Todī (तोड़ी) c des es fis g as h c
In the Karnatic system, ‘Todi’ ragam is commonly referred to as “HanumantaTodi” and is placed as the 8th in the melakarta system and being an ancient raga it was called Janatodi.
Todi is a sampoorna raga, i.e. a raga with all 7 notes and perfectly symmetrical tetra-chords as swaras. It has S-shudha, R1-Rishabham, G2-sadharana gandharam, M1-shudha madhyamam, P-Panchamam, D1-shudha dhaivatam, N2-kaishiki nishadham and S.
The poorvanga (S to P) and uttaranga (P to S) are very balanced. The jeeva swaras of Todi are GMDN. Their usage in prayogas during raga aalapana of Todi brings out the beauty of this raga. Nyasa swaras are GMPDN. One can weave different patterns of notes centred around these notes, but some prayogas without panchama (P) sound very beautiful.
Todi lends itself beautifully for slow medium-paced kritis, varnams, tillanas, viruttham etc. For example, tAyE yashOdA undan | Adi | UttukkADu venkatasubbaiyer, from the movie Morning Raga. The swara kalpana’s and the ragam-taanam-pallavi coupled as fusion music was simply fantastic and Era napai | Adi | Patnam Subramanya Iyer, is another varnam aptly suitable for ragam-taanam-pallavi, where all swaras should be handled softly and each note is suitable for Gamaka prayoga or oscillation.
This page has a composite list of all the Karnatic todi ragam songs. Looking at the “peculiar compositions” by Ramaswami Dikshitar (svarastAna pada varNam) and “Ma manini” Dr.MB.Krishna (which i remember partly, egad :-S), you will find them constructed without words. The whole song consisting of pallavi, anupallavi and charanam is composed with only the 7 swaras… WOW!!
Practically speaking, each of these songs in Todi, sounds different at first. The difference is not because of the lyrics, which albeit different, but look at the swara sthanas (hint: arohanam and avarohanam) which differ. Shruti-bhedam i.e. while singing alap, using tharasthayi R as S, makes Todi sound like Kalyani, but since it interferes with bhava (emotional flow of the raga) which should not be done extensively.
The composers have the liberty of starting off anywhere but are still bound within the raga metrics and that is their playground for creativity. Ofcourse each composition can have a different talas (beats) and no two songs of the same raga will sound alike, else your credibility as a composer is zilch. Duh, imagine the precarious position of the hindi film music composers(?), who are renowned for -copying- err.. being inspired .. *cough*…. by other peoples tunes frequently.
Now you must be wondering how a listener will know who is the composer of a particular song in say raga: Todi.
Simple…. Every composer had a signature embedded in the song he/she wrote, akin to the “comments” that programmers include in their programs. Some composers used a pseudonym/pen name and some their real names but they always inserted their names in the charanam (last stanza) of the song, never earlier. Humility matters
Legend has it that some not-so-famous students of famous composers in order to give credibility to their compositions used to pen them in their “famous composer teachers” names and bask in their shadowed glory. I am not sure how true this is and dont particularly care. Its more fun to enjoy the music!!
In Hindustani music there are quite a few ragas with the suffix Todi but sounds very different from the Karnatic HanumantaTodi. Example : The Hindustani Gurjari Todi, Mian ki Todi, Multani Todi etc., do not resemble the Carnatic Todi. This is true for many ragas which only share a common raga name.
There are many compositions in HanumantaTodi. Every southern Vaggeyakara has composed in Todi. SriThyagaraja has composed around 30 kritis and the speciality is that each one highlights a different nuance of the ragam.
1] The kriti ‘Dasarathe’ starts in mantra sthayee “D” and emphasizes the prayoga of gamaka-laden “D”.
2] The kriti ‘Dasukovalena’ centres round Madhya sthayee “D”.
3] The kriti ‘Koluvamaregada’ starts at Taara sthayee “S” and comes down the avarohana slowly. Shyama Sastri has done a slow vilambit kala kriti with Swarajati Raave, thereby bringing out the slow beauty of this raga.
