eclectic approach though different from his father’s individuality, is finally convergent to the philosophical end of the essence of ‘Kotali Gharana’


Nawab Sayyid Hamid Ali Khan Bahadur


During the past two decades, when music conferences became very popular, every musical artist proclaimed that he came front a particular famous Gharana, that is, a particular line of hereditary musical tradition and particular school of musical styles created or followed by great music teachers and their disciples.

Actually, there were two main Gharanas of Hindusthani music worthy to be considered, during and after the reign of Allauddin Khilji, the Pathan Emperor of Delhi. These were : —

(1) The kalawanta Gharana, founded by Baiju Bawra and propagated by Nayak Gopal which included the singers of the Dhrubapada style of music and the instrumentalists who played on Saraswat veena in accompaniment to the vocal Raga Alap and Dhrubapada songs.

(2) The kawal Gharana, founded and propagated by Amir Khusru and later on by Sultan Hussain Sarki of Jaunpur.

These Gharanas included the singers of Kawali songs and the instrumentalists who played on Sitar in accompaniment to the Kawali songs and Taranas. Later on, a third Gharana was formed by the instrumentalists who used to play on Shanai and Tabla. With the increase of the number of female singers and dancing girls in the Court, there arose a fourth Gharana of instrumentalist accompanying them. The Ostads of the third and fourth Gharana were called Mirasis and Dhadis.


During the reign of Md. Adil Shali at Delhi, there were more than one hundred musicians in the Court, who were mostly the Kawals, Mirasis and Dhadis. After the fall of the Pathan Empire, Haridas Swami, the great saint of Brindaban was the main personality in the golden age of Hindusthani music, when the system of Rag-Alap and the Dhrubapada style of music founded by Baiju Bawra, attained perfection of expressions, and was held in the highest estimation by the royal courts existing in that period.

Under the influence of his inspiration, Raja Man Tomar of Gwalior brought four Nayaks or authorities of Dhrubapada Hindusthani music in his court,who were named – (I) Bhanu, (2) Chharju, (3) Dhundi. (4) Chanchal Sashi. Really, the Gharanas of Hindusthani classical music were formed by Swami Haridasji and these four Nayaks, who were all Kalawantas.

During the reign of the Emperor Akbar, Mian Tansen, the disciple of Swami Haridas, was called the greatest of all musicians and was the main centre of a great musical upheaval. All the disciples of other Nayaks became his disciples and his style of Alap and Dhrubapada was regarded and accepted as the best ever known. He enriched the Dhrubapada style with some Persian ornamentations. Mian Tansen was the leader of a group of famous musicians, namely :-

(1) Khoda Bux,

(2) Masnad Ali,

(3) Ramdas,

(4) Chand Khan,

(5) Suraj Khan,

(6) Khande Rao,

(7) Suragnan Khan,

(8) Jagapat (Mridangi).


Mian Tansen was the greatest disciple of Swami Haridas and a foster child of Pir Md. Ghaus of Gwalior while others were either his colleagues or disciples of other Nayaks of Gwalior. All these musicians were attached to the Court of Delhi. The other notable disciples of Haridas Swami were (1) Brija Chand. (2) Gopal Lall, (3) Maharaja Samokhan Singh of Ajmir, Singhalgarh, who was the greatest Veena player of that period. From the period of Akbar, notable Gharanas of Northen India were formed by the descendants or disciples of the above-mentioned musicians. But as Mian Tansen was accepted as the greatest of all musicians by Emperor Akbar, his influence on other musicians was paramount. He formed the main Gharanas, that is, the Seni Gharanas of Hinduathani music.

After the death of Mian Tansen, three Gharanas representing his traditions were notable. The first Seni Gharana was formed by his youngest son, Bilas Khan ( Tan Tarang ) at Delhi Darbar. This Gharana represented the choicest Dhrubapada style in Goudi Bani. The second Seni Gharana was formed by another son of Tansen named Surat Sen, who used to sing Dhrubapadas in Dagar Bani and whose descendants subsequently settled at Jaipur,

The third Seni Gharana was formed by Misri Singh, the celebrated Veena player, who was the son of Maharaja Samokhan Singh and married Saraswati Devi, the daughter of Tansen. His descendants formed the main Gharana of Veena music and used to sing Dhrubapadas in both Dagar and kahandar Bani.

Besides these three Seni Gharanas, the other famous Gharanas were formed by Brija Chand and Suradas at Mathura, whose disciples were the Brahmin priests while Chand Khan and Suraj Khan were the founders of Tilmandi Gharana of Dhrubapadas in Punjab.

We find the name of the Agra Gharana specializing in Dhamar style formed by Hazi Sujan Khan, Which was famous during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan. With the decline of classical music, musicians of all the Gharanas underwent severe hardships during the reign of Aurangjib. But Mahammad Shah Rangile, the Badsha, revived the Delhi Darbar in the early eighteenth century with the musicians of all Gharanas assembled at Delhi.


Niamat Khan Veenkar who was a descendant of Misri Singh (son-in-law of Tan Sen) and later on received the title ‘Shah Sadarang’ in the Darbar of Md. Shah is ranked as the second great musician of India after Mian Tansen. He was the high priest of Md. Shah’s Darbar and invented new techniques of the veena music and Dhamar. He also created the classical Kheyal and founded the famous kawal Gharana through his disciples, whom he taught classical Kheyal. The Kawal Gharana thus formed, was regarded as the authoritative line of Kheyal. Other Gharanas like Agra Gharana and Gwalior Gharana of Kheyal, grew up from the main Kawal -Gharana.

During the latter part of eighteenth century, progressive disintegration of the great Mughal Empire was followed by the provincial Subadars and the subordinate Rajas becoming virtually independent and the Emperor of Delhi had only the symbolic possession of supreme authority and honour.

As the financial position of the Delhi Darbar became precarious, the most famous musicians of Delhi took shelter in other courts. At this stage the Seni musicians who came attached to different courts of India, devoted themselves more and more to the culture of instrumental music. Although they were authorities on the Dhrubapada songs, they were divided into two camps.

The descendants of Bilas Khan and Niamat Khan made Banaras their home town, but were attached to the courts of Lucknow and other states. They were called Eastern musicians.

The other camp which was formed of the descendants of Surat Sen settled at Jaipur and were called Western musicians. The Eastern musicians of the Seni Gharana used to play on Rabab and Veena beside singing Dhrubapadas while Western Seni musicians specialised in Sitar and Veena and also sang Dhrubapadas. The kawal Gharana was for a period attached to the Delhi Court.


During the middle of the eighteenth century, the main Gharanas of Hindusthan, which were founded by the Seni musicians and their disciples took final shape. The main Gharanas were as followes:

(1)Seni Gharana of Dhrubapa and Rabab, formed by three great brothers, Jaffar Khan, Payar Khan and Basat Khan of Lucknow and Banaras.

(2)Seni Veenkaras, laid by Nirmal Sha of Lucknow. (3)Kawal Gharana laid by Bade Md. Khan Kawal, of Lucknow and Gwalior.

(4) Gwalior Gharana of Kheyal formed by the three great Kheyali brothers;- Huddu Khan, Hassu Khan and Nathu Khan.

(5) Agra Gharana of Kheyal and Dhamar, formed by the descendants of Hazi Sujan Khan (Dhamar) and who later on became disciples of Shah-Sadarang.

(6) Betia Gharana of Dhrubapada formed by the disciples of Haidar Khan seni of Lucknow, who were the kathaks of Banaras, as well as Muslim Ostads of Kalpi.

(7) Bishnupur Gharana of Dhrubapada formed by Bahadur khan Seni, through his disciple Ramshankar Bhattacherjee.

(8) Tilmandi Gharana of Punjabi Dhrubapada singers.

(9) Lahore Gharana by Punjabi kheyalias, disciples of Shah-Sadarang.

(I0) Ataruli Gharana of Dhrubapada and Kheyal founded by the Brahmins of Mathura who embraced Islam later on.

(11) Dagar Gharana, founded by Bairam Khan, a great scholar and Dhrupad singer, who was a descendant of a priestly line of Mathura.

(12) The Seni Gharana of Sitar of Jaipur, founded by the celebrated Amrita Sen.

(13) The Sarod Gharana of Saharanpur, disciples of Omrao Khan, a son of Nirmal Sha Seni.

(14) Sarod Gharana founded by Niamutulla Khan, a disciple of Basat Khan Seni.

(15) The Sitar Gharana of Lucknow founded by Golam Md. Khan, a disciple of Omrao Khan Seni.


Now we come to the origin of Rampur Gharana which is the latest and last of the greatest Gharanas of India.

After the end of the Sepoy Mutiny, Wazed Ali Shah, the great patron of music settled at Calcutta from Lucknow. He brought with him here great musicians like Sadeque Ali Khan, Kasem Ali Mian of the Tansen Line and Murad Ali Khan and Taj Khan of Kulpi School and some outstanding kheyalias also.

Among the other great musicians of the Tansen line, Sadeque Ali Khan, the great Rababi and scholar, settled in Benaras and trained some priestly musicians like Mithailallji and Bajpayeji. Benaras thus became a prominent centre of classical music.

But there were two shining luminaries of Hindusthani music were invited with great respect and promise of princely allowances by Nawab Kalwe Ali Khan of Rampur State (U.P.), which was founded by the Pathans of Rohilkhand. These luminaries were named Bahadur Hussain Khan Bahadur Khan of Bishnupur) and Amir Khan.

Bahadur Hussain was a nephew of Payar Khan Seni, the celebrated Surasringar player, while Amir Khan was the son of Omrao Khan Seni, the renowned Veenkar. Thus he first used to play on the Surasringar and the second on the Veena. Both, however, were the masters of Dhrubapada singing of the Tansen Line. Bahadur Hussain concentrated more on the instrumental music and had such a charming style of play that people used to say that his fingers were made of diamonds. Not only the lovers of classical music, but even uninitiated laymen were overwhelmed with rapturous joy by the sound of his instrumental displays. He introduced many new Alankaras (embellishments) in the instrumental music and variations of Jhala or Jhankar which are unequalled even up to now by any instrumentalist of India playing Sitar or Sarod.


Amir Khan Veenkar, on the other hand, had a very melodious voice and though originally an instrumentalist his concentration was on vocal music. In the Rampur Darbar, he seldom played on Veena in the presence of Bahadur Hussain Khan who, by the way, was his uncle-in-law. But he used to sing in the Darbar, vocal Alap, Dhrupads and Dhamars. In that period classical Thumri was created by the famous composers Kadar Piya, Sadar Piya, and Sanada Piya, who were attached to the Court of Lucknow during the reign of Wazed Ali Shah. With the departure of Nawab of Lucknow to Calcutta the Lucknow Darbar broke up and Sanada Piya accompanied Bahadur Hussain and Amir Khan to Rampur. Sanada Piya had a voice like that of the “cuckoo” or Kokil and his style of Thumri was very fascinating. But Amir Khan sang Dhamar in such a way that the charms of his voice and styles, overpowered even the best specimens of Thumri. Amir Khan not only used Meend and Alankaras, but also used some Alankaras which sounded like Murki and Firat.


The Rampur Gharana of music founded by Bahadur Hussain and Amir Khan, was characterised by some special charms in the use of Alap, Dhrupad, Dhamar and in the instrumental music which were not found anywhere in India. Both of these great musicians gave all their theoretical and practical knowledge to Nawab Haidar Ali Khan, a brother of the then riuling Nawab of Rampur. Haidar Ali was a unique musician in the vocal and instrumental music and had a very valuble collection of musical scripts containing the teachings of the great masters. These collections are still carefully preserved in the court of Rampur.

