Gharanas of Khayal Style

Dr. Ibrahim Ali

Different styles develop for presentation of a mode of singing and the followers of these different styles form separate schools or sects. In ancient times there were sects like Shivmat, Brahmamat and Bharatmat. In dhrupad singing there were four Vanis [voices] e.g. khandhar, Gobarhar, Dagur and Nohar. Similarly in Khayal singing there were separate Gharanas. “Gharanas: a school, by style and tradition of Hindustani Sangeet.”[i]

“The traditional advent of different styles of singing is called Gharana. The ragas of many Gharanas are the same, but the mode of their singing is different. The mode of singing the raga is called style, and the style of separate Gharanas is different. Regarding the style, following points should be considered :- 1) the composition [Bandish] of a song. 2) The mode of voice culture. 3) The improvisation of the Raga or Alapchari. 4) The use of tan and boltan [tan with words]. 5) tan and rhythmic variations. 6) Choice of the raga.”[ii]

Although all the above mentioned elements of formation of style are found in all gharanas, the mode of their quantum and application provides identity to a particular gharana. In Indian music the method of teaching under the tradition of teacher and taught, has been there since ancient times. The birth of gharanas takes place from the tradition of a particular teacher [guru]. When a great singer develops a particular style and his disciples in propagation of that style give a permanent shape to it, then a separate gharana comes into existence. The initiator of the style becomes founder of the gharana. Generally, name of the gharana is given on the basis of the place of residence of the founder.

Traditionally, there are five main gharanas of khayal gayaki. They are: [1] Gwalior, [2] Agra, [3] Patiyala, [4] Jaipur, [5] Kirana. Besides these, some other gharanas also came in existence. They are: Delhi, Lucknow, Bhindi Bazar, Indore, Rampur-Sahaswan, Mewati, Shyam Chaurasi etc.

The brief introduction of main five gharanas is as follows:

[1] Gwalior Gharana

Gwalior gharana is the oldest amongst all the gharanas prevalent at present. It was started by Natthan Peer Buksh [1800 A.D.]. The ancestors of Natthan Peer Buksh belonged to Lucknow gharana, which is not prevalent today. Hence it can be said that Gwalior gharana is the off-shoot of Lucknow gharana. Ghulam Rasool [Lucknow] was the grand father of Natthan Peer Buksh and Bade Mohammed Khan was his cousin. Natthan Peer Buksh left Lucknow and came to Gwalior. Hassu Khan and Haddu Khan of the court of His Highness Gwalior were grand sons of Natthan Peer Buksh, whose disciple propagated gayaki of this gharana.

Some learned persons do not accept Natthan Peer Buksh to be founder of Gwalior gharana, because he belonged to Lucknow gharana. Besides it, he lacked the gayaki of dhrupad ang, where as gayaki of dhrupad ang can be clearly seen amongst artists of Gwalior gharana, such as Miyan Tansen, Baijoo Bavara, Gopal Lal, Mohammed Khan, Haddu-Hassu Khan to Pandit Krishna Rav Pandit.

Ashtang gayaki [consisting of eight aspects] is said to be specialty of Gwalior gharana. In Ashtang improvisation [vistar] alap, bahlava and tan and its different types, layakari, gamak, khatka, kan, murki, meend and soot are included. But these are the specialties which are used by people of all gharanas. Hence the specialties of gayakiof this gharana can be listed as follows:-

“[1] Singing with loud and open voice. [2] khayal of dhrupad ang. [3] Straight and smooth tans. [4] layakari in boltans. [5] Application of gamaks [grace].”[iii]

The main singers of Gwalior gharana are Natthan Peer Buksh, Hassu Khan, Haddu Khan, Natthe Khan, Nisar Husain Khan, Gul Imam, Mehdi Husain, Nazir Khan [Jodhpur], Ram Krishna Buva Vajhe, Rehmat Khan Bavle [died in 1922], Shankar Pandit [1863-1917], Rajabhaiya Poochvale, Krishnarao Shankar Pandit, Vasudeorao Joshi, Baba Dikshit, Devji Paranjpe [Dhar], Balkrishna Buva Ichalkaranjikar, Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, B. R. Deodhar, Anant Manohar Joshi, Gajananrao Joshi, Faiz Mohammed Khan [Baroda], Bhaskarrao Bakhle [Poona], Narayan Vyas, Vinayakrao Patwardhan, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Dattatraya Vishnu Paluskar etc.

