Friday, September 21, 2012

A Look into the Past by Professor Abdul Halim

Professor Abdul Halim (1905-1972), Ph.D., was a distinguished historian and musicologist.  He was a Reader at the Aligarh Muslim University and later Professor and Head at the Department of History, University of Dhaka.  He specialized in the history of medieval Sultanate India.  His scholarly output included several monographs on the historical development of Indian classical music.  The monograph reproduced below was published under the title Muslim Contribution to The Development of North Indian Music, in The Muslim Year Book of India, Bombay, 1948-1949, pp. 107-21.

"I cannot sufficiently describe the wonderful power of this talisman of knowledge (music). It sometimes causes the beautiful creatures of the harem of the heart to shine forth on the tongue, and sometimes appears in solemn strains by means of the hand and the chord. The melodies then enter through the window of the ear and return to their former seat, the heart, bringing with them thousands of presents. The hearers, according to their insight, are moved to sorrow or to joy. Music is thus of use to those who have renounced the world and to such as still cling to it." — ABUL FAZL, Ain-i-Akbari, Blochmann, Vol. I, 680.

WHEN the Muslims came to India as conquerors, they brought with them a musical system which did not differ much from the one prevailing in India. It is true that the Indian system was very highly developed and scientific, quite at par with the other exact sciences which the Indians cultivated. But it is a fact that many Persian airs bore close resemblance to their Indian counterparts, such as Shu'ba-i-Mukhalif corresponding with Ramkali, 'Eraq with Bhairaon, Dar-i- Israr with Purba and Malwa, Maghlub with Bibhas, and so on (1). This is but one more proof that culturally the Muslim conquerors of India had many things in common with the Indians.

But there were differences too. The Muslims did not attach any spiritual sanctity to music either in its origin, or in its utility or in its power. With the Muslims music was a means to joy and ecstasy, an instrument to enliven the senses. Music with them was purely a secular art. They did not regard it, as the Indians did, as an aid to devotion or devotion itself. Nay, something more. The Muslims came to India with a variety of Perso-Arab musical instruments, such as the Rubab, Chang (harp), Ghichak, Tambura, Shahrud (2), Qanun (dulcimer), 'Ud, Nay (flute), Naqqara and Dhol, to add to the Indian Vina, Sarinda (3), Magaudhi (4), the Bansri. The Muslims adopted the Indian musical system as they settled and acclimatised themselves in the land and enriched it by the introduction of new styles of singing, by adding new airs to the existing stock and inventing and perfecting musical instruments or remodelling them to the Indian environments. The Muslims brought music as an insignia of royalty. The practice of playing music, the naubat, at stated hours of the day and night, in the palace-gates of kings and privileged noblemen — a practice which still subsists in many of the Indian states — was introduced by the Muslims.

It appears from the historical sources that the first attempt towards the assimilation of Indian music was made by the Muslims during the reign of Sultan Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316). It was during this reign that as the result of the conquest of the Hindu states of the Deccan, a large number of musicians and instrument players had been forced to seek the patronage of the Sultan of Delhi. Amir Khusrau, the poet-laureate of Alauddin, who had the unique fortune of serving seven successive kings of Delhi, was also an accomplished musician. The story that Amir Khusrau was given a challenge by Nayak Gopal, a Tellingana musician, whose palanquin was carried by two thousand of his disciples (5), to sing in the king's open Darbar, is recorded in every treatise on Indian music. The versatile Khusrau not daring to accept the challenge extempore, hid himself for a week behind the throne of the king, as Nayak Gopal gave his performance daily. On the eight day, Khusrau emerged from his refuge, with Samat and Niaz, two of his disciples, and sang in faultless imitation of Gopal's style, some Perso-Arabic modes — a Qawl for each ones of Gopal's 'geet,' in full accompaniment of 'tan' and 'tal' (melody and metre); a Naqsh for each one of his 'Man,' Tilana and Nigar for each one of his scansion; Tarana for his 'Sut' and Basit for his "Chhand." And after Nayak Gopal had been dumb confounded, he set to music some of his own composition and earned the applause of everybody assembled at court. Amir Khusrau acquired such a mastery over Indian music that he is credited to have invented at least eleven new airs or Rags, many of which are popular even today, and earned the well-deserved title of Nayak (6), which is the highest honour conferable on a musician. Rags are Sazgiri, Yaman, Ush-shaq, Mu'afiq, Ghanam, Ghara, Sanam, and Firudast (7). Khusrau is said to have substituted the Dholak for Pakhawaj (8), and introduced new 'tals' or meters (time-beat), such as Khamsa, Sawari, Firudast, Pahlwan, Jat, Poshtu, Ara, Chutal, Qawali, Jald Titala, Jhumra and Sul-Fakhta (9). Some even think that Khusrau was the inventor of the sitar. Though there has been a tendency in the past to make Amir Khusrau the hero of every invention, the debt that Indian music owes to Amir Khusrau can never be over-estimated. He sowed the seed which eventually fructified in the blending of Indian and Perso-Arab systems into a homogeneous form, the Indian classical music.