Rampur State, during tho time of Haidar Ali Khan had a galaxy of musicians. All of them became disciples of Bahadur Hussain or Amir Khan. Although they belonged to other Gharanas before they came to Rampur, they changed their old style and were influenced by the styles of their masters and thus became identified with the Rampur Gharana. Bahadur Hussain composed many Taranas, which were demonstrated by the kheyal singers of Rampur State.


The following outstanding musicians became initiated in the Tansen tradition by Bahadur Hussain or Amir Khan

1. Md. Hussain (Veena)

2. Nabi Bakash (Veena)

3. Kutubuddaulla (Sitar)

4. Enayet Khan (Kheyal)

5. Ali Hussain (Veena)

6. Bakar Ali Khan (Kheyal)

7. Assad Khan (Surasringar)

8. Fida Hussain Khan (Sarod)

9. Boniat Hussain Khan (sarangi)

All these musiciains of different styles of music adopted the Raga system and the ways of execution of Tansen Gharana. So, the Rampur Gharana may be said to be a special formation of the original Tansen Gharana During the early part of this century Nawab Hamid Ali Khan of Rampur emulating the examples of the previous musical Darbars, formed a unique musical association presided over by Sangeet Nayak Wazir Khan, son of Amir Khan (Veenkar). Wazir Khan learnt Veena from his father and Surasringar from Bahadur Hussain in his prime and Nawab Haidar Ali Khan as his guardian, developed his extraordinary musical genius. Wazir Khan also learnt Dhrupad, Dhamar and was both a melodious vocalist and a great instrumentalist. Nawab Chhamman Saheb, the son of Nawab Haidar Ali, was a colleague of Wazir Khan and excelled in Dhrupads and Surasringar display.


Thus Wazir Khan and Chhamman Saheb were the successors in the line of music of Amir Khan and Bahadur Hussain. Wazir Khan by musical teachings built up the musical career of the following outstanding musicians.

1. Allauddin Khan (Sarod)

2. Hafiz Ali Khan (Sarod)

3. Mehdi Husssain Khan (Dhrupad & Kheyal)

4. Mustaque Hussain Khan (Kheyal)

5. Pramathanath Bandopadhya (Ruddraveen)

6. Jadabendra Mahapatra (Surbahar)

7. Pandit Vatkhandeji (The great Musicologist)

It may be noteworthy that Wazir Khan who was in Calcutta in his youth, had special liking for the Bengalees and helped a good deal for the development of classical music in Bengal. Nawab Chhamman Saheb also gave lessons to Pandit Vatkhandeji. Among the Nawab’s other disciples we may cite the names of :

1. Raja Nawab Ali Khan of Lucknow-(Sitar).

2. Girija Sankar Chakrabarty of Bengal-(Dhrupada, Kheyal and Thumri)

In conclusion, we should not forget the fact that the Vatkhande College of Music, Lucknow, which is now the Centre of Vatkhande University, got tremendous support from Nawab Hamid Ali Khan of Rampur, and Nawab Chhamman Saheb, who helped this great institution both financially and also with the precious teachings of the Rampur Gharana. For every song and each Tana and each Dhrupad he (Raja) gave a crore of rupees to this musician (Kalavid), namely Tansen, who was the embodiment of the art of music. Though these statements of Badaoni and that of the author of the Virabhanudaya Kavyam seem to be exaggeration, to some extent, yet it is clearly understood that Rewa and even its adjacent places were famous for the culture of classical type of Prabandha-Gitis.


Vrindavana was also a famous seat of culture of Prabandha-Gitis. From the history of Bengal Vaishnavism we come to know that most of the Vaishnava savants were headed by Swarupa-Damodara, Ray Ramananda, Swami Krishnadasa, Swami Haridasa, Krishnadasa Kaviraja, Raghunathdasa Goswami, Thakur Narottamadasa and others were well-versed in the lofty or sublime Prabandha type of Gitis.

It is said that Thakur Narottama devised the Padavali-Kirtana on the ideal of the classical Dhruvapada, in slow tempo at Khetari, West Bengal. It might be the fact that Vrindavana drew its inspiration and impetus of the culture of Dhruvapada from Gwalior and its adjacent places, but yet it cannot be denied that Vrindavana and afterwards Mathura, created the schools of their own. And those schools were maintained by a host of Kalavids like Krishnadasa, Haridasa and others. These celebrated exponents of music were all upholders of Dhruvapada.


Bijapur was also a seat of culture of classical music, and specially of Dhruvapada. Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur was a contemporary to the Emperor Akbar. He devoted the best part of his life to the cause of classical music, in which he took interest from his early age.

From Asad Beg’s mission to Bijapur, we learn that Bijapur was so famous for its culture of classical music that Akbar was also attracted to this kingdom. From the editorial comments of the journal, Lalitakala, April 1955 – March 1956 and Joshi’s article on ‘Asad Beg’s Mission,’ in the ‘Potadar Commemoration Volume’, 1950, we come to know that Asad Beg went on his Mission in 1603-1604 A.D. It hals been stated thus:

“Speaking about the events of 1603-04, Asad Beg says that he was invited to the royal palace to bid farewell to Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur on the night of 27th Sh’aban. A grand music party had been arranged for the occasion. Asad Beg found Ibrahim so rapt in listening to music that be could hardly reply to Asad Beg’s question. The conversation for sometime was mainly concerned with music and musicians”.

It should be remembered in this context that Dhruvapada the most prominent feature of musical culture of that time i.e. in the sixteenth – seventeenth century A.D.

Dr. Nazir Ahmed has written as follows in the Introduction to the book, Kitab-i-Nauras by the said Sultan :

“Ibrahim was a master of Dhrupada and his book in the same style became so popular as to attract even the Moghal Emperor Jahangir, and the Emperor claimed the Kitab-i-Nauras to be in form of Dhrupada which §ultan learnt from Baktar. It has been stated that about four thousand skilled musicians thronged on an occasion, and the Sultan wished that skillful musicians should always adorn his court by their presence.”

From the fact it is proved that Dhruvapada used to play a prominent part in every musical function not, only in the royal court,but also in the kingdom of Ibrahim Adil Shah II. The Emperors Jahangir and Shajahan were also great patrons of Dhruvapada. The names of Jagananath Kaviraj, Dirang Khan. Gunasamudra Lal Khan, the son-in-law of Bilas Khan are worth-mentioning. in this connection, asnoted exponents and connoisseurs of Dhruvapada Prabandha.

In the beginning of the eighteenth century A.D. when Mohammed Shah was on the throne of Delhi, Dhruvapada was also held in high esteem in his court. The name of Mohammed Shah’s court-musician, Niyamat Khan Sadaranga is worth-mentioning. in this connection. Niyamat Khan Sadaranga was a Veenkara as well as a Dhrupadiya. Though he devised a new style of Kheyal in slow tempo, yet he was noted as an exponent of Dhrupada of the pure Seni school. The decadence in the culture and appreciation of Dhruvapada came probably during the British rule in India. It came to a climax, when the last titular Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II ascended the throne of Delhi, and granted by a Firman, the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the East India Company.


Vishnupur (Bankura) and different parts of Bengal were also recognised as the Seats of culture ofDhrubapada. When the noted musicians of the Seni school found no help and support from the Emperor, Shah Alam II they began to seek refuge in the Durbars of other ruling Princes including those of Lucknow, Banaras, Betia and Bishnapur. Before the end of the eighteenth century, Bahadur Khan of the Seni Gharana and Peer Bux, the Pakhowaji, were invited by Raja Raghunath Singh II of Bishnapur and were appointed in his court. And from that time onward the intensive culture of Dhruvapada, started in Bengal.


It may, therefore, be said that the Prabanda type of Giti undoubtedly originated during the pre-Christian era, and evolved out of the ancient Jatiraga and different Gramaragas as depicted in the Natyasastra, Brihaddeshi, Sangita-Sama.yasara, Sangita Ratnakara, etc., through ages, and attained development, assuming novel modes, new names and phases. It still survives in the form of modern Dhrupada i,e Dhruvapada, though lacking in its prestine glory and traditional ideal. The term “Dhruvapada” connotes sacred or celestial Giti or song; for “Dhruva” means ‘sacred’ or ‘that which Is everlasting and celestial’ and ‘Pada’ means Giti or Gana.

Originally its literary composition or Sahitya was graceful, majestic and contemplative by nature. It breathed an air of sublimity and grandeur in laudation of the gods and godesses, and the Father in Heaven, though in Iater days, it lost that lofty ideal to some extent.

During the time of Akbar the Great, the four styles or methods of presentation of Dhruvapada centered on the regionol utterances or Vani (Bani), and as a result thereof, differeiit Vanis such as Khandara Vani, Dagar Vani, Naohara Vani and Lahar Vani evolved. They were merely the outward features or “Nibaddha Prabandha Gitis. However, Dhruvapada of Dhrupada require to be maintained and sustained in all their characteristic purity, supreme value and importance, even in these days, so as to preserve the glorious heritage of classical music, and to enrich the priceless treasure of art and culture of India.

(Courtesy of Indian Music and Mian Tansen
by Pandit Birendra Kishore Roy Choadhury )


Please note , for further reading click image below…



The Gharana Of Maihar



The Gharana Of Maihar

Sarodiya Allauddin Khan Gharana
Rampur Gharana

Just after the uprising in 1857, Wazid Ali Shah, the ex-Nawab of Oudh, moved to Calcutta with all the musicians of his court. Kalve Ali Khan, the Nawab of Rampur, wanted to have a great musical community. He called many of Wazid Ali’s musicians to Rampur, where Bahadur Hussain Khan, a sursringar-player of the Senia Gaharana, and a dhrupadiya, who belonged to Saraswati’s (Tansen’s daughter’s) line and Amir Khan (1814-1873), a beenkar, founded the new darbar. Many other musicians moved to the new darbar, among others the khyaliya Bakar Ali Khan and Enayat Hussein Khan, the beenkar Mohammed Hussain, the sitariya Qutabdaula ( from Lucknow) and the sarangi player Bonizat Hussain Khan ( from Gwalior). Among their disciples was the Nawab itself and his younger brother, Haider Ali Khan, too.

Wazir Khan (1851-1926), the son of Amir Khan, was teaching in Calcutta and Midnapur for a while, before joining the court of Rampur in 1900, where he became the master of the Nawab, Hamid Ali Khan. While he was in Rampur, he started teaching Alauddin Khan for the sake of the Nawab.

Wazir Khan (Rampur)



Allauddin Khan (1866-1976)

Baba (directed by N.D. Keluskar, 1969) – documentary film

(Please click image for film)

Allauddin Khan was born in Shibpur village in Brahmanbaria, in present-day Bangladesh, the son of Sabdar Hossain Khan, also known as Sadhu Khan. Alluddin’s elder brother, Fakir Aftabuddin, first taught him some music in the home.

At the age of ten, Allauddin ran away from home to join a jatra band, a traditional Bengali form of theater. This experience exposed him to the rich folk tradition of Bengal. After some time, he went to Kolkata, and was accepted as a student by singer Gopal Krishna Bhattacharya, alias Nulo Gopal. Allauddin committed to a 12-year practice program; However, Nulo Gopal died of plague after the seventh year. Khan then became a disciple of Amritalal Dutt, a close relative of Swami Vivekananda and music director at Kolkata’s Star Theatre, with the goal of becoming an instrumentalist. At this time, he also took lessons in European classical violin from a Mr Lobo, a bandmaster from Goa.