TO-DO in Todi, including the derivative janya ragas are :
1] Venugana ramana | Mishra Chapu.
2] Dasuko | Misra Jhampa | Thyagaraja.
3] Koluvamaregada | Adi | Thyagaraja.
4] Rajuvedala (Srirangam Pancharatna) | Rupakam | Thyagaraja |
5] Sri Krishnam Bhaja (on Guruvayurapan) | Adi | Dikshitar |
6] Ninne Nammi | Misra Chapu | Shyama Sastri |
7] Raave (Swarajati) | Adi | Shyama Sastri |
8] Sarasija nabhada | Misra Chapu | Swati Tirunal |
9] Thamatham en | Adi | Papanasam Sivan |
10] Tanigai Valar-Khanda Chapu- Papanasam Sivan |
11] Kartikeya- Aadi- Papanasam Sivan |
12] Anjananandam | Adi |
13] Annaiyargal vanam nadi vandar | Adi |
14] Dasharathe dayanidhe | Adi
15] En inge vandu | Adi
16] Jatadhara shankara devedeva | Adi
17] Rasa loka vaibhoga | Adi
18] Tale sharanam amma | Adi
19] Tannam taniyaha senrale | Mishra Chapu
20] Urugada manam enna manamo | Adi
21] Vandavarai varum enrazhaittu mani polum | Adi
Janya (derivative) raga :
1] Bhuvana moha saundara sukumara | Dhanyasi | Adi
2] Nada nada nada krishna | Dhanyasi | Adi
3] Padmini vallabha dehi pradehi | Dhanyasi | Adi
4] Natajana kalpavalli | Punnagavarali | Adi
5] Nila vanam tanil oli vishum niraimadiyo | Punnagavarali | Adi
6] Na dhru dhim tadana tomtana (tillana) | Sindhubhairavi | Adi
7] Shen shiva jatadhara shambho | Sindhubhairavi | Adi
By SVAKSHA on 2008 May 3
Todi (Hindi: तोडी) is a Hindustani classical raga which gave its name to the Todi thaat, one of the ten modes of Hindustani classical music. Ragas from the Todi raganga include Todi (a.k.a. Miya ki Todi) itself, Bilaskhani Todi, Bahaduri Todi, and Gujari Todi.
The equivalent raga in Carnatic music is Shubhapantuvarali. The Carnatic raga Todi is the equivalent of Bhairavi and does not have any similarity to the Hindustani Todi.
* 1 Aroha & Avaroha
* 2 Vadi and Samavadi
* 3 Pakad or Chalan
* 4 Organization and relationships
* 5 Samay (Time)
* 6 Rasa
* 7 References
* 8 External links
* 9 Literature
Aroha & Avaroha
S r g M+ d N S’ or
‘d ‘N S r g M+ d N S’ or
S r g M+ d P, M+ d N S’ or
S r g M+ P, M+ d N S’
S’ N D P M+ G R S or
S N d P M+ d M+ g r g r S
Vadi and Samavadi
komal Dha and komal Ga
in ascent re, ga and dha are intoned slightly low, and tivra ma is very sharp. In descent the intonaltion of all these notes is normal 
Pakad or Chalan
The distinctive phrase is r/g-\r\S, where r may be subtly oscillated.
Pa is omitted in ascent, but present and often sustained. Kaufmann mentions that some musicians would call Todi with Pa Miyan Ki Todi, but others would see no difference between Todi and Miyan Ki Todi.
Sometimes the ascent is performed without Sa, starting from Ni.
Organization and relationships
Miyan Ki Todi is similar to Gujari Todi and many movements are common, but in Gujari Todi Pa is omitted and there is more emphasis on Re and Dha.
Like Miyan Ki Malhar Miyan Ki Todi is said to be composed by Tansen, but this seems unlikely as the Todi scale in Tansen’s time was the scale of today’s Bhairavi and the name Miyan Ki Todi appears first in the 19th century literature.