The fifteenth century ushers in a very brilliant epoch in the history of Indian music. Its revival was caused by the patronage of kings, reform or introduction of new style by Raja Mansingh Tonwar of Gwalior and lastly by musicians and bards of the Bhakti cult.

The patronage of the Muslim kings, who did not care what the doctors of religion said about the legality of music, converted this art into a common heritage of saints and scholars, scamps and scoundrels. Sultan Zain-ul-'Abedin (1416-1467 A.D), King of Kashmir was an admirer of this art to such an extent, that he ordered the decoration of musical instruments like the Rubab, and Bin (Vina) in gold. At his instance the Poet-musician Ludi Bhatt wrote a book on Music which was named Mamak (Ganak?) (10). He was famed as lover of music to such an extent that when Dungar Sen, Raja of Gwalior, heard of his tastes, he sent two or three authentic books on music, and his son Raja Kirat Singh too continued this practice after the death of his father (11). Husain Shah Sharqi, the last king of Jaunpur (A.D. 1457 accession), as a past master in the art, and he is universally regarded as the founder of the Khiyal School of Indian music, which, however, did not become popular till the time of the later Moghals. Husain Shah was an inventive genius and many classical airs owe their origin to him. "He was a matchless expert," says an historian, "His reputation in life time had spread to the four corners of India. He did not regard any body his equal. His inventions include twelve Shyams (Gaur Shyam, Malharshyam, Bhupal Shyam, etc.), four Todis of which Jaunpuri or Husaini Todi is so well-known, one Asawari known as Jaunpuri and the famous Hussaini Kanara. It has been asserted by the author of a treatise on music that Husain Shah introduced Jangla as an air in Indian music, derived from Zangula, a Persian air (12).

Sultan Sikandar Lodi (1489-1523), the second ruler of the Lodi dynasty, otherwise a very orthodox ruler who would not budge an inch from the canon law, and a great iconoclast, was a great lover of music and listened to it defying the ban of his own legists. He evaded the law by making singers and instrument players display their art in the camps of his two noblemen, Syed Ruhulla and Syed Ibn Rasul, which were close to him (13). The musical assemblies began generally after three hours of the night. The Sultan had four slave boys. One to play on the Chung, a second on Qanun, third on Tanpura and the fourth on the Bin. In addition to these there were ten Shahnai players. His favourite Rags were Maligaura, Kalyan, Kanra (renamed Darbari by Akbar), and Husaini Kanra.

The provincial courts did not lag behind in patronage. Baz Bahadur, the last King of Malwa, and his favourite consort Rupmati were accomplished musicians. Songs composed by Rupmati are still sung by women, engaged in grinding corn in the Malwa region. Bahadur Shah, the King of Gujerat (1526 to 1537), who was an accomplished musician, drew to his Court Nayak Bakhshu, the famous musician of the Gwalior Durbar since the days of Raja Mansingh. After the conquest of Gwalior by Sultan Ibrahim Lodi, Nayak Bakhshu went to Gujerat, in the Court of Bahadur Shah. Bakhshu possessed a rich and resonant voice comparable to two men singing together and an inaccessible pitch. It was during his stay in Ahmedabad that Nayak Bakhshu invented a Todi which he called Bahaduri Todi after the name of his patron, and a Kanra known as Nayaki Kanra and a Kalyan named Nayaki Kalyan. It is stated in Mirat-i- Sikandari that Nayak Baiju too was one of the artists of the Court of Bahadur Shah, and while captured by Moghul soldiers on a day of general slaughter following the conquest of Gujerat by Emperor Humayun, he pleased the Emperor by the recital of a song in Persian (14) to such an extent that the Emperor in pursuance of a favour asked for by the Nayak, stopped the carnage. A musician of the name of Nayak Gopal was also in the service of Bahadur Shah. He was a disciple of Nayak Baiju and even excelled his teacher, and was recipient of honours reserved for the great Nayak. It is stated on very reliable authority (15) that the people of Ahmedabad had become so music-minded during the reign of Sultan Mahmud III of Gujerat (accession 1537 A.D.), the last king of the line, that music and singing were heard in every house, and in all the streets and bazars.