Alauddin Khan got interested in sarod after a concert at Jagat Kishore Acharya’s, zamindar of Muktagachha, where he listened to Ahmed Ali Khan, a student of Asghar Ali Khan (Amjad Ali Khan’s grand-uncle). Alauddin became his student, and studied the sarod under him for five years. His next step was to go to Rampur for lessons from the beenkar Wazir Khan, court musician of the Nawab there, and one of the last direct descendants of the legendary Tansen. Through him, Alauddin was given access to the Senia Gharana (Tansen school of music), arguably north India’s most coveted body of musical knowledge. He later became the court musician of Brijnath Singh Maharaja of Maihar Estate in Central Province.

During his time as a court musician, Allauddin Khan completely reshaped the Maihar Gharana of Indian classical music. The Maihar Gharana was established in the 19th Century, but Khan’s contribution was so fundamental that he is often thought to be its creator. This was a period of rapid change for Hindustani instrumental music, thanks not least to Allauddin Khan, who infused the beenbaj and dhrupad ang, previously known from the been, surbahar (bass sitar) and sur-sringar (bass sarod), into the playing of many classical instruments.

For though he gave concerts on the sarod, Allauddin played many instruments, something that shaped his pedagogy. He put together an orchestra with Indian instruments, the Maihar String Band, and while his son, Ali Akbar Khan, was taught the sarod, his daughter Annapurna Devi learned the surbahar, students such as Ravi Shankar and Nikhil Banerjee played the sitar Rabin Ghosh on violin and Pannalal Ghosh the bansuri. Of course Ravi and Ali Akbar Khan were to be very famous and spread this gharana over the world – something that Allauddin himself had started when, in 1935–1936, he went on an international tour with Uday Shankar’s dance troupe.


Allauddin stayed at Maihar from 1918 to his death. In 1955, he established a Maihar College of Music. He was given the Sangeet Natak Academi Award in 1952, and the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan – India’s third and second highest civilian decorations – in 1958 and 1971, respectively.

When many people hear the name Allauddin Khan, they think of a grumpy old man (after all, he lived to 110) with a hot temper but a heart of gold – anecdotes about him range from throwing a tabla tuning hammer at the Maharaja himself to taking care of disabled beggars. (Nikhil Banerjee said that the tough image was “deliberately projected in order not to allow any liberty to the disciple. He always had the tension that soft treatment on his part would only spoil them”.)

Allauddin was a very religious man, and though Muslim by name, was strongly devoted to the goddess Saraswati, in the form of Sarada Devi, to whom there stands an old and famous temple atop a hill in Maihar. This is why Allauddin, despite more lucrative offers from other courts, never left Maihar, refusing to move away even for hospital treatment – he would rather die near Sarada Devi than live someplace else.

A few years before the turn of the century, he married Madanmanjari Devi (1888–?). He had one son and sarod heir, Ali Akbar Khan, and three daughters, Sharija, Jehanara and Annapurna Devi. After Sharija got married, and her jealous mother-in-law burnt her tanpura, Allauddin decided not to train his other daughters, but Annapurna proved so talented he changed his mind. She later married and divorced Ravi Shankar.

Allauddin Khan was fond of sankeerna (compound) ragas, and created many ragas of his own, including Arjun, Bhagabati, Bhim, Bhuvaneshvari, Chandika, Dhabalashri, Dhankosh, Dipika, Durgeshvari, Gandhi, Gandhi Bilawal, Haimanti, Hem-Behag, Hemant, Hemant Bhairav, Imni Manjh, Jaunpuri Todi, Kedar Manjh, Komal Bhimpalasi, Komal Marwa, Madanmanjari, Madhabsri, Madhavgiri, Malaya, Manjh Khamaj, Meghbahar, Muhammed, Nat-Khamaj, Prabhakali, Raj Bijoy, Rajeshri, Shobhavati, Subhabati, Sugandha and Surasati. Many of these have not become common Maihar repertoire; Manjh Khamaj is perhaps the best known.

Ustad Allauddin Khan’s son, Ali Akbar Khan and his daughter, Annapurna Devi grew up in Maihar. Ravi Shankar, who started to learn from Gokul Nag (Vishnupur Gharana, Calcutta), Sharan Rani, Pannalal Ghosh, Timir Baran and Nikhil Banerjee  (who joined in 1947 only), they both became the leader musicians of the gharana.

Baba Allauddin Khan with Nikhil Banerjee

The Hindu tradition usually talks about a gharana after the third generation of the same style, but because of the great influence of the musicians of the Maihar Gharana on every level, it came to be called gharana even before the third generation appeared.



Pannalal Ghosh (1911-1960)

Pannalal Ghosh: Raga Yaman

Pannalal Ghosh was born on July 31, 1911. Born in Barisal, East Bengal now Bangladesh the family first lived in the village of Amarnathganj and later moved to the town of Fatehpur.He was brought up in a family of musicians. His grandfather, Hari Kumar Ghosh, father, Akshaya Kumar Ghosh, and maternal uncle, Bhavaranjan, were proficient musicians. Mother, Sukumari (daughter of Mr. Mazumdar of Dhaka), was a singer. His younger brother Nikhil Ghosh was a distinguished tabla player. Young Pannalal was highly receptive and absorbed good music from various sources. He regarded the “Harmonium Wizard”, Khurshid Ahmad Khan, as his first guru, and was fortunate also to have had the blessings and systematic training from the legendary Ustad Allauddin Khan, with whom he studied, beginning in 1947.

As the music director of the dance troupe of the princely state of Seraikella, Pannalal Ghosh visited and performed in Europe in 1938, and was one of the first classical musicians to have crossed the boundaries of India.

After joining All India Radio, Delhi, as Conductor of the National Orchestra in 1956, he composed path-breaking orchestral pieces such as Kalinga Vijay and Andolika. His contribution in semi-classical as well as film music also was equally significant, and his name is permanently linked to many famous movies such as Aandolan, Anjan, Basant, Basant-Bahar, Duhai, Munna, Mughal-e-Azam, Police and Nandkishor.

On breathing his last on April 20, 1960, Pannalal Ghosh left behind a large number of disciples and admirers. Amongst his noteworthy students and followers have been Haripad Choudhari, Aminur Rehman (Bangla Desh), Fakirchand Samanta, Gaur Goswami, Shreeram Joshi, Rashbihari Desai, Mahesh Mastfakir, Devendra Murdeshwar,Keshav Ginde, V.G. Karnad, Nityanand Haldipur, Bhailal Barot, Prabhakar Nachane, Sharad Mohalay, K.D. Desai, Suraj Narayan Purohit, Hari K. Chabria, and Lalitha Rao and Mohan Nadkarni. Because of his humble and helpful nature, Pannalal has always remained a very popular and respected personality among the music connoisseurs, and endeared many senior musicians as well.

Pannalal Ghosh was the first to transform a tiny folk instrument to a novel bamboo flute (32 inches long with 7 holes for fingering) suitable for playing traditional Indian classical music, and also to bring to it the stature of other classical music instruments. Also to his credit are the introduction of the special tenor flute, 6-stringed Taanpura, high-pitched Taanpuri and Surpeti into Hindustani music.

He also mastered the technique with such a great proficiency that he could present with ease the heavy ragas like Todi, Darabari, Miyan Malhar, Puriya, Shri, Puriya Dhanashri, Kedar, etc., retaining intact the entire beauty as well as the grammar. These ragas are now the speciality of the flautists of his Gharana. He also created and popularized several new ragas including Deepawali, Pushpachandrika, Hansanarayani, Chandramauli, Panchavati and Noopurdwani.




Nikhil Banerjee (1931-1986)

Nikhil Banerjee was born in Calcutta into a Brahmin family, where music as a profession was discouraged, although his father, Jitendranath Banerjee, who was a Sitarist by his hobby, taught him on the instrument. Young Nikhil grew into a child prodigy, won an All-Bengal Sitar Competition at the age of 9 and soon was playing for All India Radio. At the time, his sister was a student of khyal great Amir Khan, who became a life-long influence. Jitendranath approached Mushtaq Ali Khan to take the boy as a disciple, but was turned down; instead Birendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury, the Zamindar of Gouripur in present-day Bangladesh, was responsible for much of Nikhil’s early training.

In 1947 Banerjee met Allauddin Khan, who was to become his main guru. Allauddin played the sarod but taught artists who played all kinds of instruments; Banerjee went to his concerts and followed him around, and in the end even went so far as to threaten to kill himself if he was not accepted as a disciple. Allauddin did not want to take on more students, but changed his mind after listening to one of Banerjee’s radio broadcasts.

The discipline under Allauddin Khan was legendary. For years, Nikhil’s practice would start at four in the morning, and with few breaks continue to eleven o’clock – at night – a schedule which was naturally hard on his fingers. Obviously, what Allauddin was passing on to most of his students was not playing technique but the musical knowledge and approach of the Maihar Gharana; yet there was a definite trend in his teaching to infuse the sitar and sarod with the been-baj aesthetic of the rudra veena, surbahar and sursringar – long, elaborate alap (unaccompanied improvisation) built on intricate meend work (bending of the note). Under his teaching, Shankar and Banerjee developed different sitar styles, but to the uninitiated, Banerjee will sound like Ravi Shankar, due to the fact that in Nikhil sporadically also learned from Ravi Shankar whenever he got a chance. They played similar sitars, both with bass strings.

After some five years in Maihar, Banerjee embarked on a concert career that was to take him to all corners of the world and last right up to his death. All through his life he kept taking lessons from Allauddin and his children, Ali Akbar and Annapurna Devi. Perhaps reflecting his early upbringing, he always remained a humble musician, and was content with much less limelight than a player of his stature could have vied for. For him, music-making was a spiritual rather than a worldly path. Even so, in 1968, he was decorated with the Padma Shri and posthumously received also the Padma Bhushan; at the time of his death by heart attack, he was a faculty member at the Ali Akbar College of Music in Calcutta, but had not yet significantly taught any disciples of his own.

He created a raga Manomanjari of his own, mixing ideas from Kalavati and Marwa.

(Please note also:

some representatives of the Gharana:

Ali Akbar Khan
Ravi Shankar
Annapurna Devi
Sharan Rani
Aashish Khan
Bahadur Khan
Hariprasad Chaurasia
Krishna Mohan Bhatt
Vishwa Mohan Bhatt


(Please note also:

In The Half Shadow of The Dove – Lectured rAgams For The Early Evening


Ram Narayan ( SARANGI )
Introducing 2 excellent renditions of mystic
early evening rAgas

Accompanied by Chatur Lal on Tabla

Rag Shuddh Todi


Rag Marwa



A Patio

At evening
they grow weary, the patio’s two or three colours.
Tonight, the moon, bright circle,
fails to dominate space.

Patio, channel of sky.
The patio is the slope
down which sky flows into the house.
eternity waits at the crossroad of stars.

It’s pleasant to live in the friendly dark
of entrance-way, arbour, and cistern.

(Jorge Louis Borges)





All Recordings 1976

The Ragas Of Carnatic Music


(Click Image above to read on)



Rag Sohani





Thaat  – Marwa
Jaati – Audav – Shadav
Vadi Swar – ध
Samvadi Swar – ग

Time – Evening.

