Traditions or Gharana system play an essential role in Indian Classical music. Tradition refers to Gharanas of music or the stylization of singing. Here is how Gharanas are conceptualized: Its like a person who is known as Kaushik, sings and his style, note-treatment, raga-treatment, techniques of voice production becomes popular and liked by everyone. That style or ‘gayaki’ is picked up and imitated by many musicians including his disciples, siblings and kids. When 50 people assemble to sing and share a specific common style, which is exclusive, popularized and appreciated by the masses, the style is eventually called ‘Kaushik Gharana’. Though there is no Gharana as such. Moreover, Gharana are nomenclated by the places from where the musician and their descendants belong to, such as Agra Gharana, Delhi Gharana, Patiala, Bhindibazaar, Rampur-Seheswan, Atrauli, Gwalior, Kirana, Mewati, Jaipur. As you observe Gharana names are based on the places where the root musicians settled and opened their musical start-up.
Aptly perceived by the Sitar Maestro Purbayan Chatterji, “A gharana is a place where a great Ustad or a great Pandit settled and started teaching his students,”
During the Muslim invsion in India, the veteran court musicians made a respected place in the kingdoms. They used to pass on their Gayaki to their descendants and disciples and the tradition emerged through generations. This is how Gharanas or ‘singing style’ of a particular place sailed their own musical cruise. Gharanas, even today, has maintained the reputation and dignity of music by its immense innovation in ragas, bandish (composition), Talas and music-genres and what not.
According to Purbayan, “The patronage of the Mughal rulers to arts brought forth many talents from different parts of North India. Musicians would travel around, performing in different courts, until they find popularity in one region and settle there. In order to carry on his fame, these maestros would then invite students to live with him and learn his techniques and style. Thus, a gharana was formed. It was widely accepted that the status of gharana was given to only those who had had at least three generations of students. The gharana becomes famous by the name of the place or the founder guru.”
Gharanas, however, are bound to a certain rules and regulation of Gayaki in which one has to be chained, but are significant for uplifting the age-old Guru-Shishya Parampara.
Gharanas are based on the same concept of Guru-Shishya parampara, as a disciple (not descendant), ones taken in, or ties a dhaga (Ganda) takes a gregarious, formal training staying with his/her Guru, tolerating all his tantrums, executes all his households happily till he becomes an elite stalwart. The disciple exceptionally respects his/her Guru like God and this element is purely, sacredly an Indian culture which is been followed in no other field except in musical heritage. And the credit goes to the Gharanas.
Today, the maestro disciples of the early musicians, touch their ear in respect while speaking out the name of their Guru. Competent personalities like Pt. Sanjeev Abhyankar, Pt. Niladri Kumar, Pt. Rakesh Chaurasiya, Pt. Srinivas Joshi are known to be the disciples of Pt. Jasraj, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasiya, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi respectively and then as a musicians.
Lets discuss how Gharanas own their special characteristics and how they are different from each other:
The most famous Gharana: Jaipur Gharana (जयपुर घराना)
Jaipur Gharana emerged as two singing/playing styles thus it divided into two: Jaipur Daagar and Jaipur Veena Gharana (Instrumental). King of Jaipur Ramsingh was a great music lover and appointed many skilled musicians with respect and honour. Jaipur Daagar Gharana is said to be started by one of them known as Mangal Pandey and his descendants which was eventually continued by the Muslim disciples Haider Khan, Behram Khan etc. and the gharana emerged as Muslim Gharana but its cultural and creative panorama never changed by religion. Jaipur Gharana is popular for exceptional innovations in Music world.
Started by Allahbaksh, this gharanas inculcated the raga purity and abide by the rules properly. Dilli Gharana style represents the rhythmic raga elaboration and improvisations; it demonstrates the short rhythmic swaras innovative sequence and weighty tenor voice. Ornamnetations like Sut, Meend, gamak, lehek, etc. are performed in an astounding manner in fast tempos too. Prolific Khyala Bandish like paalki, suhaag, khanapuri, Taan-bandhaav are vocalized with overwhelming ease by the great early stalwarts like Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan, Ust. Naseer Ahmed Khan. Present eminent personalities of Delhi Gharana are Dr. Krishna Bisht, Dr. Bharti Chakraborty, Ust. Sayeed Zafar etc..
Again, Gwalior gharanas introduced two different styles of singing thus it emerged as : one started by Ghulam Rasool, another by Vishnu Pandit. Current maestros Pt. L.K Pandit, Madan Rao, Meeta Pandit belong to this style. Earlier legendary musician and musicologist Pt. Omkar Nath Thakur, Pt. S.N. Ratanjhankar, Pt. D.V. Paluskar, Dr. B.R Devdhar share this Gharana.
Gharanas are still and will always be the backbone and ambrosia of Indian Classical music, as it organizes, analyze and provides a unique, transcended standard to the field. It will continue to emanate the new forms, elements, intonations by its invention and of course great musicians and keep the Ragadari sangeet cognizant and culminating.