Todi should be performed in the late morning
Todi is nearly always shown as a gentle, beautiful woman, holding a veena and standing in a lovely green forest, surrounded by deers. Kaufman cites the Sangita-Darpana “With a fair erect body like the white lotus, and delicate like the gleaming dew drop, Todi holds the vina and provides fun and frolic to the deer deep in the forest. Her body is anointed with saffron and camphor”
1. Jump up ^ Benward and Saker (2003). Music: In Theory and Practice, Vol. I, p.39. Boston: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
2. Jump up ^ Kaufmann 1968
3. Jump up ^ Bor 1997
4. Jump up ^ Bor 1997
5. Jump up ^ Bor 1997
6. Jump up ^ Kaufman 1968, pg. 551
The Flute is called the magic voice of Krishna. Pt. Pannalal Ghosh Flute has a magical touch of other-worldness which is hardly to compare with something else in the universe of sound. Yes it,s true : the ocean of sound Nada Brahma cannot be travelled by to a finite shore…
If there is a musical voice which covers the full depth of the metaphysical corpse then it must be the charms of the disemboddied flute of Pt Pannala Gosh… vibrating an infinite desire for spiritual freedom…
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, when Pannalal had gone to the cremation ground to attend the last rites of one of his schoolteachers he 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. This removed the doubt from the mind of little Pannalal and he selected Flute as his main
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 well-known, 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, Chandramauli, Panchavati and Nupurdwani, as well as multitudinous vilambit and drut compositions in many well known and rare ragas.
Rag VRINDAVANI SARANG
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.
(Courtesy Pt. V.G. Karnad – Pt. Nityanand Haldipur -David Philipson)
Rag Hindol Bahar
Rag Bhairavi Thumri
Rag Khamaj Thumri
The Pioneer of Modern Bansuri
Pt. Pannalal Ghosh -[24 July, 1911 – 20 April, 1960]
A Brief Life Sketch
The great maestro and pioneer of Hindustani classical flute music, late Pt. Pannalal Ghosh was born on 24th July, 1911 at Barisal, now in Bangladesh. His real name was Amal Jyoti Ghosh. He was brought up in a family of musicians.
Young Pannalal was highly receptive and absorbed good music from various sources. It appears that during his young days at Barisal, Pannalal was active in the freedom struggle. He came to Kolkata during late 1920’s, thereafter shifting to Mumbai (1940) in search of better prospects for his musical career. It was in no time that the nation recognized the maestro in him. His fame and popularity transgressed linguistic and cultural boundaries. Pannalal Ghosh resided in Mumbai till 1956, before making Delhi his final destination, where he passed away on 20th April, 1960.
At Kolkata during the early 1930s, Pannababuji received musical training for two years from his first Guru, the noted harmonium player and a renowned master in classical music, Ustad Khushi Mohammed Khan, under the traditional Ganda Bandhan form of tutelage. After the sad demise of Khushi Mohammed Khan, Pannababuji studied under Pt. Girija Shankar Chakraborty, an eminent musician and musicologist. Pannababuji was influenced by the style of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan Saheb initially. The strongest influence on Pannababuji’s music came from the systematic lessons under the legendary Ustad Allaudin Khan Sahib, from the 1947.
Pannalal Ghosh was a great innovator indeed! He was the first to transform a tiny folk instrument to a novel bamboo flute (32 inches long with 7 holes) suitable for playing traditional Indian classical music, and also to uplift its stature, bringing it at par with other classical music instruments. He is also accredited with the creation of a special bass flute, and introduction of the 6-stringed Tanpura, high-pitched Tanpuri and Surpeti into Hindustani music. Pannababuji’s innovations are of great significance because there have been rare examples in the world’s modern history of music when a musical instrument was created, as well as popularly accepted along with traditionally established instruments.