Aaroh – सा ग मे ध नी सां।
Avroh – सां नी ध मे ध ग मे ग रे॒ सा।
pakad – मे ध नी सा रे॒ सा, सा नी ध मे ध ग। ( ़ this indicates that it is a lower octave (मंद्र सप्तक)



Naubat_ Khana Gate, Fatehpur Sikri

The ” Doppelgängers”

der doppelgänger


Edgar Allan Poe and E. T. A. Hoffmann:

The Double in “William Wilson” and The Devil’s Elixirs

In response to accusations that the horror in his stories was derived from German literary sources, Edgar Allan Poe claimed in the Preface for the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in 1840 that “if in many of my productions terror has been the thesis, I maintain that terror is not of Germany, but of the soul.” [1] There are several indications, though, that Poe could have gained access to German literature and to E. T. A. Hoffmann’s writings through Gillies’s translation of The Devil’s Elixirs, through Carlyle’s publication of the German Romance, through Sir Walter Scott’s essay on Hoffmann’s use of the supernatural, or through readings of his own in English translation. As the editor of several prominent journals such as the Southern Literary Messenger, Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, Graham’s Magazine, the Mirror, and the Broadway Journal, Poe was well acquainted with publications by European writers and even accused other American authors of plagiarizing their ideas. [2] While some critics have noted the similarities between “William Wilson” and The Devil’s Elixirs, scholarship on the double in these works still requires further investigation beyond a positivistic approach. This article traces the developmental stages of the double in “William Wilson” and The Devil’s Elixirs according to a reading of Freud’s essay “The Uncanny.” It also examines the impact of the double on the lives of the protagonists and analyzes Poe’s and Hoffmann’s overall statement on the divided self.

The historical background of the double is rooted in the philosophical, literary, and scientific theories of German Romanticism, which illustrate the Romantic poet’s constant struggle within himself to reach beyond his own existence. In terms of German philosophy, the double is steeped in Fichtean Idealism, according to which the ego creates and projects itself onto the world, and in Schelling’s concept of “identity” as developed in his philosophy of nature, which illustrates the interaction of the individual with its counterpart in nature. From a literary perspective, the double signifies the Romantic poet’s continuous longing for the infinite, which can never be fulfilled. Since the Romantic ego is continuously striving for something higher than itself, the Romantic poet finds himself divided into two parts: one is rooted in his mortal existence, the other pursues a higher transcendental harmony with the infinite. Typically, Romantic literature abounds with references that illustrate the discrepancy between the “real” and the “ideal,” that seek to express the sublime, the longing for mystical and spiritual unity, and the interaction between man and nature.

The interest in supernatural or unexplained phenomena such as hypnosis, telepathy, sleepwalking, insanity, drives, and in the subconscious also contributed to the motif of the double in Romantic literature. Students of the German physician Friedrich Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) developed a scientific method of delving into the human psyche that provided the medium with access to the patient’s inner world and secrets that lay beyond human existence. This new scientific approach became the cutting-edge development in scientific research to approach the mysteries of the spiritual world and the dark side of the human mind. The Romantic poet, therefore, employed the motif of the double as the chance to investigate the passions and illnesses of the human mind and to examine the presence of a supernatural world.

Prior to the advent of Romanticism, the motif of the double existed for the sake of comedy through the mistaken identity of characters such as one finds in Plautus’s Menaechmi or Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Romanticism gave the double its psychological depth by endowing it with the meaning of “the admonishing angel, the good repressed ego, or the tenacious devil” [3] and by building around it a canon of literature that included Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s Der Zauberring (1813), Adelbert von Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (1814), and Jean Paul Richter’s Siebenkäs (1776-97). [4] In American literature, there is virtually no tradition of the double, and the motif has been taken from German philosophical, literary, and scientific theory. Even though Poe asserts that he borrowed the motif of the double in “William Wilson” from an article by Washington Irving, [5] it is well known that the latter also drew extensively on German literature for his short stories and sketches. [6]

In Freud’s essay “The Uncanny” (1919), the psychoanalyst asserts that the creation of the double is a means for the individual to safeguard himself “against the destruction of the ego” and a kind of primitive narcissism and self-love. [7] In this duplication process, the double becomes the manifestation of the ego’s repressed drives and desires, finding expression in human form. Through the psychological distance between the double and the self, the individual is able to evaluate his own behavior and to develop a conscience for his improvement. This means that once the critical stage of the Doppelgängertum has been reached, the double either provides the individual with the necessary impetus for a conscience or the double becomes the “uncanny herald of death.” [8] The characters of Medardus and Wilson undergo similar stages of development in respect to the double, including the formation of narcissistic tendencies in their formative years, the repression of sexual desires and power, and, in the words of Freud, the development of “ego-duplication,” “ego-separation,” and “ego-substitution.” [9] However, Wilson is never able to develop a “conscience” and to rejoin his second self, bringing about his own destruction.

Poe’s short story “William Wilson” is less complicated than Hoffmann’s novel, although the main character undergoes a similar process of development. Wilson is a child at a boarding school in England and grows up within the tranquil and solitary walls of the institution. He believes to be in control of his classmates, with one exception: William Wilson, the double. From their very first encounter the double proves to be superior to Wilson, offering him advice and admonishing him for his wrongdoing. After the double exposes Wilson to his fellow students for cheating at cards, and after following him to the various capitals of Europe and stopping him from committing adultery, Wilson revolts and murders his double in a duel. In retrospect, the narrator remarks that he has in fact destroyed himself by having murdered his double.

In the first stage of his development, Wilson reveals the narcissism of his early years by asserting that he had “ascendancy over” other children and that he “was left to the guidance of [his] own will, and became … the master of [his] own actions” so that he “grew self-willed, addicted to the wildest caprices, and a prey to the most ungovernable passions.” [10] At the same time, however, Wilson deplores his authority over others and states that “if there is on earth a supreme and unqualified despotism, it is the despotism of a master-mind in boyhood over the less energetic spirits of its companions” (WW 431). In other words, Wilson is aware of the control that he has over others and he rejects this authority as a kind of “unqualified despotism.” As a result of the wish to save himself from his uncontrollable behavior, Wilson creates a double that functions as a conscience and helps him control his desire for manipulation and power. In producing a double that embodies the positive side of his being, Wilson subconsciously prevents himself from taking part in drunkenness, cheating, and adultery, and thereby protects himself from harm. Still, he regards the protective behavior of the double as “impertinent and dogged interference” (WW 432), although he inadvertently realizes that the double’s moral sense is “proof of his true superiority” (WW 432).

In Hoffmann’s novel, an orphan child is brought up in a secluded monastery under serene and pious conditions. With the coming of adolescence the child, Medardus, begins to develop sexual urges and rebels against the authority of the monastery. After drinking the forbidden elixir of Saint Anthony, that had been placed in his safekeeping, Medardus undergoes a change of personality and becomes a popular orator at the monastery. Sensing that Medardus is acting out of his own self-interest and the desire to gain his independence, Prior Leonardus implores him to leave the monastery and go on an important mission to Rome. On his way through the mountains, Medardus comes across his double (actually his own brother) asleep on the precipice of a cliff. When Medardus awakens him, the double becomes frightened and falls to his death in the abyss. Medardus then takes on the identity of the double by putting on his clothes and assuming his position at the castle. When he arrives at the double’s residence, Medardus discovers that an intricate plot is already underway between Viktorin (the double) and his lover, Euphemie, concerning the murder of his half-brother, Hermogen. Mistaken by the entire family for the actual Count Viktorin, Medardus becomes Euphemie’s lover and a conspirator to the murder of Hermogen. At the same time, Medardus recognizes Hermogen’s sister, Aurelie, as the woman from the confessional in the monastery who proclaimed her love for him. In a moment of anger, Medardus poisons Euphemie and murders Hermogen in a fight. After the double appears to him in the hallway (Viktorin had crawled out of the abyss), Medardus flees from the castle and the scene of the crime. For the remainder of the novel, Medardus attempts to hide his identity by moving from place to place (the village, the forester’s house, the prince’s residence) and in the process slowly discovers his past.

While Wilson attempts to save himself by creating a double that functions as a conscience, Medardus produces a double that allows him to live out the sexual fantasies and need for authority that he has repressed as a monk. [11] Like Wilson, who grows up in the solitary environment of a boarding school and gradually develops his desire to control others, Medardus reveals his need for power by preaching at a monastery. After having consumed Saint Anthony’s forbidden elixir, Medardus gives a sermon in a crowded church in order to win the desired admiration of his congregation and even claims of himself: “I am Saint Anthony” (DE 33). His repressed sexual desires are unleashed once he drinks the sacred potion and hears the confession of a young woman in the church: “‘You-you yourself, Medardus, are the one that I so inexpressibly love!'” (DE 41) He decides to leave the monastery “in order to hold this woman in [his] arms and to still the burning desire inside of [himself]” (DE 42). Medardus compares the young woman in the confessional with the portrait of Saint Rosalia in the church, which serves as a fetish for his sexual desires.

Wolfgang Nehring claims that “the entire vision is an erotic dream for Medardus, which surprisingly for the protagonist himself, moves from the subconscious to consciousness. From now on Medardus acknowledges his desires and attempts to fulfill them outside of the monastery.” [12] Medardus therefore creates a double (Viktorin) who enables him to pursue his sexual interests outside of the monastery through his relationships with Euphemie and Aurelie. As a result of Viktorin’s alleged sudden death, Medardus not only replaces him sexually in his affair with Euphemie, but he is also able to fulfill his taboo sexual desires with Saint Rosalia through his relationship with Aurelie. Hoffmann’s novel can be regarded as an encounter between Medardus and the manifestation of his sexual fantasies: as Medardus is composed of the negative side of Viktorin and the positive side of his grandfather Francesco, his female counterpart also embodies the femme fatale Euphemie and the saint-like qualities of Aurelie.

In both texts the double is a manifestation of the characters’ innermost drives and desires, which find expression in human form. In The Devil’s Elixirs, the double functions as an “id” who carries out devious actions and forces Medardus to examine his life, whereas Wilson’s double serves as a “conscience” who admonishes him for his wrongdoing. Wilson expresses his need for self-control and discipline through a double who has the same “identity of name” (WW 432), the “same age” (WW 434), the “same height” (WW 434), “entered the school upon the same day” (WW 432), and keeps a constant watch over him and prevents him from acting immorally. Whereas Wilson’s “ego-duplication” exists from the very onset of the story through the presence of the second William Wilson, his actual separation from the double takes place upon secretly entering the double’s room one evening in order to play a joke on him. Finding the double asleep in bed, Wilson is confounded by the fact that the second self is not a mere imitation but actually exists independently of himself. Wilson’s response to this encounter with the double is not one of recognition that would allow him to look at himself objectively, but rather one of fear, an encounter that causes him to flee throughout the story. “Awe-stricken, and with a creeping shudder, I extinguished the lamp, passed silently from the chamber, and left, at once, the halls of that old academy, never to enter them again” (WW 437).

In their first encounter after this frightful evening, the narrator explains that he had invited some friends to his room and the wine was flowing freely, when the double appeared at the door and interrupted the party by “whisper[ing] the words ‘William Wilson!’ in [his] ear” (WW 439). Once again, as Wilson is cheating at cards, the double enters the scene in order to reveal the main character’s devious activity to the others: “Gentlemen…. You are, beyond doubt, uninformed of the true character of the person who has to-night won at écarté a large sum of money from Lord Glendinning…. Please to examine, at your leisure, the inner linings of the cuff of his left sleeve” (WW 443). Finally, the double disturbs Wilson just as he is about to make advances towards the beautiful wife of Duke Di Broglio at a party in Rome, and Wilson feels “a light hand placed upon [his] shoulder, and that ever-remembered, low, damnable whisper within [his] ear” (WW 446). Wilson believes that the double interrupts him throughout his life in order “to frustrate those schemes, or to disturb those actions, which, if fully carried out, might have resulted in bitter mischief” (WW 445). However, during these episodes Wilson never reflects upon his own actions as being dishonest or immoral, but rather claims that his “natural rights of self-agency” are “so pertinaciously, so insultingly denied” (WW 445) by the double.