The service of the Rajas of Gwalior to the cause of music, especially of Raja Mansingh Tonwar (1486-1517) stands as a category by itself. Due to the impact of Persian music and inventions of new modes of singing, the Indian Rags and Raginis were in a very fluid condition so that no body knew what the actual form of a particular air was. To combat this confusion, he sought the assistance of the leading musicians of the time. He called a commission consisting of Nayak Bakhshu, Nayak Bhannu, and Nayak Pande, all Tellingana musicians, which body after discussions with the Raja's own musicians, Nayak Mahmud, Nayak Karan and Nayak Lohang, compiled a treatise on Indian music, which was named Man Kautuhal (the Curiosity of Raja Man) after the name of the Raja. In this treatise, the Rags and Raginis were classified and each was given a standard form. The names of Rags and Raginis given in Rag Darpan which claims to be Persian translation of Man Kautuhal, contains almost all the Rags and Raginis invented by the Muslim musicians of India (16). Raja Mansingh is credited to have given Dhrupad its present form. It is stated on authority that music so long consisted of "geet," "Ghhand" and "Man" chanted in the Sanskrit language. Man Singh caused many Dhrupads to be compiled in Hindi, and thus gave Dhrupad composition its four-fold character (with its Asthai, Antara, Sanchari and Abhog), a form which it assumes to-date. Man Singh's labours resulted in the separation of the North Indian from the Karnatic (South Indian) music. It also laid the foundation of the step which gave Gwalior the primacy as a centre of music, for centuries to come. It will not be out of place to mention that Mriga Naina (the deer-eyed), Raja Man's consort was also an accomplished musician.

Muslim mystics of India of the Chishti Order, and the Bhakt poets and musicians of the 15th and 16th centuries, contributed a great deal to the development of music. As music without instruments was allowed in the assemblies of the Chishti mystics, as a means of rousing ecstasy, their monasteries were attended by Qawl singers. Samat and Niaz, the two disciples of Amir Khusrau, were attached to the monastery of Hazrat Nizamuddin. It is stated that whatever song was sung in the monastery of the Shaikh, was heard the next day in every street or lane of Delhi. Similarly, Bhakt musicians like Mira Bai (wife of Raja Bhoj, son of Rana Kumbh of Mewar) , Baba Ramdas, Surdas, Swami Hari Das, made wide use of music for the propagation of their cult. 


With the advent of the Moghuls music enters into a new phase. They brought with them not only new blood but a polished culture of the cities of Central Asia, in its best form since their sack and devastation by the mighty hordes of Changiz and his descendants. Babar, the founder of the Moghul dynasty in India, that embodiment of culture and refinement of Central Asia, was not only an expert musician but a fine critic of the art. While recording the performances of the musicians and instrument players of the Court of Sultan Husain Mirza of Samarqand, he critically measures their accomplishments, their merits and demerits and their contribution as inventors. Thus he speaks of Banai of Herat as a composer and inventor (17), Sher 'Ali Beg as the founder of a new style of singing, and Khwajah 'Abdullah Marwarid as a clever player of Qanun, who had added three strings to the instrument. He mentions Shaikh Nai as a player of flute and guitar and Shah Quli as Ghichak player. A very humorous reference is contained in the Memoirs (18) of Husain 'Udi (lutanist) being beaten once by Shaibani Khan the Uzbeg chief, whom Babar loathed and detested, for his (musician's) affectations, and Babar adds that "this was one good deed that Shaibani Khan did in his days." Babar ranks Ghulam Shadi as a composer of ordinary merit, Ghulam Azoo as composer of few productions but all of exquisite taste. In a similar way, Babar scans the merits and demerits of the musicians in the party given by Muzaffar Mirza. Hafiz Mirza, Jalaluddin Mahmud the flute player, Mir Jan Samarqandi (who sang in a loud and harsh voice), Shadi Bacheh the harpist (Chang player), Yusuf 'Ali Gokaltash, all find place in his diary. It is indeed very strange that Babar does not mention about music and musicians, Indian or Trans-Oxianian, after his conquest of India. Perhaps military engagements stood in the way of his giving vent to this hobby. Nor do we know much of Humayun's tastes in this art till after the restoration. Fortunately, the currency of a Dhrupad which a court musician composed and sang on the occasion of Akbar's coronation, stands as a good testimony that music was not dethroned from the Court of the Great Moghuls, after their advent in India.

Music flourished under the patronage of the Suri kings. Islam Shah, son and successor of Sher Shah, was a generous patron of this art. The most famous musicians of his Court were Mubaris Khan, Baba Ramdas and Mahapater, the last of whom having accepted Akbar's service, was sent as an ambassador to Mukand Deo, the King of Orissa. Sikander Sur was a lover of this art and sent a huge present to Tansen, then serving in the Court of Raja Ramchand Bhatt (Riwa), to come to his Court. (19) 'Adil Shah Sur II, wrote a book on music in Hindi (20).