Besides, he also mastered the technique of presenting heavy melodies, balancing both beauty and grammar. These Raaga are now the specialty of the flautists of his gharana (tradition). Pannababuji regularly and gracefully played the Siddha Raaga such as Abhogi, Adana, Bageshree, Bahar, Basant, Bhairavi, Bhimpalasi, Bhairav, Bhoop, Bhopal Todi, Bihag, Chandramouli, Darbari, Des, Desee, Deskaar, Gaud-Sarang, Jaunpuri, Kafi, Kedar, Khamaj, Lalit, Malkauns, Marwa, Piloo, Miyan-Malhar, Pahadi, Puriya, Puriya-Dhanashree, Puriya-Kalyan, Sarang, Shankara, Shree, Shudh-Basant, Shudha-Bhairavi, Sindhura, Tilang, Todi, Yaman and many more. He was also open to accepting new ideas. This culminated in creating and/or popularizing several Carnatic / new / uncommon / mixed Raaga such as Andolika, Chandramouli, Deepawali, Jayant, Kumari, Noopur-Dhwani, Panchavati (a Raaga-Mala), Ratna-Pushpika, Shuklapalaasi, Pushpachandrika (created by Shri. Himanshu Dutta, Kolkata), Basant-Mukhari, Shankara- Bhariyar, Miyan-Ki-Sarang, Hansa-Narayani, Hansa-Dhwani, Malay-Marutham, Shivendra- Madhyam, etc.
His playing style was a uniform and balanced blend of both, the Gayaki (vocal style) and Tantkari (stringed instrument style). This is evident from his available recordings, and also from the fact that he was very much liked not only by the eminent vocalists such as Ustad Fayyaz Khan, Pt. Omkarnath Thakur and Surashri Kesarbai Kerkar, but his understanding of the Taal (rhythm) was also appreciated by all the renowned Tabla players (percussionists) including Ustad Amir Hussain Khan, Ustad Allarakha, and Pt. Nikhil Ghosh. To quote Pt. Lalji Gokhale (disciple of Ustad Ahmad Jan Thirakwa Saheb), who accompanied Pannababuji on a large number of occasions said “it was impossible that Pannababuji would ever make a mistake in “Taal
Pannalal Ghosh, as the music director of the dance troupe of the princely kingdom of Seraikela state, visited and performed in Europe in the year late 1930’s, and was one of the first classical musicians to have crossed the boundaries of India. After joining All India Radio, Delhi, as the Conductor of the National Orchestra in 1956, he composed several path-breaking orchestral pieces including Kalinga Vijay, Rituraj, Hariyali and Jyotirmoy Amitabha. His contribution in semi-classical as well as film music also was equally important, and his name is permanently linked to many famous movies such as Anjan, Basant, Duhai, Police, Andolan, Nandkishore, Basant Bahar, Mughal-e-Azam and many more.
(Source: article contributed by Dr. Vishvas M. Kulkarni)
For further reading recommendations on the below abstract paper :
Pannalal Ghosh (1911-1960) is credited with the introduction of the b ansuri (North Indian bamboo flute) into Hindustani classical music in the twentieth century. While the transverse flute played a significant role in the music of India at least since the early centuries CE, it had lost its status as a prominent instrument in Indian art music several hundred years before Ghosh brought it to the forefront of Hindustani classical music. Ghosh’s achievement is considered in the context of his time in terms of the social, political, economic, technological, and musical circumstances in India, and particularly Bengal. While twentieth-century developments contributed to his success, it was ultimately through his own efforts that the b ansuri was accepted as a featured Hindustani classical instrument. By redesigning the instrument, working out a technique to emulate the subtleties of the voice, listening to diverse genres and styles of music, engaging in intensive study, and conceptualizing his own eclectic style of playing, he succeeded in convincing twentieth-century audiences that the bansuri deserved a place as a valued instrument for the performance of Hindustani classical music. His achievement also paved the way for other instruments such as shahn ai, sarangi, and sant ur to achieve similar recognition in the classical music of North India. I have drawn from elements of musical biography; Indian history; organology; music theory, transcription, and analysis; and anthropology to show how Ghosh’s career is illustrative of a broader narrative of tradition and innovation in twentieth-century Hindustani classical music. My own studies of Hindustani classical music in the lineage of Pannalal Ghosh began in 1988, and provided a foundation for much of the work in this dissertation. Interviews with former students and associaties of Pannalal Ghosh, along with several articles about his life and work, enabled me to piece together his biography. Research into the history and culture of his time provided a clearer picture of the environment that shaped his life and musical development. Transcription and analysis of performances by Ghosh and other vocalists and instrumentalists helped me to situate his music within the context of North Indian classical music in the twentieth century.