In The Devil’s Elixirs, Saint Anthony’s wine enables the main character to delve into the darker side of his mind, to give moving sermons, and to conjure up lustful visions of Saint Rosalia in church: “I drank again, and the desire of a new magnificent life rose up inside of me” (DE 37). In “William Wilson,” the protagonist lives out his repressed desires and gives the double the greatest resistance under the influence of alcohol. It is precisely during these moments of drunkenness that the double appears before Wilson to admonish him for his actions. During the first major encounter with the double, Wilson remarks that he was “madly flushed with … intoxication” (WW 438) and “was in the act of insisting upon a toast” (438) when his double appeared at the door. It is also in this inebriated condition that Wilson finally summons up the courage to oppose his double openly and to challenge him to a duel: “I had given myself up entirely to wine; and its maddening influence upon my hereditary temper rendered me more and more impatient of control. I began to murmur-to hesitate-to resist” (WW 446).

Similar to Wilson, who refuses to accept the existence of his second self, Medardus represses the existence of his double (Viktorin) by causing him to fall from a ledge of a cliff into a dark abyss. In order to hide from his true self, Medardus pretends to be Viktorin, taking on the identity of the double, who is posing as a monk: “I am that, which I appear to be, and do not appear to be that, which I am; I am an inexplicable riddle to myself; my being has been divided in two!” (DE 59). Since Viktorin slowly climbs out of the abyss and returns to haunt Medardus throughout the novel, one can see that the double and the sexual manifestations that he represents are only repressed and eventually surface in human form. The first sign of the repressed double reemerging (ego-separation) occurs in the hallway of the castle following the murders of Euphemie and Hermogen. Similar to Wilson, who is terrified by the initial vision of his own double, Medardus flees from the castle and attempts to hide from the darker side of himself by concealing his habit-“I hid the frock in a hollow tree” (WW 79)-and by changing his physical appearance through new clothes and a haircut. Unlike Wilson, however, Medardus, in his various encounters with the double, undergoes a process of development that enables him to create a conscience and to reflect upon his actions by the end of the novel.

Most important among these encounters with the double are the scenes in the forester’s lodge and in prison, and the confrontation with the double on the way to his execution. In the first instance, Medardus spends a night at the forester’s house in the woods after his carriage leaves him stranded there, and during the night the double (Viktorin) dressed as a monk enters Medardus’s room and climbs onto his bed (ego-substitution). In this key scene, the double is pointing to the psychological battle between Medardus and his second self, which would provide one of them with supremacy. Medardus, however, does not recognize the double as a manifestation of his repressed desires, but instead sees him as something strangely apart from himself: “you are not me; you are the devil” (DE 105). The forester explains that the double “is said to have committed a terrible sin by misusing a relic and has been banned from the monastery” (DE 114) and that he exhibited uncontrollable sexual behavior by trying to seduce his daughter, “whose door he kicked in with his foot” (DE 111). At this point in his development, however, Medardus is being torn apart through his second ego: “divided in my being more than ever, I became ambiguous to myself, and an inner horror enveloped my soul with destructive power” (DE 116).

After Medardus has been charged with the murder of Euphemie and Hermogen at the prince’s residence, the double whispers to him in his dark prison cell, “lit-tle broth-er … lit-tle broth-er … Me-dar-dus … I am here … am here … op-open up … up … we wa-want to go into the wo-woods … go into the woods!” (DE 165). In the appellation “little brother,” which can refer to the fact that Medardus is a monk or that he is the brother of the double, Medardus recognizes his own voice and repeats, “Me-dar-dus … Me-dar-dus!” (DE 165) The response, “lit-tle broth-er … lit-tle broth-er, did … you, you recognize m-me … recognize me?” (DE 165), points to the fact that Medardus is on his way to recognizing the darker side of his self. A few days later, Medardus again experiences the double. This time, he emerges through the floor of the cell with a knife in his hand, calling, “Lit-tle broth-er! Lit-tle broth-er, Medar-dus is here-here, come up … take this, take this! … break out … break out … into the wo-woods … into the woods!” (DE 171-72). Through this metaphorical scene of the double literally breaking through the subconscious of the main character, Medardus moves closer to the realization that the double is part of him, and he sees his own figure in the dark hole of the floor: “the full light of the lamp fell upon his face-I recognized myself-I lost consciousness” (DE 172).

Whereas Hoffmann employs the floor of the prison cell and the deep abyss of the “Teufelsgrund” as metaphors of the human subconscious, Poe draws upon the complex arrangement of rooms in the boarding school as analogous to the various parts of the human mind. Wilson describes his school, which is watched over by the Reverend Dr. Bransby, as having “no end to its windings-to its incomprehensible subdivisions” (WW 429), and that many of the rooms were “merest closets” (WW 436), “capable of accommodating but a single individual. One of these small apartments was occupied by Wilson” (WW 436). Wilson’s flight from this institution to the capitals of Europe is an expression of freedom; however, it is an escape that offers him no reconciliation with his divided self: “I fled in vain. My evil destiny pursued me as if in exultation…. Years flew, while I experienced no relief” (WW 444-45).

When Medardus sees his double being carried away in a carriage to his execution, he is confronted with the evil side of his being and his own devious actions. Although he is about to fulfill his innermost desire and marry Aurelie, whom he associates with Saint Rosalia, Medardus openly admits that he is the murderer of Hermogen: “I … I, your beloved, your fiancé, am Medardus … your brother’s murderer” (DE 206). It is through the double that Medardus is prevented from marrying his half-sister Aurelie and that he recognizes his involvement in the murder of Euphemie and Hermogen. In a fight analogous to William Wilson’s duel with his double, Medardus wrestles with his second self for his ego and thus starts the process of reconciliation with himself.

William Wilson’s final confrontation with his double takes place at Duke Di Brogio’s party in Naples, where he is again plagued by the moral voice of his second self. Unlike Medardus, who gradually learns from his various encounters with the double and is able to develop a conscience, Wilson does not yet realize that the double’s function is to bring about a moral change in himself. According to Freud’s theory of the double, the second self can either bring about a moral change in the individual through the development of a conscience or it can ultimately cause the character’s own destruction. Angered by another intrusion by the double and unable to comprehend the significance of the encounter, Wilson decides that he “would submit no longer to be enslaved” (WW 446). In the ensuing confrontation, Wilson challenges his double to a duel that ends with the murder of Wilson’s moral self. Instead of conceding victory to Wilson, the double sternly informs him: “You have conquered, and I yield. Yet, henceforward art thou also dead-dead to the World, to Heaven and to Hope! In me didst thou exist-and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself” (WW 448). At the moment of running his sword through the double, Wilson sees his own reflection in what appears to be “a large mirror” (WW 447), “all pale and dabbled in blood” (WW 448), and realizes that he has murdered his own conscience, and, in effect, has brought about the moral death of himself. As Hoffmann’s depiction of the double suggests, one needs both the positive and negative sides of the self to exist. Since the “ego-substitution,” the murder, and the recognition of the double happen at the same time, Wilson is unable to bring both halves of his being together and is forced to seek reconciliation post facto through the narration of his story. In retrospect, Wilson refers to himself as an “outcast of all outcasts most abandoned” (WW 426) and asserts that he “might, to-day, have been a better, and thus a happier man, had [he] less frequently rejected the counsels embodied in those meaning[ful] whispers which [he] then but too cordially hated and too bitterly despised” (WW 435).

Medardus’s final stage of development begins with seeing his double being brought to the execution and ends with the writing of his memoirs at the monastery. While Aurelie is about to take her vows to become a nun, the double enters the church and stabs her on the altar before the entire congregation. After the double flees from the church, and the painter Francesco steps down from the painting of Saint Rosalia, Aurelie explains to Medardus that the phenomenon of the double is the battle between good and evil over his soul, and that its resolution lifts the divine curse on his family. As a final penance for his transgressions, Medardus writes down the story of his life. Unlike Wilson, who writes the story of his double in order to justify his own mistakes, Medardus writes his life story in order to relive the past as a kind of psychotherapy: “I did as the prior asked. Oh!-indeed it happened as he said!-pain and bliss, horror and desire-dismay and delight rushed forth inside of me when I wrote down the story of my life” (288).

The use of the double in “William Wilson” and The Devil’s Elixirs shows an overwhelming affinity between Poe and Hoffmann in terms of motifs, symbolism, and stages of development. While the double in “William Wilson” serves as a “conscience” for the main character’s moral development, the double in The Devil’s Elixirs functions as an “id” that allows Medardus to live out his sexual fantasies and need for power. In both cases, however, the double provides an impetus for the protagonists’ improvement through a process of duplication, separation, and substitution. Medardus is able to embrace both halves of his divided self and to learn to be a better person, whereas Wilson rejects the advice of his double and, in effect, brings about his own moral death. For this reason, Wilson can only comfort himself afterwards through the narration of his story. Medardus, on the other hand, returns to his life at the monastery as a complete being and sets out to write down the story of his life.


[1] Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Thomas Ollive Mabbott, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969-78) 473.
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[2] The most famous accusations of plagiarism are aimed at Nathaniel Hawthorne (Godey’s Lady’s Book, Nov. 1847) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (New York Evening Mirror, Jan. 1845; Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, Feb. 1849).
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[3] Elisabeth Frenzel, Motive der Weltliteratur (Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1992) 101; my translation.
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[4] The German writer Jean Paul Richter coined the phrase Doppelgänger in this novel Siebenkäs by claiming that “Doppeltgänger” are people who can see themselves (Frenzel 102).
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[5] Washington Irving, “An Unwritten Drama of Lord Byron,” The Gift for 1836 166-67.
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[6] Henry A. Pochmann, German Culture in America: Philosophical and Literary Influences, 1600-1900. (1957; rpt. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1978) 367-81.
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[7] Sigmund Freud, “Das Unheimliche,” Psychologische Schriften, vol. 4 (Frankfurt/M.: Fischer, 1970) 258; my translation.
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[8] Freud 258.
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[9] Freud 257.
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[10] Poe, “William Wilson,” Collected Works., vol. 2, 427. Subsequent references are to this edition and appear in the text in parentheses following the abbreviation WW.
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[11] All translations from The Devil’s Elixirs are my own and are based on E. T. A. Hoffmann, “Die Elixiere des Teufels,” Sämtliche Werke, vol. 2 (München: Winkler, 1970). Subsequent references are to this edition and appear in the text in parentheses following the abbreviation DE.
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[12] Wolfgang Nehring, “E. T. A. Hoffmann: Die Elixiere des Teufels (1815/16),” Romane und Erzählungen der deutschen Romantik, ed. Paul Michael Lützeler (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1981) 344; my translation.

(Courtesy of Patrick Labriola, Bonn, Germany)
see also




by Edgar Allan Poe

What say of it? what say (of) CONSCIENCE grim, That spectre in my path?

Chamberlayne’s Pharronida.

LET me call myself, for the present, William Wilson. The fair page now lying before me need not be sullied with my real appellation. This has been already too much an object for the scorn –for the horror –for the detestation of my race. To the uttermost regions of the globe have not the indignant winds bruited its unparalleled infamy? Oh, outcast of all outcasts most abandoned! –to the earth art thou not forever dead? to its honors, to its flowers, to its golden aspirations? –and a cloud, dense, dismal, and limitless, does it not hang eternally between thy hopes and heaven?

I would not, if I could, here or to-day, embody a record of my later years of unspeakable misery, and unpardonable crime. This epoch –these later years –took unto themselves a sudden elevation in turpitude, whose origin alone it is my present purpose to assign. Men usually grow base by degrees. From me, in an instant, all virtue dropped bodily as a mantle. From comparatively trivial wickedness I passed, with the stride of a giant, into more than the enormities of an Elah-Gabalus. What chance –what one event brought this evil thing to pass, bear with me while I relate. Death approaches; and the shadow which foreruns him has thrown a softening influence over my spirit. I long, in passing through the dim valley, for the sympathy –I had nearly said for the pity –of my fellow men. I would fain have them believe that I have been, in some measure, the slave of circumstances beyond human control. I would wish them to seek out for me, in the details I am about to give, some little oasis of fatality amid a wilderness of error. I would have them allow –what they cannot refrain from allowing –that, although temptation may have erewhile existed as great, man was never thus, at least, tempted before –certainly, never thus fell. And is it therefore that he has never thus suffered? Have I not indeed been living in a dream? And am I not now dying a victim to the horror and the mystery of the wildest of all sublunary visions?