AKBAR (1556-1603)

Due to Akbar's lavish patronage, his reign constitutes a landmark in the history of music. Abul Fazl gives a long list of musicians and instrument players, about thirty-eight in number. The principal artists came from Gwalior, Mesher, Tabriz and Kashmir. His reign is an important link in the absorption of the Indian and Iranian systems into one whole. "His Majesty," says Abul Fazl, "pays much attention to music, and is the patron of all who practise this enchanting art. There are numerous musicians at court, Hindus, Iranis, Turanis, Kashmiris, both men and women. The court musicians are arranged in seven divisions, one for each day of the week." About Mian Tansen, the foremost of the court-musicians writes, "A singer like him has not been in India for the last two thousand years." It was with a heavy heart that Raja Ramchand of Riwa allowed Tansen to go to Akbar's Court at Agra, at the latter's request, and when Tansen gave his first performance, Akbar gave him a present of two lakhs of rupees. Akbar had a special liking for Kanra which he re-named Darbari. A disciple of Swami Haridas of Brindaban, Tansen seems to have accepted Islam after entering Akbar's service (21). Tansen is the inventor of a Malhar, a Sarang and a Todi which are known as Mian ki Malhar, Mian ki Sarang and Mian ki Todi, respectively and retain their popularity in classical music. Baba Ramdas came from Lucknow (22) , and entered the service of Bairam Khan Khanan, after the fall of the Sur Dynasty. He was an eminent Dhrupadist and a composer and was looked upon "as second to Mian Tansen." Baz Bahadur, King of Malwa who accepted Akbar's service and was subsequently promised to a mansab of two thousand, "was a singer without rival" (23). The Gawlior School was represented by Subhan Khan, Sri Gyan Khan, Bichitr Khan son of Subhan Khan, Sarod Khan, Mian Lal, Tan-tarang Khan son of Mian Tansen, Nayak Charju (inventor of Charju ki Malhar) — all singers and Bir-mandal Khan, a player on Sur-mandal (Qanun), and Sahib Khan Binkar. Others who represented the Indian School outside Gwalior were Mahmud Khan Dhari (24), Daud Khan Dhari, Mulla Ishq Dhari, Rahmatullah Khan brother of Mulla Ishaq, a singer, Rangsen of Agra, and the blind musician Surdas son of Baba Ramdas and Purbin Khan Binkar. The foreign school to which almost all the instrument players belonged, consisted of Ustad Dost of Meshad, a Nai (flute) player, Shaikh Dawan of Khurasan, a performer on the Karna and his newphew Pir Zade, a singer and chanter, Mir Syed Ali of Mehshad, and Bairam Quli of Herat players of Ghichak, Ustad Yusuf of Herat, Ustad Mohammed Husain, Ustad Hashim of Meshad and Ustad Mohammed Amin, all Tamburinists, Tash Beg of Qipchaq, a player on the Qabuz, and Ustad Shah Mohammad, player on the Surnai.

During Akbar's reign, vocal music continued to be of the Dhurpad style. Vocal music was mainly represented by Indian musicians whereas instrument playing was almost monopolised by foreigners. It will not be out of place to mention that the division of Akbar's musicians into seven teams, one team for each day, was a very rational and convenient arrangement. It spared the musicians the ordeal of waiting indefinitely in an expectant mood for the imperial order to begin music, and in case of lesser talents the chance of displaying their talents under the old arrangement would not have come at all.

JAHANGIR (1603-1628)

Jahangir, like his father, was a lover of nature and a critic and admirer of art, and was very attentive to musicians. In his Memoirs, he speaks of Mian Lal, a musician (vide list of Akbar's musicians) who died in the third year of his reign. Hafiz Nad Ali is mentioned as a singer who Jahangir granted the entire present made by officials and visitors on the next day. The great Tansen died in the thirteenth year of his reign (25), and his son Bilas Khan, the inventor of the Bilas Khan Todi, occupied his father's place at the Mughal Court. A Christian named Zulqaran, is known to have been a Dhurpadist, and an expert in the art of music. He was initiated to it by Mian Aqil, a disciple of Mian Tansen. Mian Aqil was a Faujdar and Amin of Sambhar (26).

AURANGZEB (1658-1707)

From his accession to the throne till the tenth year of his reign, Aurangzeb was just an ordinary ruler of India, with a good taste and partiality towards music. Musicians and instrument players had led his coronation procession starting from Khizrabad. "As he entered the hall of public audience, and mounted the throne, the imperial band was in attendance. The musicians began their song and nautch girls their dances." (28) He delighted to listen to singers and instrument players; according to Khafi Khan, he understood music well. But in 1688, "on account of the restraint and self-denial, and observance of the tenets of the great Imam Shafei, he entirely abstained from the amusement. If any singer or any musician becomes ashamed of his calling, he makes an allowance or grants him land for his maintenance." (29) The musicians being deprived of royal patronage, had a very bad time all throughout his reign. The story of their taking a mock funeral of 'music,' and passing with all solemnity beside the Darshan balcony of the Emperor, the Emperor's interrogation and exhortation to bury it deep, so that no sound or cry might arise from it, is too well. Deprived of their means of living, some took to recording their knowledge, in their enforced idleness, in black and white. The Aligarh Muslim University possesses a voluminous book on the science of music entitled Naghmatul Israr written by one Mir Ahmad, son of Mirza Mohammed in 1688 A.D.