At present the singers who are presenting the gayaki of this gharana are Bala Saheb Poochwale, Lakshman Krishnarao Pandit, Malini Rajurkar, Veena Sahastrabuddhe, Vidyadhar Vyas etc.

[2] Agra Gharana

This gharana of khayal gayaki has been born from a family of dhrupad singers. This gharana is supposed to be related to Sujan Khan’s family tradition, who was son-in-law of Tansen, and court singer of King Akbar. A descendent of this family, Ghagge Khan, started the tradition of khayal singing. In addition to dhrupad gayaki which he inherited, he received training of khayal gayaki from Natthan Peer Buksh, the founder of Gwalior gharana, by becoming his disciple. Ustad Fayyaz Khan [1886-1950], the grand son of Ghulam Abbas Khan, and Vilayat Hussain Khan [1862-1962], son of Natthan Khan, have been modern and ideal representative singers and vagyakar[composer of music and lyric] of this gharana. As vagyakar, Ustad Fayyaz Khan was nicknamed “Prem Piya”, and Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan was nicknamed “Pran Piya”. Followers of this gharana generally sing their compositions. Maternal grand father of Ustad Fayyaz Khan was in patronage of the court of Mughal King, Mohammed Shah Rangile. That is why this gharana is known as Rangila Gharana.

The stylistic specialties of this gharana are: “[1] Singing with open voice, like Gwalior gharana. [2] Alap in nom-tom, like dhrupad singers. [3] Special structure of compositions. [4] Specialties of boltans. [5] Singing of dhrupad-dhamar, besides khayal gayaki. [6] Special authority on laya and tal.”[iv]

The main artists of this gharana, from beginning till today, have been-Ghagge Khuda Buksh, Natthan Khan, Ghulam Abbas Khan, Fayyaz Khan, Vilayat Hussain Khan, Jagannath Buva Purohit, Pandit Shri Krishna Narayan Ratanjankar, Ataa Hussain Khan, Ram Marathe, Sardar Sohan Singh, Asad Ali [Pakistan], Dilip Chand Vedi etc.

At present, Sunil Bose, Yunus Hussain, M. R. Gautam, Sumati Mutatkar etc are engaged in presenting the gayaki of this gharana.

[3] Patiala Gharana

Singing style of Delhi gharana has been in the root of Patiala gharana, but being influenced by regional styles of Punjab and being developed in Patiala state, this gharanacame in existence. Main styles influencing this gharana are- tappa, shabad, sufi vani and Quavvali. In those days khayal singers used to get patronage in different states of Punjab and the most important of them was Patiala. During reign of Maharaja Narendra Singh, many artists of Delhi court came to Patiala. One reason of this exodus was the mutiny [Ghadar] of 1857, which forced them to leave Delhi. Main singers who came from Delhi were Tanras Khan and his disciples, Kalu Miyan, Ali Buksh, Nabi Buksh and Fateh Ali. Hence the origin of Patiala gharana is said to be from Tanras Khan, who basically belonged to Delhi. After death of Haddu Khan, Tanras Khan became court singer of Gwalior, and thereafter, he went to Nizam of Hyderabad. Famous duo of this gharana, Ali Buksh [Titled: General] and Fateh Ali [titled: Tan Kaptan] came to be known as Aliya Fattu. In their gayaki, there was a blend of Delhi, Gwalior and Jaipur. The bandishes of khayal and the thumries full of amorousness and variety, composed Alyafattu, are very reputed. Nabi Buksh and his two sons, Miyan Jaan and Ahmed Jan, of this generation learnt gayaki, systematically from Haddu Khan of Gwalior gharana.

