Dhrupad, Khayal and Other Forms of Indian Classical Music

Dhrupad and Khayal are the two forms of classical singing that are popular today. Out of them, Dhrupad is certainly older, which took proper shape in medieval era, replacing the ancient Prabandha. It enjoyed wide popularity till the 17th or early 18th century, after which it gradually declined with the emergence of Khayal, which is more romantic and entertaining style.

  • The nature of Dhrupad music is spiritual. It does not seek to entertain, but to induce feelings of peace and spirituality in the listener.
  • It is primarily a form of worship, in which offerings are made to the divine through sound or Nada. Dhrupad was initially sung only in the temples, the singer facing the Lord. From this early chanting, Dhrupad evolved into a sophisticated classical form of music.
  • One significant characteristic of Dhrupad is the emphasis on maintaining purity of the Raga.
  • The language of Dhrupad changed from Sanskrit to Brij Bhasha some time between the 12th and the 16th century.
  • In medieval India, Dhrupad had mainly thrived under the patronage of Mughal and Rajput kings. Later it declined with the shift of interest in Khayal.
  • Performance of Dhrupad is done in two parts viz. the Alap and In the Alap, the singer uses syllables from Sanskrit Mantra which add texture to the notes. The Raga is slowly and methodically developed in a meditative mode.
  • The speed of Alap increases with the use of an accelerating rhythmic pulse that builds to a point, where the melodic patterns literally dance in space. Bandish is a short poem accompanied by the The poem is sung using melodic and rhythmic improvisations. The intricate patterns and improvisations woven by the Pakhawaj player and the singer create a dialogue often playing against or complimenting one another.


The dhrupad style of music was replaced by the romantic khayal. Khayal is a Persian term which means imagination. The most important feature of a khayal is tāns or the running glides over notes and boltans which clearly distinguish it from dhrupad. The slow (vilambit) and fast (drut) styles of khayal are the two recognised types today. The singer is accompanied generally on Tabla and Harmonium or Sarangi.

Difference between Dhrupad and Khayal

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  • This is a distinct style having its origin in the Punjab. Its beauty lies in the quick and intricate display of various permutations and combinations of notes.
  • It is strange that even though the Tappa lyrics are in Punjabi, Tappa is not sung in the Punjab.


  • Thumri originated in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh. Its most distinct feature is the erotic subject matter portraying the various episodes from the lives of lord Krishna and radha.
  • The beauty of thumri lies in the artist’s ability to convey musically as many shades of meaning as the words of a song can bear. It is a much freer form than khayal.


  • Dadra bears a close resemblance to the Thumri. The texts are as amorous as those of Thumris. The major difference is that dadras have more than one antara and are in dadra tala. Singers usually sing a dadra after a thumri.


  • These compositions are similar to Dhrupad but are chiefly associated with the festival of Here the compositions are specifically in praise of Lord Krishna. This music, sung in the dhamar tala, is chiefly used in festivals like Janmashthami, Ramnavami and Holi.
  • Hori is a type of dhrupad sung on the festival of Holi. The compositions here describe the spring season. These compositions are mainly based on the love pranks of Radha-Krishna.


  • Rāgasagar consists of different parts of musical passages in different rāgas as one song composition. These compositions have 8 to 12 different rāgas and the lyrics indicate the change of the rāga The peculiarity of this style depends on how smoothly the musical passages change along with the change of rāgas.


  • Tarana is a style consisting of peculiar syllables woven into rhythmical patterns as a song. It is usually sung in faster tempo.


  • Chaturang denotes four colours or a composition of a song in four parts: Fast Khayal, Tarana, Sargam and a “Paran” of Tabla or Pakhwaj.


The ghazal is mainly a poetic form than a musical form, but it is more song-like than the thumri. The ghazal is described as the “pride of Urdu poetry”. The ghazal originated in Iran in the 10th Century AD. It grew out of the Persian qasida, a poem written in praise of a king, a benefactor or a nobleman. The ghazal never exceeds 12 shers (couplets) and on an average, ghazals usually have about 7 shers. Even though ghazal began with Amir Khusro in northern India, Deccan in the south was its home in the early stages. It developed and evolved in the courts of Golconda and Bijapur under the patronage of Muslim rulers. The 18th and 19th centuries are regarded as the golden period of the ghazal with Delhi and Lucknow being its main centres.

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