Though the 18th century is the golden age in the history of music, our information about the names of musicians or the trend of its development is scanty. But from the time of Shahjahan a refinement of taste is noticeable not only in architecture, painting and calligraphy but also in music. Due to the loss of Balkh Badakhshan and Qandhar, the influx of foreign musicians to India ceased. Indian music became more decorous in conformity with the taste of the princes and the nobles. And consequently Khiyal or ornate music came very much in vogue. These two classes having enough leisure now that conquests had ceased, turned their attention more towards music and began to take as much interest in it as they once had taken in war and other vigorous outdoor exercises. Bahadur Shah (1707-12) who earned for himself the sobriquet of Shah-i-bi-Khabr (the heedless king), through his habit of sitting awake the whole night and some time sleeping till mid-day, was a generous patron of music and many artists of great accomplishments attended his musical assemblies. Of his court musicians, the name of Niamat Khan, son of Narmul Khan (30), a great composer of Dhrupad and Khiyal and Tarana and other songs (probably Holi and Sadra too) "which he could perform with great delicacy, beauty and colourfulness," occupies the first place. This Niamat Khan composed innumerable songs with the assistance of Niazi Qawwal and Lala Bangali, before he entered the service of Jahandar Shah and subsequently of Mohammed Shah (1719-48). Niamat Khan who appears to have assumed the pen-name of Sadarang (ever-joyous) composed many Khiyals in Emperor Mohammed Shah's name. It must be remembered that Mohammed Shah himself was a musician and at least a few of the Khiyals and Taranas had been composed by him. Nearly seventy per cent. of the standard Khiyals sung today, were either composed by Sadarang or Mohammed Shah Piya-Sada-Rangiley, the names being put to the songs either at the beginning or at the end. Among the musicians who were responsible for giving a name and fame to the reign were Shaikh Muinuddin, grand-son of Sher Mohammed (a musician of Shahjahan's Court), described as an ornate Khiyalist (31) and Firuz Khan, a disciple and son-in-law of Niamat Khan, "who excelled his teacher," and was a peerless producer of art and beauty. He possessed great knack in the composition of Dhrupad, Tarana and Khiyal (32). After the break up of the Moghul Empire, Delhi ceased to remain the centre of gravity in Indian politics. Artists and musicians took refuge in the provincial courts, or in the courts of the Mahratta rulers, the latter sparing no pains in patronising this art. And it is on account of this that high class music is still cultivated by them more widely than by any people of north or northwestern India. They took their music from Moghuls as they took their manners, court etiquette, dress and system of government. Till 1857, Lucknow under its Nawab Wazirs, and almost simultaneously, Rampur sprang into great importance as centres of music in northern India. It was during the reign of Asaf-ud-Daulah, that Mohammed Raza Khan of Patna, a nobleman of the court wrote his epoch-making Naghmat-i-Asifi, in 1813, after the name of his patron. Mohammed Raza's service to this art consists in his selecting 'suddh' notes to form the Bilawal scale and his selection of a few 'thats' or parent scales as the basis of the classification of the Indian Rags and Raginis. This scientific classification of Rags, gave north Indian music an exactness and a rigidity possessed so long by the south Indian music. Secondly this classification set at rest the age-long controversy as to what the exact form of a Rag was, or whether it was a Parent Rag, a Bharya Rag, a Putra Rag, a Kanya Rag and all other absurdities, for apart from the four different schools of classification, the exact form of a Rag was the subject of bitter controversy and a variation was always attributed by a musician to a particular teacher belonging to an old musician family who imparted him lesson in that way.