I am the descendant of a race whose imaginative and easily excitable temperament has at all times rendered them remarkable; and, in my earliest infancy, I gave evidence of having fully inherited the family character. As I advanced in years it was more strongly developed; becoming, for many reasons, a cause of serious disquietude to my friends, and of positive injury to myself. I grew self-willed, addicted to the wildest caprices, and a prey to the most ungovernable passions. Weak-minded, and beset with constitutional infirmities akin to my own, my parents could do but little to check the evil propensities which distinguished me. Some feeble and ill-directed efforts resulted in complete failure on their part, and, of course, in total triumph on mine. Thenceforward my voice was a household law; and at an age when few children have abandoned their leading-strings, I was left to the guidance of my own will, and became, in all but name, the master of my own actions.

My earliest recollections of a school-life, are connected with a large, rambling, Elizabethan house, in a misty-looking village of England, where were a vast number of gigantic and gnarled trees, and where all the houses were excessively ancient. In truth, it was a dream-like and spirit-soothing place, that venerable old town. At this moment, in fancy, I feel the refreshing chilliness of its deeply-shadowed avenues, inhale the fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill anew with undefinable delight, at the deep hollow note of the church-bell, breaking, each hour, with sullen and sudden roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the fretted Gothic steeple lay imbedded and asleep.

It gives me, perhaps, as much of pleasure as I can now in any manner experience, to dwell upon minute recollections of the school and its concerns. Steeped in misery as I am –misery, alas! only too real –I shall be pardoned for seeking relief, however slight and temporary, in the weakness of a few rambling details. These, moreover, utterly trivial, and even ridiculous in themselves, assume, to my fancy, adventitious importance, as connected with a period and a locality when and where I recognise the first ambiguous monitions of the destiny which afterwards so fully overshadowed me. Let me then remember.

The house, I have said, was old and irregular. The grounds were extensive, and a high and solid brick wall, topped with a bed of mortar and broken glass, encompassed the whole. This prison-like rampart formed the limit of our domain; beyond it we saw but thrice a week –once every Saturday afternoon, when, attended by two ushers, we were permitted to take brief walks in a body through some of the neighbouring fields –and twice during Sunday, when we were paraded in the same formal manner to the morning and evening service in the one church of the village. Of this church the principal of our school was pastor. With how deep a spirit of wonder and perplexity was I wont to regard him from our remote pew in the gallery, as, with step solemn and slow, he ascended the pulpit! This reverend man, with countenance so demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and so vast, —could this be he who, of late, with sour visage, and in snuffy habiliments, administered, ferule in hand, the Draconian laws of the academy? Oh, gigantic paradox, too utterly monstrous for solution!

At an angle of the ponderous wall frowned a more ponderous gate. It was riveted and studded with iron bolts, and surmounted with jagged iron spikes. What impressions of deep awe did it inspire! It was never opened save for the three periodical egressions and ingressions already mentioned; then, in every creak of its mighty hinges, we found a plenitude of mystery –a world of matter for solemn remark, or for more solemn meditation.

The extensive enclosure was irregular in form, having many capacious recesses. Of these, three or four of the largest constituted the play-ground. It was level, and covered with fine hard gravel. I well remember it had no trees, nor benches, nor anything similar within it. Of course it was in the rear of the house. In front lay a small parterre, planted with box and other shrubs; but through this sacred division we passed only upon rare occasions indeed –such as a first advent to school or final departure thence, or perhaps, when a parent or friend having called for us, we joyfully took our way home for the Christmas or Midsummer holy-days.

But the house! –how quaint an old building was this! –to me how veritably a palace of enchantment! There was really no end to its windings –to its incomprehensible subdivisions. It was difficult, at any given time, to say with certainty upon which of its two stories one happened to be. From each room to every other there were sure to be found three or four steps either in ascent or descent. Then the lateral branches were innumerable –inconceivable –and so returning in upon themselves, that our most exact ideas in regard to the whole mansion were not very far different from those with which we pondered upon infinity. During the five years of my residence here, I was never able to ascertain with precision, in what remote locality lay the little sleeping apartment assigned to myself and some eighteen or twenty other scholars.

The school-room was the largest in the house –I could not help thinking, in the world. It was very long, narrow, and dismally low, with pointed Gothic windows and a celling of oak. In a remote and terror-inspiring angle was a square enclosure of eight or ten feet, comprising the sanctum, “during hours,” of our principal, the Reverend Dr. Bransby. It was a solid structure, with massy door, sooner than open which in the absence of the “Dominic,” we would all have willingly perished by the peine forte et dure. In other angles were two other similar boxes, far less reverenced, indeed, but still greatly matters of awe. One of these was the pulpit of the “classical” usher, one of the “English and mathematical.” Interspersed about the room, crossing and recrossing in endless irregularity, were innumerable benches and desks, black, ancient, and time-worn, piled desperately with much-bethumbed books, and so beseamed with initial letters, names at full length, grotesque figures, and other multiplied efforts of the knife, as to have entirely lost what little of original form might have been their portion in days long departed. A huge bucket with water stood at one extremity of the room, and a clock of stupendous dimensions at the other.

Encompassed by the massy walls of this venerable academy, I passed, yet not in tedium or disgust, the years of the third lustrum of my life. The teeming brain of childhood requires no external world of incident to occupy or amuse it; and the apparently dismal monotony of a school was replete with more intense excitement than my riper youth has derived from luxury, or my full manhood from crime. Yet I must believe that my first mental development had in it much of the uncommon –even much of the outre. Upon mankind at large the events of very early existence rarely leave in mature age any definite impression. All is gray shadow –a weak and irregular remembrance –an indistinct regathering of feeble pleasures and phantasmagoric pains. With me this is not so. In childhood I must have felt with the energy of a man what I now find stamped upon memory in lines as vivid, as deep, and as durable as the exergues of the Carthaginian medals.

Yet in fact –in the fact of the world’s view –how little was there to remember! The morning’s awakening, the nightly summons to bed; the connings, the recitations; the periodical half-holidays, and perambulations; the play-ground, with its broils, its pastimes, its intrigues; –these, by a mental sorcery long forgotten, were made to involve a wilderness of sensation, a world of rich incident, an universe of varied emotion, of excitement the most passionate and spirit-stirring. “Oh, le bon temps, que ce siecle de fer!”

In truth, the ardor, the enthusiasm, and the imperiousness of my disposition, soon rendered me a marked character among my schoolmates, and by slow, but natural gradations, gave me an ascendancy over all not greatly older than myself; –over all with a single exception. This exception was found in the person of a scholar, who, although no relation, bore the same Christian and surname as myself; –a circumstance, in fact, little remarkable; for, notwithstanding a noble descent, mine was one of those everyday appellations which seem, by prescriptive right, to have been, time out of mind, the common property of the mob. In this narrative I have therefore designated myself as William Wilson, –a fictitious title not very dissimilar to the real. My namesake alone, of those who in school phraseology constituted “our set,” presumed to compete with me in the studies of the class –in the sports and broils of the play-ground –to refuse implicit belief in my assertions, and submission to my will –indeed, to interfere with my arbitrary dictation in any respect whatsoever. If there is on earth a supreme and unqualified despotism, it is the despotism of a master mind in boyhood over the less energetic spirits of its companions.

Wilson’s rebellion was to me a source of the greatest embarrassment; –the more so as, in spite of the bravado with which in public I made a point of treating him and his pretensions, I secretly felt that I feared him, and could not help thinking the equality which he maintained so easily with myself, a proof of his true superiority; since not to be overcome cost me a perpetual struggle. Yet this superiority –even this equality –was in truth acknowledged by no one but myself; our associates, by some unaccountable blindness, seemed not even to suspect it. Indeed, his competition, his resistance, and especially his impertinent and dogged interference with my purposes, were not more pointed than private. He appeared to be destitute alike of the ambition which urged, and of the passionate energy of mind which enabled me to excel. In his rivalry he might have been supposed actuated solely by a whimsical desire to thwart, astonish, or mortify myself; although there were times when I could not help observing, with a feeling made up of wonder, abasement, and pique, that he mingled with his injuries, his insults, or his contradictions, a certain most inappropriate, and assuredly most unwelcome affectionateness of manner. I could only conceive this singular behavior to arise from a consummate self-conceit assuming the vulgar airs of patronage and protection.

Perhaps it was this latter trait in Wilson’s conduct, conjoined with our identity of name, and the mere accident of our having entered the school upon the same day, which set afloat the notion that we were brothers, among the senior classes in the academy. These do not usually inquire with much strictness into the affairs of their juniors. I have before said, or should have said, that Wilson was not, in the most remote degree, connected with my family. But assuredly if we had been brothers we must have been twins; for, after leaving Dr. Bransby’s, I casually learned that my namesake was born on the nineteenth of January, 1813 –and this is a somewhat remarkable coincidence; for the day is precisely that of my own nativity.

It may seem strange that in spite of the continual anxiety occasioned me by the rivalry of Wilson, and his intolerable spirit of contradiction, I could not bring myself to hate him altogether. We had, to be sure, nearly every day a quarrel in which, yielding me publicly the palm of victory, he, in some manner, contrived to make me feel that it was he who had deserved it; yet a sense of pride on my part, and a veritable dignity on his own, kept us always upon what are called “speaking terms,” while there were many points of strong congeniality in our tempers, operating to awake me in a sentiment which our position alone, perhaps, prevented from ripening into friendship. It is difficult, indeed, to define,or even to describe, my real feelings towards him. They formed a motley and heterogeneous admixture; –some petulant animosity, which was not yet hatred, some esteem, more respect, much fear, with a world of uneasy curiosity. To the moralist it will be unnecessary to say, in addition, that Wilson and myself were the most inseparable of companions.

It was no doubt the anomalous state of affairs existing between us, which turned all my attacks upon him, (and they were many, either open or covert) into the channel of banter or practical joke (giving pain while assuming the aspect of mere fun) rather than into a more serious and determined hostility. But my endeavours on this head were by no means uniformly successful, even when my plans were the most wittily concocted; for my namesake had much about him, in character, of that unassuming and quiet austerity which, while enjoying the poignancy of its own jokes, has no heel of Achilles in itself, and absolutely refuses to be laughed at. I could find, indeed, but one vulnerable point, and that, lying in a personal peculiarity, arising, perhaps, from constitutional disease, would have been spared by any antagonist less at his wit’s end than myself; –my rival had a weakness in the faucal or guttural organs, which precluded him from raising his voice at any time above a very low whisper. Of this defect I did not fall to take what poor advantage lay in my power.

Wilson’s retaliations in kind were many; and there was one form of his practical wit that disturbed me beyond measure. How his sagacity first discovered at all that so petty a thing would vex me, is a question I never could solve; but, having discovered, he habitually practised the annoyance. I had always felt aversion to my uncourtly patronymic, and its very common, if not plebeian praenomen. The words were venom in my ears; and when, upon the day of my arrival, a second William Wilson came also to the academy, I felt angry with him for bearing the name, and doubly disgusted with the name because a stranger bore it, who would be the cause of its twofold repetition, who would be constantly in my presence, and whose concerns, in the ordinary routine of the school business, must inevitably, on account of the detestable coincidence, be often confounded with my own.