In modern time, the representative singer of this gharana has been Bade Ghulam Ali Khan [alias Sabrang]. about whom enough information is given in chapter VI. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was son of Ali Buksh and nephew of Ashik Ali.

The specialties of singing style of this gharana are: - “[1] Artistic bandish of khayal. [2] Brief khayal. [3] Application of figurative [alankarik], curved [vakra] and firat tans. [4] Artistic application of drut [fast] and ati drut [extremely fast] tans. [5] Besides khayal, special ability to sing thumri with tappa ang. [6] Special exercise for voice culture.”[v]

Main singers of this gharana, from beginning to date, have been- Tanras Khan, Kalu Miyan [Sarangi player], Umrao, Ali Buksh, Nabi Buksh, Fateh Ali, Pyar Khan, Akhtar Hussain, Miyan Jaan, Ahmed Jaan, Ashik Ali, Kale Khan, Munavvar Ali, Barkat Ali Khan, Abdul Ahmed Khan [Patiala] etc.

At present, main artists presenting this gayaki are- Pandit Jagdish Prasad, Ajaya Chakravarti, Prasun Banerjee, Meera Banerjee, Ghulam Ali [disciple of Barkat Ali, Pakistani Ghazal singer] etc.

[4] Jaipur Gharana

Now-a-days, gayaki of this gharana finds prevalence, especially in Maharashtra, because it mainly developed in Kolhapur. Beginning of this gharana is supposed to be from Karamat Ali and Mubarak Ali [Lucknow Wale], who were court singers of Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur. Mubarak Ali was son of Bade Mohammed Khan, a famous singer of Lucknow. Late Alladia Khan [1855-1946] was also representative of this gayaki. He was related to the family of Dagur vani dhrupad singers. Ustad Alladia Khan received training of dhrupad singing from Jahangir Khan, who was a disciple of Khwaja Ahmed Khan, father of Alladia Khan. Singing style of Ustad Alladia Khan was very much influenced by above mentioned Mubarak Ali Khan [court singer of Jaipur]. In course of time, by the tradition of disciples of Alladia Khan, this gayaki gained popularity.

Besides being based on singing style of Lucknow, the singers of Jaipur gharana were also associated with Gwalior gharana. Brother of Ustad Alladia Khan, Haider Khan, was influenced by Rahmat Khan, a singer of Gwalior, and son of Alladia Khan, Badruddin Khan’s [Manji Khan, died 1937] gayaki was also influenced by Gwalior gharana. This matter was a cause of controversy between father and son.

The stylistic qualities of gayaki of this gharana are – “Vilambit alap with gamak, tans with balpench or curved shape, mukhbandi tans, alapchari in more than one avartan in single breath, bolbanav of laya, new bandishes and rendering of non prevalent ragas. In khayal rendering, this gharana prefers vilambit teental. In Khayal, words are dominated by swaras. Like tappa, short tans and murkis with drut laya are used in slow alaps. The straight and long tans of Gwalior gharana are generally non-existent. Non prevalent ragas are mainly sung in this gharana, such as – Kafi Kanada, Nayaki Kanada, Rayasa Kanada, Bihagada, Khokhar, Triveni, Patbihag, Patmanjari, Jaitshree etc.”[vi]

Main artists of this gharana from beginning to date, have been – Karamat Ali, Mubarak Ali, Alladia, Badruddin [Manji Khan], Mogubai Kurdikar, Mallikarjun Mansoor, Shankar Rao Sarnaik, Nivrattibua Sarnaik, Vamanrao Sadolikar, Govindrao Tembe, Bhailal, Master Krishna etc.