But social and moral life during the 19th century had degenerated to an appalling extent. The Indian people were passive spectators in the process which gave one strip of the country after another to the English. The nobles acquired vice which had once been the monopoly of the Romans or the Spaniards, during the decadent period of their national existence. The commonalty had become complacent onlookers. Under such conditions, when the nobles had no outlet to give vent to their restless energy and had taken to regaling themselves in unworthy pastimes such as drinking, listening to the music of songstresses, reclining on a huge pillow (and the English residents spared no pains to cultivate such qualities in their princely wards) or in gambling or cock-fighting, their taste for music could not but degenerate. Khiyal which required considerable exertion and exactitude, made less appeal to their senses not to speak of the acrobatic and mathematical music embodied in Dhrupad. A music which made an appeal to sensual emotions suited their temperament better. Under this atmosphere, two different forms of light music took their origin. Thumri and Tappa both springing from the provincial court of Lucknow. Thumri may very conveniently be classified as love music because apart from making an appeal to the senses, by harping on notes, or by the repetition of a word or syllable in scores of beautiful settings, its subject-matter consists of the feeling between the lover and the beloved. It differs from the Khiyal, in the sense that, whereas in the Khiyal love is symbolic and allegorical, in Thumri it is actual and (33) real. Tappa was invented by Shori, a court musician of Lucknow. Its origin is traced to the song of the camel drivers of the Punjab, its rhythm being determined by the pace of the camel. Some even trace its antiquity to Tartar-Mongol cameleers. Shori's contribution consisted in converting an old out-landish popular mode into a civilised form of music. But it must be remembered that Thumri and Tappa are regarded as Dhuns or tunes of music and do not conform to the actual rules of grammar as rigidly as Dhrupad and Khiyal do. Dhrupad and Khiyal singing did not get out of vogue. They existed side by side but suffered in competition with their more popular rivals, just enumerated. Nawab Wajid Ali, the last Nawab of Oudh (1857), was an expert in music. Those who heard Ustad Fayyaz Husain Khan remember how tenderly he touched his audience when he sang the Bhairabi composed and sung by Wajid Ali Shah on the eve of his leaving his beloved Lucknow for Matiaburj (Calcutta), in the All-India Music Conference, held in Lucknow in 1926. Wajid Ali Shah apart from popularising the stage, and converting Lucknow into the Vienna of India, wrote a book on music, which he named "Najo," published through the Sultani Press, Lucknow. The book embodies a beautiful collection of Khiyals and Dhrupads sung by the master musicians of the court.

On the whole the cause of music during the 19th century received a violent set-back, due to the disappearance of the Moghul nobility, more so during the post-Mutiny period, and their substitution by English civilians none of whom displayed any interest in this art. Apart from the parsimony of the musicians who treasured their knowledge like the wealth of robbers, the cause of music suffered the greatest blow on account of the absence of a recognised system of notation. This came of a necessity and out of contact with the foreigners. Its originator was, I suppose, Maharaja Saurindra Nath Tagore of Calcutta. Its evolution is bringing forgotten modes into light and insuring them against further oblivion.

During the 19th century, till to-date, Rampur, thanks to the interest taken in it by a long list of distinguished rulers, has developed into the most important centre of North Indian music, and a haven for talents. Its services to this can never be over-estimated. This Court has produced a long list of musicians of high rank — Nawab Kalbe Ali Khan, Shahzada Saadat Ali Khan, Nawab Hamid Ali Khan, and the present ruler, His Highness Raza Ali Khan, is a past master in the art who has written a book of classical songs and I am informed, he is one of the best connoisseurs of the art of Nrit (dancing). As in the present so in the past Wazir Khan Binkar, Piyare Sahib Dhrupadiya, Musta Khan Khiyali, Ali Raza Khan singer of Qawl and Qalbana, Fida Husain Sarodi, Bindha Din, the dancer and composer, shed lustre to this Court. The Durbar of Rampur saved this art at a very critical period in the history of Northern India. The Court maintains at present, Ustad Mushtaq Husain Khan, a Khiyali; Sadiq Ali Khan Binkar; Ahmad Jan Thirakwa, a gifted Tabla player, in addition to patronising dance-experts like Achhan, of the family of Bindha Din.


Among the musicians of the past and the present century, the names of Mohammed Ali Khan of Jaipur (who is well- known under his poetic name of Har-Rang in many current songs), and the late Pandit V. N. Bhatkhande of Bombay, deserve special mention. In addition to Mohammed Ali Khan being a Dhrupadist, who figures so luminously in Raja Nawab Ali Khan's Muarif-ul- Naghmat, Book II, he was a composer and I suppose the preceptor of Pandit Bhatkhande and the Pandit ji has acknowledged the debt he owes to Har-Rang in many of his Lakhshan Geets (definitive songs). Raja Nawab Ali Khan in his Muarif-ul-Naghmat, Vol. II, has perpetuated the memories of Nawab Chhamman Sahib of Lucknow, Abban Khan of Saharanpur, Nazir Khan of Moradabad, Amir Khan of Lucknow, Mohammed Husain Khan of Lucknow and Raza Husain Khan by recording their Dhrupads with notation. It is in itself a meritorious service, since many of the Rags illustrated there are difficult and rare at the same time. In that very collection more than half of the songs were sung by Mohammed Ali Khan of Jaipur. To this I may add the name of Nawab Jani Sahib of Lucknow who was a musician and a theorist. Zuhra Bai of Agra was a very talented artist belonging to the generation just passed. But never did Indian music owe to one man as it does to Pandit Bhatkhande. By his researches and speeches, publications and teachings he has given to North Indian music the form which is its own at present. It was due to the labours of Bhatkhande that the Rags of Indian music were scientifically arranged under ten 'Thats' (Major Scales) proposed by Raza Khan in his Naghmat-i- Asifi. He dedicated his life to the service of music. His monumental achievements consist in his very elaborate and authentic books on the subject. His Lakhshan Geet is in fact the modern grammar of classical music. It was due to his untiring efforts that music in India is being resuscitated and the Panditji himself lived to see the success of the All-India Music Conference arranged by him at Baroda (1916) and Lucknow (1926).
Musicians are very fat-bellied people. They flourish at the expense of the rich. At the present time music is undergoing a process of revival through various methods unconnected with the patronage of the princes and the aristocracy.