The feeling of vexation thus engendered grew stronger with every circumstance tending to show resemblance, moral or physical, between my rival and myself. I had not then discovered the remarkable fact that we were of the same age; but I saw that we were of the same height, and I perceived that we were even singularly alike in general contour of person and outline of feature. I was galled, too, by the rumor touching a relationship, which had grown current in the upper forms. In a word, nothing could more seriously disturb me, although I scrupulously concealed such disturbance,) than any allusion to a similarity of mind, person, or condition existing between us. But, in truth, I had no reason to believe that (with the exception of the matter of relationship, and in the case of Wilson himself,) this similarity had ever been made a subject of comment, or even observed at all by our schoolfellows. That he observed it in all its bearings, and as fixedly as I, was apparent; but that he could discover in such circumstances so fruitful a field of annoyance, can only be attributed, as I said before, to his more than ordinary penetration.

His cue, which was to perfect an imitation of myself, lay both in words and in actions; and most admirably did he play his part. My dress it was an easy matter to copy; my gait and general manner were, without difficulty, appropriated; in spite of his constitutional defect, even my voice did not escape him. My louder tones were, of course, unattempted, but then the key, it was identical; and his singular whisper, it grew the very echo of my own.

How greatly this most exquisite portraiture harassed me, (for it could not justly be termed a caricature,) I will not now venture to describe. I had but one consolation –in the fact that the imitation, apparently, was noticed by myself alone, and that I had to endure only the knowing and strangely sarcastic smiles of my namesake himself. Satisfied with having produced in my bosom the intended effect, he seemed to chuckle in secret over the sting he had inflicted, and was characteristically disregardful of the public applause which the success of his witty endeavours might have so easily elicited. That the school, indeed, did not feel his design, perceive its accomplishment, and participate in his sneer, was, for many anxious months, a riddle I could not resolve. Perhaps the gradation of his copy rendered it not so readily perceptible; or, more possibly, I owed my security to the master air of the copyist, who, disdaining the letter, (which in a painting is all the obtuse can see,) gave but the full spirit of his original for my individual contemplation and chagrin.

I have already more than once spoken of the disgusting air of patronage which he assumed toward me, and of his frequent officious interference withy my will. This interference often took the ungracious character of advice; advice not openly given, but hinted or insinuated. I received it with a repugnance which gained strength as I grew in years. Yet, at this distant day, let me do him the simple justice to acknowledge that I can recall no occasion when the suggestions of my rival were on the side of those errors or follies so usual to his immature age and seeming inexperience; that his moral sense, at least, if not his general talents and worldly wisdom, was far keener than my own; and that I might, to-day, have been a better, and thus a happier man, had I less frequently rejected the counsels embodied in those meaning whispers which I then but too cordially hated and too bitterly despised.

As it was, I at length grew restive in the extreme under his distasteful supervision, and daily resented more and more openly what I considered his intolerable arrogance. I have said that, in the first years of our connexion as schoolmates, my feelings in regard to him might have been easily ripened into friendship: but, in the latter months of my residence at the academy, although the intrusion of his ordinary manner had, beyond doubt, in some measure, abated, my sentiments, in nearly similar proportion, partook very much of positive hatred. Upon one occasion he saw this, I think, and afterwards avoided, or made a show of avoiding me.

It was about the same period, if I remember aright, that, in an altercation of violence with him, in which he was more than usually thrown off his guard, and spoke and acted with an openness of demeanor rather foreign to his nature, I discovered, or fancied I discovered, in his accent, his air, and general appearance, a something which first startled, and then deeply interested me, by bringing to mind dim visions of my earliest infancy –wild, confused and thronging memories of a time when memory herself was yet unborn. I cannot better describe the sensation which oppressed me than by saying that I could with difficulty shake off the belief of my having been acquainted with the being who stood before me, at some epoch very long ago –some point of the past even infinitely remote. The delusion, however, faded rapidly as it came; and I mention it at all but to define the day of the last conversation I there held with my singular namesake.

The huge old house, with its countless subdivisions, had several large chambers communicating with each other, where slept the greater number of the students. There were, however, (as must necessarily happen in a building so awkwardly planned,) many little nooks or recesses, the odds and ends of the structure; and these the economic ingenuity of Dr. Bransby had also fitted up as dormitories; although, being the merest closets, they were capable of accommodating but a single individual. One of these small apartments was occupied by Wilson.

One night, about the close of my fifth year at the school, and immediately after the altercation just mentioned, finding every one wrapped in sleep, I arose from bed, and, lamp in hand, stole through a wilderness of narrow passages from my own bedroom to that of my rival. I had long been plotting one of those ill-natured pieces of practical wit at his expense in which I had hitherto been so uniformly unsuccessful. It was my intention, now, to put my scheme in operation, and I resolved to make him feel the whole extent of the malice with which I was imbued. Having reached his closet, I noiselessly entered, leaving the lamp, with a shade over it, on the outside. I advanced a step, and listened to the sound of his tranquil breathing. Assured of his being asleep, I returned, took the light, and with it again approached the bed. Close curtains were around it, which, in the prosecution of my plan, I slowly and quietly withdrew, when the bright rays fell vividly upon the sleeper, and my eyes, at the same moment, upon his countenance. I looked; –and a numbness, an iciness of feeling instantly pervaded my frame. My breast heaved, my knees tottered, my whole spirit became possessed with an objectless yet intolerable horror. Gasping for breath, I lowered the lamp in still nearer proximity to the face. Were these –these the lineaments of William Wilson? I saw, indeed, that they were his, but I shook as if with a fit of the ague in fancying they were not. What was there about them to confound me in this manner? I gazed; –while my brain reeled with a multitude of incoherent thoughts. Not thus he appeared –assuredly not thus –in the vivacity of his waking hours. The same name! the same contour of person! the same day of arrival at the academy! And then his dogged and meaningless imitation of my gait, my voice, my habits, and my manner! Was it, in truth, within the bounds of human possibility, that what I now saw was the result, merely, of the habitual practice of this sarcastic imitation? Awe-stricken, and with a creeping shudder, I extinguished the lamp, passed silently from the chamber, and left, at once, the halls of that old academy, never to enter them again.

After a lapse of some months, spent at home in mere idleness, I found myself a student at Eton. The brief interval had been sufficient to enfeeble my remembrance of the events at Dr. Bransby’s, or at least to effect a material change in the nature of the feelings with which I remembered them. The truth –the tragedy –of the drama was no more. I could now find room to doubt the evidence of my senses; and seldom called up the subject at all but with wonder at extent of human credulity, and a smile at the vivid force of the imagination which I hereditarily possessed. Neither was this species of scepticism likely to be diminished by the character of the life I led at Eton. The vortex of thoughtless folly into which I there so immediately and so recklessly plunged, washed away all but the froth of my past hours, engulfed at once every solid or serious impression, and left to memory only the veriest levities of a former existence.

I do not wish, however, to trace the course of my miserable profligacy here –a profligacy which set at defiance the laws, while it eluded the vigilance of the institution. Three years of folly, passed without profit, had but given me rooted habits of vice, and added, in a somewhat unusual degree, to my bodily stature, when, after a week of soulless dissipation, I invited a small party of the most dissolute students to a secret carousal in my chambers. We met at a late hour of the night; for our debaucheries were to be faithfully protracted until morning. The wine flowed freely, and there were not wanting other and perhaps more dangerous seductions; so that the gray dawn had already faintly appeared in the east, while our delirious extravagance was at its height. Madly flushed with cards and intoxication, I was in the act of insisting upon a toast of more than wonted profanity, when my attention was suddenly diverted by the violent, although partial unclosing of the door of the apartment, and by the eager voice of a servant from without. He said that some person, apparently in great haste, demanded to speak with me in the hall.

Wildly excited with wine, the unexpected interruption rather delighted than surprised me. I staggered forward at once, and a few steps brought me to the vestibule of the building. In this low and small room there hung no lamp; and now no light at all was admitted, save that of the exceedingly feeble dawn which made its way through the semi-circular window. As I put my foot over the threshold, I became aware of the figure of a youth about my own height, and habited in a white kerseymere morning frock, cut in the novel fashion of the one I myself wore at the moment. This the faint light enabled me to perceive; but the features of his face I could not distinguish. Upon my entering he strode hurriedly up to me, and, seizing me by. the arm with a gesture of petulant impatience, whispered the words “William Wilson!” in my ear.

I grew perfectly sober in an instant. There was that in the manner of the stranger, and in the tremulous shake of his uplifted finger, as he held it between my eyes and the light, which filled me with unqualified amazement; but it was not this which had so violently moved me. It was the pregnancy of solemn admonition in the singular, low, hissing utterance; and, above all, it was the character, the tone, the key, of those few, simple, and familiar, yet whispered syllables, which came with a thousand thronging memories of bygone days, and struck upon my soul with the shock of a galvanic battery. Ere I could recover the use of my senses he was gone.

Although this event failed not of a vivid effect upon my disordered imagination, yet was it evanescent as vivid. For some weeks, indeed, I busied myself in earnest inquiry, or was wrapped in a cloud of morbid speculation. I did not pretend to disguise from my perception the identity of the singular individual who thus perseveringly interfered with my affairs, and harassed me with his insinuated counsel. But who and what was this Wilson? –and whence came he? –and what were his purposes? Upon neither of these points could I be satisfied; merely ascertaining, in regard to him, that a sudden accident in his family had caused his removal from Dr. Bransby’s academy on the afternoon of the day in which I myself had eloped. But in a brief period I ceased to think upon the subject; my attention being all absorbed in a contemplated departure for Oxford. Thither I soon went; the uncalculating vanity of my parents furnishing me with an outfit and annual establishment, which would enable me to indulge at will in the luxury already so dear to my heart, –to vie in profuseness of expenditure with the haughtiest heirs of the wealthiest earldoms in Great Britain.

Excited by such appliances to vice, my constitutional temperament broke forth with redoubled ardor, and I spurned even the common restraints of decency in the mad infatuation of my revels. But it were absurd to pause in the detail of my extravagance. Let it suffice, that among spendthrifts I out-Heroded Herod, and that, giving name to a multitude of novel follies, I added no brief appendix to the long catalogue of vices then usual in the most dissolute university of Europe.

It could hardly be credited, however, that I had, even here, so utterly fallen from the gentlemanly estate, as to seek acquaintance with the vilest arts of the gambler by profession, and, having become an adept in his despicable science, to practise it habitually as a means of increasing my already enormous income at the expense of the weak-minded among my fellow-collegians. Such, nevertheless, was the fact. And the very enormity of this offence against all manly and honourable sentiment proved, beyond doubt, the main if not the sole reason of the impunity with which it was committed. Who, indeed, among my most abandoned associates, would not rather have disputed the clearest evidence of his senses, than have suspected of such courses, the gay, the frank, the generous William Wilson –the noblest and most commoner at Oxford –him whose follies (said his parasites) were but the follies of youth and unbridled fancy –whose errors but inimitable whim –whose darkest vice but a careless and dashing extravagance?

I had been now two years successfully busied in this way, when there came to the university a young parvenu nobleman, Glendinning –rich, said report, as Herodes Atticus –his riches, too, as easily acquired. I soon found him of weak intellect, and, of course, marked him as a fitting subject for my skill. I frequently engaged him in play, and contrived, with the gambler’s usual art, to let him win considerable sums, the more effectually to entangle him in my snares. At length, my schemes being ripe, I met him (with the full intention that this meeting should be final and decisive) at the chambers of a fellow-commoner, (Mr. Preston,) equally intimate with both, but who, to do him Justice, entertained not even a remote suspicion of my design. To give to this a better colouring, I had contrived to have assembled a party of some eight or ten, and was solicitously careful that the introduction of cards should appear accidental, and originate in the proposal of my contemplated dupe himself. To be brief upon a vile topic, none of the low finesse was omitted, so customary upon similar occasions that it is a just matter for wonder how any are still found so besotted as to fall its victim.