For a Thesis on : Tradition and Innovation in the Bansuri Performance Style of Pannalal Ghosh
please click image below…
THE TIMES OF INDIA, Bombay
Date: August 31, 1969
Pannalal Ghosh, the unrivalled maestro of the flute, was only 48 when he suddenly died of a heart attack in Delhi in 1960. He was a virtually self-taught musician. Strange but true, he had not found his real guru, Acharya Allauddin Khan, till he was 36. But he had made his mark as a gifted flutist when New Theatres, the renowned film studio in Calcutta, spotted his talent, and employed him on its orchestral staff for background music in 1934.This proved fruitful in two ways. For it was here that Pannababu met Raichand Boral, the famed composer and music director, and Khushi Mohammad Khan, the noted harmonist. While the former initiated him into the mysteries of film music and orchestration, the latter gave him systematic instruction in flute playing, Another great composer from whom he benefited was Himanshu Dutt.
Looking back, it would appear that music beckoned to Pannababu when he was only seven — an age when most boys are occupied with games and other diversions of childhood. And while he played simple, breezy tunes to the delight of the local village folk of Barisal (now in Bangladesh), his inventive genius toyed with the idea of extending the tonal capabilities of his flute as a medium. of classical music. [Thus followed a systematic study of its structure and technique. This led him to try a variety of material from aluminum and brass to plastic and bamboo, one-after another, in equally varied shapes and sizes, before he decided on the last, and added a seventh playing hole to evolve the flute he had long visualized. He then developed and perfected a style of’ playing that marked a radical departure from the centuries-old style of music.
Private collection of Mohan D. Nadkarni/ Pannalal Ghosh
In performance at the first Mumbai Tajya sageet-Mritya Mahotsava in Mumbai in 1956. Accompanying him is V.G. Karnad (on his right) and Nikhil Ghosh, his eminent younger brother on the tabla (to his extreme left)
This was in the mid-thirties, at a time when no one even had foreseen the possibility of harnessing the bansuri as an effective instrument for the unfolding of elaborate classical melodies. The listeners were struck as much by the tonal quality of his flute as by the range and variety of his improvisation. So perfect was its adaptation to classical articulation that it could afford the illimitable nuances of the human voice with a naturalness all its own. In point of depth, range and volume, it could vie with plucked instruments like the veena, the sitar and the sarod. Before long did his originality and virtuosity in enlarging the scope of his medium to wider panoramas of musical form and design bring him distinction as a pioneer in the introduction of gayaki to the woodwind.
As said earlier, it was Acharya Allauddin Khan who exerted the strongest influence on the development of Pannababu’s idiom. That explains why his style presented so unique a blend of technique and temperament, of authenticity and appeal — which constitute the hallmark of the Acharya’s Senia parampara.
Pannababu was a deeply religious man. He had his spiritual initiation from Swami Birajananda, a direct disciple of Swami Vivekananda. The profound influence of the teachings of – Paramahamsa Sri Ramakrishna had shaped his character and personality. Added to this was also the mystical element he inherited from Acharya Allauddin Khan. Not surprisingly, his music generated a mood of spiritual awareness in the listener. Passage after passage that he played came to us as the utterance of a deeply moved soul.
Pannababu’s contribution to the enrichment of the raga repertory of north India showed a rare synthesis of tradition and experiment again the result of the Acharya’s influence on him. His new creations like Deepavali, Jayant, Chandra-Mauli and Nupur-dhvani, to name a few were marked by structural authenticity and enduring appeal. So were his thematic compositions which he offered us as conductor of National Orchestra of AIR at Delhi. It is important to remember that he had proved his mettle as composer and music director much earlier during his association with Bombay Talkies before he met Acharya Allauddin Khan.