In the first place the All-India Music Conference at Baroda and Lucknow together with their branch organisations, have been creating public interest in music, and helping in the establishment of contacts and exchange of views between musicians, and fostering, at the same time, a healthy competitive spirit.

Another agency in its revival and in fact the one providing it with a back-bone is the appearance of a number of authentic books in local languages, on the theory and practice of music. Such are Lakhshan Sangit, Sangit Paddhati of which the first six volumes have appeared, two volumes of Raja Nawab Ali's Muarif-ul-Naghmat and a number of other books of the same type with notation.

A third instrument regenerating music is the establishment of a large number of colleges and schools of music, as in Gwalior and as the Marris Music College (soon to be raised to the status of Bhatkhande University) of Lucknow. The Allahabad University has established a Faculty of Music, which as far as I am aware, has been awarding diplomas and degrees in music. In addition to these, a number of Universities and Examination Boards have included music as an optional subject up to the Intermediate stage. Next, the importance of gramophone records in prolonging the life of a song sung by a musician in a particular style should not be overlooked.

But none of the above agencies have exercised such a powerful effect as the radio stations in the country, of which Delhi, Bombay and Lucknow are well-known for their good music programmes. These have been helping to make the Indian public music-minded and have at the same time saved musicians from ruin. Singing and playing on instruments are paying professions and have become a noble one too if practised without vice.

A chapter on music will remain incomplete without an enumeration of the living musicians and instrument players. Ustad Fayyaz Husain Khan, now at Bombay (formerly state musician of the Baroda Darbar, and recipient of the title Aftba-i-Musiqi) is acknowledged as the greatest Khiyalist in north and north-western India. He has disciples in Pandit Krishan Rao Ratanjhankar, Principal, Marris College of Hindustani Music and Vilayat Husain Khan of Bombay. Asad Ali, and Latafat Husain, are two of his very promising disciples. Abdul Wahid Khan of Lahore and Allahdiya Khan of Kolhapur, and Mohammed Khan of Raigarh and Amir Khan, at present of Delhi, are top-ranking Khiyalists. Shamshad Bai of Delhi is a vigorous Khiyalist among women. The late Khan Sahib Abdul Karim's School is represented by Raushan Ara of Bombay who is a very good artist. Pandit Krishna Rao, Principal, Shankar Gandharb Vidyalaya, Gwalior, represents the style of the family of Haddu Khan and Hassu Khan of Gwalior.

Karamat Ali Khan of Jaipur, is a very talented Dhrupadist, now very old. Others of the Dhrupad style are Tasadduq Husain Khan of Agra, Mubarik Ali Khan of the Punjab, Rahimuddin Khan and Nasiruddin Khan, sons of Allabande Khan of Indore. Rahimuddin Khan represents a Dhrupad rarely heard elsewhere in northern India, a type almost unique in its pristine purity and least influenced by Mohammedan contact. Haidar Husain of Jaipur, at present in the All-India Radio, Delhi, Yusuf Ali Khan of Lucknow, Wahid Khan and Vilayat Khan, brother and son respectively of the late Inayat Khan of Calcutta (originally belonged to Aligarh) and Mushtaq Husain of Calcutta are the living 'Sitarists' of talent.

Among the Sarodiyas, the name of Alauddin Khan, at present Maihar State musician deserves the first mention. He is a very talented artist with a store-house of knowledge, an expert, and the inventor of a number of instruments whose idea can be formed by one who has heard the Maihar State Band at play. Hafiz Ali Khan Sarodi, at present in Gwalior is also a first class artist with the Sarod. Both Alauddin and Hafiz Ali are disciples of Wazir Khan of Rampur.