We had protracted our sitting far into the night, and I had at length effected the manoeuvre of getting Glendinning as my sole antagonist. The game, too, was my favorite ecarte!. The rest of the company, interested in the extent of our play, had abandoned their own cards, and were standing around us as spectators. The parvenu, who had been induced by my artifices in the early part of the evening, to drink deeply, now shuffled, dealt, or played, with a wild nervousness of manner for which his intoxication, I thought, might partially, but could not altogether account. In a very short period he had become my debtor to a large amount, when, having taken a long draught of port, he did precisely what I had been coolly anticipating –he proposed to double our already extravagant stakes. With a well-feigned show of reluctance, and not until after my repeated refusal had seduced him into some angry words which gave a color of pique to my compliance, did I finally comply. The result, of course, did but prove how entirely the prey was in my toils; in less than an hour he had quadrupled his debt. For some time his countenance had been losing the florid tinge lent it by the wine; but now, to my astonishment, I perceived that it had grown to a pallor truly fearful. I say to my astonishment. Glendinning had been represented to my eager inquiries as immeasurably wealthy; and the sums which he had as yet lost, although in themselves vast, could not, I supposed, very seriously annoy, much less so violently affect him. That he was overcome by the wine just swallowed, was the idea which most readily presented itself; and, rather with a view to the preservation of my own character in the eyes of my associates, than from any less interested motive, I was about to insist, peremptorily, upon a discontinuance of the play, when some expressions at my elbow from among the company, and an ejaculation evincing utter despair on the part of Glendinning, gave me to understand that I had effected his total ruin under circumstances which, rendering him an object for the pity of all, should have protected him from the ill offices even of a fiend.

What now might have been my conduct it is difficult to say. The pitiable condition of my dupe had thrown an air of embarrassed gloom over all; and, for some moments, a profound silence was maintained, during which I could not help feeling my cheeks tingle with the many burning glances of scorn or reproach cast upon me by the less abandoned of the party. I will even own that an intolerable weight of anxiety was for a brief instant lifted from my bosom by the sudden and extraordinary interruption which ensued. The wide, heavy folding doors of the apartment were all at once thrown open, to their full extent, with a vigorous and rushing impetuosity that extinguished, as if by magic, every candle in the room. Their light, in dying, enabled us just to perceive that a stranger had entered, about my own height, and closely muffled in a cloak. The darkness, however, was now total; and we could only feel that he was standing in our midst. Before any one of us could recover from the extreme astonishment into which this rudeness had thrown all, we heard the voice of the intruder.

“Gentlemen,” he said, in a low, distinct, and never-to-be-forgotten whisper which thrilled to the very marrow of my bones, “Gentlemen, I make no apology for this behaviour, because in thus behaving, I am but fulfilling a duty. You are, beyond doubt, uninformed of the true character of the person who has to-night won at ecarte a large sum of money from Lord Glendinning. I will therefore put you upon an expeditious and decisive plan of obtaining this very necessary information. Please to examine, at your leisure, the inner linings of the cuff of his left sleeve, and the several little packages which may be found in the somewhat capacious pockets of his embroidered morning wrapper.”

While he spoke, so profound was the stillness that one might have heard a pin drop upon the floor. In ceasing, he departed at once, and as abruptly as he had entered. Can I –shall I describe my sensations? –must I say that I felt all the horrors of the damned? Most assuredly I had little time given for reflection. Many hands roughly seized me upon the spot, and lights were immediately reprocured. A search ensued. In the lining of my sleeve were found all the court cards essential in ecarte, and, in the pockets of my wrapper, a number of packs, facsimiles of those used at our sittings, with the single exception that mine were of the species called, technically, arrondees; the honours being slightly convex at the ends, the lower cards slightly convex at the sides. In this disposition, the dupe who cuts, as customary, at the length of the pack, will invariably find that he cuts his antagonist an honor; while the gambler, cutting at the breadth, will, as certainly, cut nothing for his victim which may count in the records of the game.

Any burst of indignation upon this discovery would have affected me less than the silent contempt, or the sarcastic composure, with which it was received.

“Mr. Wilson,” said our host, stooping to remove from beneath his feet an exceedingly luxurious cloak of rare furs, “Mr. Wilson, this is your property.” (The weather was cold; and, upon quitting my own room, I had thrown a cloak over my dressing wrapper, putting it off upon reaching the scene of play.) “I presume it is supererogatory to seek here (eyeing the folds of the garment with a bitter smile) for any farther evidence of your skill. Indeed, we have had enough. You will see the necessity, I hope, of quitting Oxford –at all events, of quitting instantly my chambers.”

Abased, humbled to the dust as I then was, it is probable that I should have resented this galling language by immediate personal violence, had not my whole attention been at the moment arrested by a fact of the most startling character. The cloak which I had worn was of a rare description of fur; how rare, how extravagantly costly, I shall not venture to say. Its fashion, too, was of my own fantastic invention; for I was fastidious to an absurd degree of coxcombry, in matters of this frivolous nature. When, therefore, Mr. Preston reached me that which he had picked up upon the floor, and near the folding doors of the apartment, it was with an astonishment nearly bordering upon terror, that I perceived my own already hanging on my arm, (where I had no doubt unwittingly placed it,) and that the one presented me was but its exact counterpart in every, in even the minutest possible particular. The singular being who had so disastrously exposed me, had been muffled, I remembered, in a cloak; and none had been worn at all by any of the members of our party with the exception of myself. Retaining some presence of mind, I took the one offered me by Preston; placed it, unnoticed, over my own; left the apartment with a resolute scowl of defiance; and, next morning ere dawn of day, commenced a hurried journey from Oxford to the continent, in a perfect agony of horror and of shame.

I fled in vain. My evil destiny pursued me as if in exultation, and proved, indeed, that the exercise of its mysterious dominion had as yet only begun. Scarcely had I set foot in Paris ere I had fresh evidence of the detestable interest taken by this Wilson in my concerns. Years flew, while I experienced no relief. Villain! –at Rome, with how untimely, yet with how spectral an officiousness, stepped he in between me and my ambition! At Vienna, too –at Berlin –and at Moscow! Where, in truth, had I not bitter cause to curse him within my heart? From his inscrutable tyranny did I at length flee, panic-stricken, as from a pestilence; and to the very ends of the earth I fled in vain.

And again, and again, in secret communion with my own spirit, would I demand the questions “Who is he? –whence came he? –and what are his objects?” But no answer was there found. And then I scrutinized, with a minute scrutiny, the forms, and the methods, and the leading traits of his impertinent supervision. But even here there was very little upon which to base a conjecture. It was noticeable, indeed, that, in no one of the multiplied instances in which he had of late crossed my path, had he so crossed it except to frustrate those schemes, or to disturb those actions, which, if fully carried out, might have resulted in bitter mischief. Poor justification this, in truth, for an authority so imperiously assumed! Poor indemnity for natural rights of self-agency so pertinaciously, so insultingly denied!

I had also been forced to notice that my tormentor, for a very long period of time, (while scrupulously and with miraculous dexterity maintaining his whim of an identity of apparel with myself,) had so contrived it, in the execution of his varied interference with my will, that I saw not, at any moment, the features of his face. Be Wilson what he might, this, at least, was but the veriest of affectation, or of folly. Could he, for an instant, have supposed that, in my admonisher at Eton –in the destroyer of my honor at Oxford, –in him who thwarted my ambition at Rome, my revenge at Paris, my passionate love at Naples, or what he falsely termed my avarice in Egypt, –that in this, my arch-enemy and evil genius, could fall to recognise the William Wilson of my school boy days, –the namesake, the companion, the rival, –the hated and dreaded rival at Dr. Bransby’s? Impossible! –But let me hasten to the last eventful scene of the drama.

Thus far I had succumbed supinely to this imperious domination. The sentiment of deep awe with which I habitually regarded the elevated character, the majestic wisdom, the apparent omnipresence and omnipotence of Wilson, added to a feeling of even terror, with which certain other traits in his nature and assumptions inspired me, had operated, hitherto, to impress me with an idea of my own utter weakness and helplessness, and to suggest an implicit, although bitterly reluctant submission to his arbitrary will. But, of late days, I had given myself up entirely to wine; and its maddening influence upon my hereditary temper rendered me more and more impatient of control. I began to murmur, –to hesitate, –to resist. And was it only fancy which induced me to believe that, with the increase of my own firmness, that of my tormentor underwent a proportional diminution? Be this as it may, I now began to feel the inspiration of a burning hope, and at length nurtured in my secret thoughts a stern and desperate resolution that I would submit no longer to be enslaved.

It was at Rome, during the Carnival of 18–, that I attended a masquerade in the palazzo of the Neapolitan Duke Di Broglio. I had indulged more freely than usual in the excesses of the wine-table; and now the suffocating atmosphere of the crowded rooms irritated me beyond endurance. The difficulty, too, of forcing my way through the mazes of the company contributed not a little to the ruffling of my temper; for I was anxiously seeking, (let me not say with what unworthy motive) the young, the gay, the beautiful wife of the aged and doting Di Broglio. With a too unscrupulous confidence she had previously communicated to me the secret of the costume in which she would be habited, and now, having caught a glimpse of her person, I was hurrying to make my way into her presence. –At this moment I felt a light hand placed upon my shoulder, and that ever-remembered, low, damnable whisper within my ear.

In an absolute phrenzy of wrath, I turned at once upon him who had thus interrupted me, and seized him violently by tile collar. He was attired, as I had expected, in a costume altogether similar to my own; wearing a Spanish cloak of blue velvet, begirt about the waist with a crimson belt sustaining a rapier. A mask of black silk entirely covered his face.

“Scoundrel!” I said, in a voice husky with rage, while every syllable I uttered seemed as new fuel to my fury, “scoundrel! impostor! accursed villain! you shall not –you shall not dog me unto death! Follow me, or I stab you where you stand!” –and I broke my way from the ball-room into a small ante-chamber adjoining –dragging him unresistingly with me as I went.

Upon entering, I thrust him furiously from me. He staggered against the wall, while I closed the door with an oath, and commanded him to draw. He hesitated but for an instant; then, with a slight sigh, drew in silence, and put himself upon his defence.

The contest was brief indeed. I was frantic with every species of wild excitement, and felt within my single arm the energy and power of a multitude. In a few seconds I forced him by sheer strength against the wainscoting, and thus, getting him at mercy, plunged my sword, with brute ferocity, repeatedly through and through his bosom.

At that instant some person tried the latch of the door. I hastened to prevent an intrusion, and then immediately returned to my dying antagonist. But what human language can adequately portray that astonishment, that horror which possessed me at the spectacle then presented to view? The brief moment in which I averted my eyes had been sufficient to produce, apparently, a material change in the arrangements at the upper or farther end of the room. A large mirror, –so at first it seemed to me in my confusion –now stood where none had been perceptible before; and, as I stepped up to it in extremity of terror, mine own image, but with features all pale and dabbled in blood, advanced to meet me with a feeble and tottering gait.

Thus it appeared, I say, but was not. It was my antagonist –it was Wilson, who then stood before me in the agonies of his dissolution. His mask and cloak lay, where he had thrown them, upon the floor. Not a thread in all his raiment –not a line in all the marked and singular lineaments of his face which was not, even in the most absolute identity, mine own!

It was Wilson; but he spoke no longer in a whisper, and I could have fancied that I myself was speaking while he said:

“You have conquered, and I yield. Yet, henceforward art thou also dead –dead to the World, to Heaven and to Hope! In me didst thou exist –and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself.”


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