(Courtesy Pannalal Ghosh Mohan D. Nadkarni 1969)
*** The Bansuri: A History
Krishna is a Hindu deity, worshipped as an incarnation of Vishnu. Krishna is know as the divine charmer who played flute and through his music, caused many to fall in love with him. Many believe that the North Indian bamboo flute is sacred, and only those who are very blessed
and very spiritually inspired can “pick up the most pristine and natural instrument in their mortal hands and go on to make divine music with it” (Roy, 72). Lord Krishna is also called Murlidhar
or “the flute-holder” is told of in stories about his flute playing and seduction of women to his divinity. Many in the Hindu faith believe that Krishna’s flute playing represents the human soul yearning for union with the divine lover.
The transverse (held across or side blown) flute is found in almost every culture. The bamboo transverse flute is found in Asia and the West Indies. The bansuri is not the only North India bamboo flute, but is commonly the concert-flute or the classical flute of North Indian music. First millennium BC history cites flute, harp, and drum in Vedic rituals. Vedic text is the
oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scripture of Hinduism. “The flute is, perhaps, one of the oldest instruments in the world, making an appearance iconographically in Egypt around 4000 BC” (Potter, 30). Buddhist sculptures showed flutes being played by humans, men and
women, celestial beings, instrumental ensembles and accompanying vocal music, chamber music and in the court and temples. “The Sufis (members of mystical sects of Islam, the earliest dating
from 8th century Persia) believe that the flute and the man of God are one and the same” (Potter, 37). The Santal tribes of North India (the largest tribal community of India) believe that the flute
connects the mortal humans with supernatural forces. The flute is a very important instrument in Indian culture; many poets such as Sarojini Naidu wrote about the flute.
After the Muslim invasions of India that began in the 12th century, the bansuri disappeared as a court instrument
but remained common in the folk tradition the states of Bengal, Orissa, and Assam.
The Bansuri’s Structure
The Bansuri flute is a North Indian classical instrument that may be performed in many different venues, in many different genres, and in many different ensembles. The bansuri is a
cylindrical tube with a uniform bore made from a single piece of straight, smooth bamboo that is free of notches. The concert bansuri is usually between 60 and 90 centimeters and 25 millimeters
in diameter, but the bansuri flute can be of many different lengths (especially in folk music traditions). The top end is closed (either naturally or with a cork stopper) and the lower end is
open. The placement of the finger holes are dependent upon the tuning of the instrument, but there is a mouth hole at the top and usually six finger holes. There is also often a small hole at
the end of the flute for tuning. The bansuri can be made in any pitch. Flutes used for folk and popular music are often higher pitched than classical bansuri flutes, which are often pitched at
The bansuri is made from special bambo that has large cross-sections (large spaces between notches). It is believed that Assam, a state in north-eastern India, produces the highest
quality bamboo. The bamboo is cut after the rainy season and left to dry for months. One end is corked after the bamboo in cleaned and holes are pierced by a red hot iron rod. After the mouth
hole is created, the finger holes are created in relation to the pitch created from the moth hole. Sometimes oils, such as mustard and coconut, are used on the inside of the bamboo to keep the
instrument from drying out and cracking. According to Catherine Potter, instruments are commonly made by flutists themselves who are self taught. However, there is an American flute maker at the Ali Akbar Khan School of Indian Classical Music in St. Raphael, California who
makes some of the best bansuri that are often ordered from professional flutists in India.