Shahnai and Bin players are becoming fewer and fewer day by day. These are difficult instruments, no doubt. Babu Khan of Baroda and Bismilla Khan of Benares (disciples of Talim Husain of Benares) are the only two Shahnai players, while to my knowledge, Sadiq Ali Khan of Rampur is the only Bin player of top rank. Alauddin's son, Ali Akbar Khan is giving promise of a good artist with the Sarod.

Bandu Khan of Delhi is a very gifted Saringi player. Chhotey Khan of Calcutta is a good Saringiya.

Ahmad Jan Thirakwa and Mallang Khan of the Punjab are top-ranking Tabla players.

Atrauli in Aligarh District, U. P., has evolved a school of music of its own and a good many vocalist of high rank, belongs to this place or is disciple of this school.

But classical music has a lot to contend with its undesirable rival, Cinema Music. It is lowering public taste and doing a positive disservice to this age-consecrated art. And the Calcutta School is the worst sinner in this respect because the lead in the amalgamation of the Indian and European system had been taken by the Music School of that city with results more tragic than the Victoria Memorial in the realm of architecture.


(1)  Qandhari-i-'Eraq corresponds with Malkaus and Purba, Nauruz with Lalit Pancham, Nishapur with Bilawal, Zangula-Chabargah with Asawari, Paid-i-Azal with Khat, Chabargah with Gujri, Ashiran with Jaltsri (?), Rihawi with Dhanasari, Zagula-Hijaj with Jait-i-Guari, Mubarqa-i-Karishma with Bihagra, Panjgah with Nat-Narain and Madhabi, Saghir with Kalyan, Bayat with Kanra, Gusha-i-Azam with Shuddh Todi: Vide Naghmat-ul-Israr by Mir Muhammad, M.U. Ms.
(2) The instrument Sarod is a corruption of Shahrud, an Arab stringed instrument: Vide Prof. Farmer's History of Arabian Music, frontispiece.
(3) The Muslims converted it into Saringi, which is the most perfect musical instrument of India.
(4) Emil Naumann, History of Music, Vol. I. 30.
(5) Rag Darpan. MU.Ms.
(6) One proficient in theory and practice of music.
(7) Firudast is a 'Tal'. A Rag of this name does not exist to my knowledge. 
(8) Mridang, the most ancient timing instrument which is an essential part of Dhurpad singing.
(9) Vide Ma'dan-i-Musiqi by Karam Imam Khan.
(10) Nizamuddin Ahmad Bakshi, Tabaqat-i-Akbari, Bibliotheca Indica Series, Vol. III, 439.
(11) Ibid III, 440.
(12) Nishat Ara. A Manuscript on Music. Composed during the reign of Shah Jehan, in the library of Nawab Sadr Yar Jung, Habibganj, Aligarh.
(13) Abdullah. Tarikh-i-Daudi.
(14) (Dr. Haleem quotes a Persian couplet in this footnote.)
(15) Bayley's translation of Mirat-i-Sikandari in his History of Gujerat, 41.
(16) See my article "Some rare ragas in Indian Music" published in the "New Horizon" Allahabad, November 1945.
(17) Memoirs, King's Translation I,317, 323.
(18) Memoirs. King's Translation I, 317, 323.
(19) Ain-i-Akbari, I. Blochmann, 680.
(20) Ram Babu Saxena, History of Urdu Literature. p. 12.
(21) According to some historians e.g., Shahnawaz Khan, author of Mirati Aftab Numa, Tansen having been born through the blessings of Shaikh Muhammad Ghaus of Gwalior, his father brought him to the Shaikh when five years old. The Shaikh is said to have brought some chewed betels from his mouth and put them into the mouth of the boy, whereafter the father left him in the service of the Shaikh as an out-cast.
(22) Baudani, Ranking, II, 42.
(23) Ain, I, Blochmann, 681.
(24) That is, wandering musicians, a professional of lower rank than a musician who plays at the houses of well-to-do, very often un-invited.
(25) Roger, Memoirs of Jahangir I, 413.
(26) Shahnawaz Khan, Mirat-i-Aftab Numa, MU. Ms., 523.
(27) See my article "Music and Musicians of the Court of Shah Jahan." "Islamic Culture." Hyderabad Deccan. October 1945.
(28) Sarkar, Aurangzeb, II, 615.
(29) Khafi Khan.
(30) Mirat-i-Aftab Numa, MU. Ms., 526.
(31) Mirat-i-Aftab Numa, MU. Ms., 525.
(32) Mirat-i-Aftab Numa, MU. Ms., 526.
(33) E.g., Piya bin Nahi Awata Chain; Sanchi Kaho muse batiyan. 


imcradiodotnet said...

great article.... and a wonderful, informative blog for one who produces since couple of years radio shows for Indian (Music) Culture ( )... Tks... keep going your good work. Greetings from Europe :-)

Khan said...

great work , a treat to read for classical music lovers , keep pouring the good stuff