Dhrupad and Khyal: Differences applied to bansuri

Swara, tala, sruti, raga etc.

Dhrupad and Khyal: Differences applied to bansuri

Postby ByronL » Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:26 pm

Hello, I know there are many knowledgeable Bansuri folk here, so I thought I would ask a sort of Conceptual question.

What's the difference between dhrupad and khyal as viewed from learning the bansuri.

I often hear players promoted as playing in the "vocal style", which leads me to wonder what other styles, within Indian Classical, might be waiting out there for me to discover.

I am researching this on the web, but could use some help with links, discographies, or especially contrasting artists to help me get the big picture.


Oh,this is my first post. Great forum.
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Postby milind » Thu Oct 30, 2008 3:31 am


First of all, all Indian music originates from Dhrupad. This was the original temple singing style prevalent at the time. Khayal is a relatively recent development, but draws on Dhrupad for its stylistic content. In fact many of the recent khayal singers were quite well versed and deeply rooted in Dhrupd. The Agra gharana i a good example. Dhrupad consists of the extended Nom Tom alaap, followed by compositions set to taals on the pakhawaj. The alaap in Dhrupad can appear to the casual listener as discrete distinctly separate notes, although that is a complete falacy. Khayal on the other hand appears to the casual listener as having a lot more "continuity" of notes. Dhrupad used to be quite rigid in the rules regarding presentation. Khayal came into existence as a "looser" version of Dhrupad. Many volumes can be written about these two styles, but let us move onto the bansuri.

The Dhrupad style bansuri vaadan is more in line with the vocal style of Dhrupad, i.e. after the alaap, which is more or less free form, setting up a rhythym with breath control (jod), and moving onto to more rapid rhythymic excursions (jhala). This is then followed by compositions set to various taals. The gayaki ang bansuri is very similar in the alaap part, but then directly moves on to compositions based on various taals, exactly as in Khayal singing. i.e. after the alaap, the vilambit composition, then the madhyalay and then the dhrut (or a combo thereof). The gayaki ang does not go into the jod/jhala formats, but involves a lot of taankari.
Having said that, both forms of bansuri vaadan require the same level of training in terms of breath control, tonguing, blowing etc.
Hariji's style is more of the Dhrupad style (although he is quite adept at any style), while Pannalal Ghosh's style was more of the gayaki style.
Hope this answers your question. More on this should you require more information
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Postby Jeff Whittier » Thu Oct 30, 2008 9:36 am

Here's a link to an article I wrote on the subject -

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Postby ByronL » Thu Oct 30, 2008 11:01 am

Wow, fast answers.

That is precisely the explanation/information I was hoping for.

It takes me a little bit to digest Indian music topics because I'm still learning all the terms (and their myriad of spellings), but I'm sure I'll have follow up questions later. First I want to do some listening and try to identify at least some of the distinctions.

Jeff, do you have a listing of articles you've published online. I can't believe I missed that one...my google skills are getting rusty.

Thanks for the great responses Milind, Jeff...this is truly a great and much needed forum.
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Postby sandip » Thu Oct 30, 2008 9:37 pm

Milind, Jeff, thanks a lot for sharing the knowledge. These explanations help to grasp a deeper perspective to the general Bansuri learning process, especially for newbies like myself...
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Postby Jeff Whittier » Fri Oct 31, 2008 10:15 pm

Byron - I don't have an index of my writings. However, I think in the RMIC archives I posted under the screen name Bansijeff (my AOL screen name) and I put up a lot of stuff there. I now post on the Chandrakantha.com forums a lot - we're having a doozey of a discussion about the meaning of "rasa" in the Raga Bihag thread there right now.
The subject of these different styles is in the beginning of my book "Playing the Bansuri" where I give my opinion of the various styles used on the flute today.

Milind - the only Dhrupad recording I have of Hari Prasad is "Divine Dhrupad" with Jait & Bihag. In general, it would be more accurate to describe his style as "Gatkari" or "Tantraki" or instrumental style. He uses a similar development to the sitarists and sarodists of his Maihar gharana. I discuss this in my article mentioned above.
One of the differences in his style which sets it off from Dhrupad is the lack of a Sanchari and Abhog in alap, having only Asthai and Antara before going to Jor. And when he plays with drums, he develops the rag from a one line gat, instead of the 4-part development of Asthai, Antara, Sanchari & Abhog which Dhrupad musicians use for the development.
"Dhrupad" refers to a specific system of development, analogous to the Barhat Alap & Drut of Kheyal.
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Postby talasiga » Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:27 pm

Dear Byron,
The study of dhrupad (not just armchair study but deep audience and actual singing) can open one up to the vastness in each raag through the aalaap.

No other style of indic music is as deep, mesmerising and fresh in its aalaap as dhrupad.

This, in turn, can inform one's "development" of a raag so that it does not fall into routine type cliches or a riyaz pattern.

That is not to say that I am an accomplished dhrupad style flute player. I do know though that it has really opened up for me the vista of the raag and made my daily practice a rich and nourishing experience.

So if you wish to develop your aalaap go to dhrupad.
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Re: Dhrupad and Khyal: Differences applied to bansuri

Postby hman0217 » Sun Feb 27, 2011 12:58 am


The link you posted seems to no longer be active. I'm quite interested in your article. Would you kindly be able to direct to a direct location for it?

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