At present, main singers of this gharana are – Rajshekhar Mansoor, Kishori Amonkar, Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Sarla Bhide, Shruti Sadolikar Katkar, Arati Anklikar Tikekar etc.

[5] Kirana Gharana

This gharana is born out of the tradition of Beenkars. Main singers of this gharana belong to Kirana, a town of District Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.

The initial artists of Kirana gharana were bin players, Sadik Ali and his son, Bande Ali. Bande Ali was also a good dhrupad singer. He was married to daughter of Haddu Khan of Gwalior. The sarangi player of Kolhapur court and main companion of Alladia Khan, Haider Khan, received training of music from Bande Ali Khan.

The main representative singers of this gharana were Ustad Abdul Karim Khan [1872-1937] and Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan [died at approximate age of 78 years in 1949], in whose tradition of disciples, this gayaki remained protected. Abdul Karim Khan was basically resident of Kirana. Father Kalu Khan and uncle Abdulla Khan taught him music. Abdul Rahaman Khan of Kirana taught him khayal gayaki. He propagated his gayaki by living in Baroda, Mumbai, Meeraj, Pune and Madras. Rambhau Kundgolkar [Sawai Gandharva], Ganesh Ramchandra Behre Bua, Roshanara Begam and Kapileshwari Bua were his main disciples. The second representative singer, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, has already been Introduced on the page describing Ustad Amir Khan’s training of music. His main disciples have been – Hirabai Barodekar, Saraswati Rane, Suresh Babu Mane, Firoz Nizami [Pakistan], Shakoor Khan [Sarangi player], Pran Nath etc.

The specialties of gayaki of this gharana are: - “[1] Alap dominated rendering. [2] Sentiment expressive application of swaras. [3] Making gayaki interesting by extending swaras one by one. [4] Specialties of thumri ang.”[vii]

From beginning to that, main singers of this gharana have been – Bande Ali Khan, Haider Khan, Murad Khan [Jawara], Nanhe Khan, Abdul Rehman Khan, Kale Khan, Abdul Wahid Khan, Abdul Karim Khan, Faiz Mohammed, Suresh Babu Mane, Hirabai Barodekar, Sawai Gandharva, Behre Bua, Roshanara Begam, Kapileshwari Bua etc.

At present, main exponents of this gayaki are – Saraswati Rane, Bhimsen Joshi, Prabha Atre, Firoz Dastoor, Gangubai Hangal, Mashkoor Ali Khan Keranvi etc.

The Tradition of Khayal Gayaki and Indore Gharana

[i] Living Idioms in Hindustani Music P. No. 48, Author: Pandit Amarnath.

[ii] Sangeet Shastra Darpan Volume-2, P. No.74, The different Gharanas of singing. Author: Ms. Shanti Goverdhan.

[iii] Sangeet Visharad P. 278, Gharanas of singers-Gwalior gharana, Author: Prabhulal Garg “Vasant”.

[iv] Sangeet Shastra Darpan, part: 2, P. No. 79, Different Gharanas of Singing – Agra gharana, Author: Ms. Shanti Govardhan.

[v] Ibid P. No. 79.

[vi] Sangeet Bodh, P. No. 192, Gharana’s Sangeet – Jaipur Gharana, Author: Dr. Sharad Chandra Shridhar Paranjape.

[vii] Sangeet Shastra Darpan, Part: 2, P. No. 82, Different Gharanas of singing, Author: Ms. Shanti Govardhan.


Dr. Ibrahim Ali

Ph. D.

Asst. Prof. Music

Govt. Kalidas Girls College, Ujjain

Supervisor & Research Guide for doctoral thesis

For Vikram University, Ujjain

And Online Teacher of Indian Classical Music

Email: &

Mobile: 94250-93621

Ph.No. 0734-2551949

Address: 20 Khara Kuwa,

Ujjain [M.P.] 456006