The bansuri is used for classical, folk, and popular performances of North India. Often, the bansuri is a solo instrument accompanied by table and tanpura, and sometimes a second
bansuri becomes an echo of the solo bansuri. The bansuri only became a stage performing instrument in the twentieth century. There are no established stylistic schools of bansuri like with
vocalists and stringed instrumentalists. Many of today’s great flutists such as Pannalal Ghosh, Vijay Ragha Roa, Hariprasad Chaurasia, and Nityanand Hadipur did not study with flutists but
Performing on the Bansuri
The following teachings are based on books by Lyon Leifer who studied with Pandit Pannalal Ghosh and Catherine Potter who studied with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. Notation of
North Indian classical music is rare because of the depth of their aural tradition. However, the notation that is used is Bhatkande notation using swara syllables. Swara syllables are similar to
the western tradition of solfege and include the syllable sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni, and sa. The bansuri can have six or seven holes. The advantage of seven holes according to the Ghosh/
Murdeshwar school is as follows: Additional half-step of low range; immensely greater flexibility in treating the register break; and register breaks can make gliding difficult, so the
seventh hole is advantageous for ease of register breaks. Lyon Leifer details the advantage of six holes as being only one: Prevents the performer from having to stretch the right hand for the seventh hole. When playing in an ensemble, the other instruments that will play with the bansuri will tune according to the pitch of the given bansuri. The bansuri is played while sitting cross legged, horizontally, either to the left or to the right. The first hand facing in towards the musician and the second hand (furthest away) is palm out. The first three fingers of each hand are used to cover the holes and sometimes the middle part of the finger is used to cover. Microtonal ornamentation and sliding is often used. Bansuri flutes can play at least two and a half octaves, the upper octaves are achieved by overblowing to the harmonics. Bansuri flutes do not have perfect intonation, so tuning is often done with compensation from the embouchure and the turning of the flute in or out to push the airstream further in the hole or further across the hole. Below, is a bansuri fingering chart from Catherine Potter’s Hariprasad Chaurasia: The Individual and the North Indian Classical Music Tradition. Staging can often be the ensemble sitting center stage, the tabla player stage left, and two tanpuras behind the bansuri player.
While playing the bansuri, the fingers may cover the holes with second phalanx of the fingers, which facilitates covering the holes that are large distances apart. The holes can be
partially uncovered to produce different intonation, slides, microtonal effects. However, there are bansuri players who use the pads of their fingertips to cover the holes of the bansuri, and this
may be more comfortable at first for the western flutist when making the shift from the Boehm flute to the bansuri. Below is an image of finger placement on a bansuri using the second phalanx from Catherine Potter’s Hariprasad Chaurasia: The Individual and the North Indian Classical Music Tradition.
As stated by Catherine Potter, Chaurasia’s idea of a “good bansuri sound” is strong vibrato, full tone, use of dynamics, and the use of sustained tones. According to Potter, tone quality is actually more encouraged in film music rather than classical music, but Chaurasia encourages his classical students to produce full, strong tone quality.
Holding the Bansuri
The bansuri, unlike the Boehm flute, can be held to either the right or left side of the performer. If held to the right, the left hand is placed on the instrument first (first as in closest to
the face), palm in, thumb supporting the bansuri away from the palm, index finger straight and angled toward the tone hole. The first three fingers of left hand are placed on the first three holes.
Then, the right hand is placed second (furthest away from the face), palm out, fingers flat, some use the tip of the fingers to cover the holes, others use the second phalanx. The little finger of the
right hand must angle out from the hand in order to reach the seventh tone hole. The seventh tone hole is reached by keeping the forearm and hand in-line (wrist not flexed) and rotate them
There are many different types of ornamentations used in Hindustani music, and many of the instrumental ornamentations are based on vocal genres. However, after listening to many bansuri recordings and watching many videos, I have collected a few ideas: Pitches can
ornamented by physically moving the bansuri up and down and with side to side motions to effect the embouchure placement. Mind (or meend) is produced by slowly rolling the finger in a
circular motion to gradually open and close the hole. Kana is produced by sliding the fingers over or off the hole after blowing. Gamaka is produced by approaching each pitch from above by
using the kana technique in combination with embouchure movement and air movement. Gamak is an oscillation between two notes (usually a diatonic step apart) like a tremolo. Taan is
improvised variations including rapid variation in accordance with the raga.
Double note paltas are patterns with a repeated note that is separated by a lower Register shifts are another important ornamentation but considered more of a theme and variations and includes performing one idea and performing it again but in a different register. Andolan is an ornamentation where given scale degrees oscillate between a particular microtonal position of the scale and another, slightly lower position. Andolan is performed by Rocking the finger which produces the relevant scale degree very slightly back and forth in its normal direction of closure and opening. Articulation is another important aspect of not only ornamenting but of the overall performance of a raga. Articulations that are commonly used include: Legato phrasing, pitches connected with mind (meend), single, double, triple tonguing, and slightly detached to staccato.