Dhrupad (Hindi: ध्रुपद) is a vocal genre in Hindustani classical music, said to be the oldest still in use in that musical tradition. Its name is derived from the words "dhruva" (fixed) and "pada" (words). The term may denote both the verse form of the poetry and the style in which it is sung.
Abul Fazl, courtier and chronicler at the court of the Emperor Akbar, defines the dhrupad verse form in his Ain-e-Akbari as "four rhyming lines, each of indefinite prosodic length." Thematic matter ranges from the religious and spiritual (mostly in praise of Hindu deities) to royal panegyrics, musicology and romance.
There is no reference to Dhrupad in Bharat's Natya Shastra, commonly dated to the 1st Century AD, nor even in Sangit Ratnakar, a 13th Century text, taken as authoritative. Ravi Shankar states that the form appeared in the fifteenth century as a development from the prabandha, which it replaced. Under Mughal ("Mogul") rule it was appropriated as court music.
However the musical background of dhrupad is commonly thought to have a long history, traceable back to the Vedas themselves. The Yugala Shataka of Shri Shribhatta in the Nimbarka Sampradaya, written in 1294 CE, contains lyrics of similar fashion. Swami Haridas (also in the Nimbarka Sampradaya), the guru of Tansen, was a well known dhrupad singer.
The 18th Century saw the beginning of a great decline of dhrupad singing. A newer genre, khyal, gained popularity at dhrupad's expense, placing fewer constraints on the singers and allowing displays of virtuosity rare in dhrupad. Also, new instruments were being developed – the sitar and the sarod – that were not suited to the slow tempo and low register favoured by dhrupad so that dhrupad instrumental also began to lose ground. Only a few families carried on the tradition.
In 1960 the French ethnomusicologist Alain Daniélou invited Nasir Moinuddin and Nasir Aminuddin Dagar (the senior Dagar Brothers) to perform in Europe. Their concerts were successful and, upon the untimely demise of Nasir Moinuddin in 1966, his younger brothers Nasir Zahiruddin and Nasir Fayazuddin continued. The Dagars toured widely and recorded. Coinciding with growing foreign interest in Indian music, the Dagarvani-revival helped breathe new life into a few other families of dhrupad singers. Today, dhrupad enjoys a place as a well-respected but not widely popular genre, no longer on the brink of extinction.
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