A Living Portrait of India
Vocal Hindustani Music
Dhrupad as we understand it is the darbari dhrupad that evolved in the courts, as opposed to haveli dhrupad that is performed in temples. The sacred Prabandha music of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries passed on as an oral tradition, and sourced the dhrupad genre. Prabandha was a nibaddha sangeet (i.e. of the closed category of music) neatly divided into four sections - the initial or opening part called udagraha, the exposition part called the melapaka, the fixed portion called the dhruvapada (that gave rise to the term dhrupad), and the concluding part called abhog.
The texts of dhrupad are concerned with matters of philosophy and religion. Poems herein celebrate deities, festivals and the seasons. Only one style of singing (i.e. the dagari style) remains, of the four - Gaurahari, Nauhari, Khandari, and Dagari - that constituted dhrupad. The term itself refers to both the vocal form as well the fixed composition section of the performance.
The free-floating alap is followed by the dhrupad or bandish (as the fixed section is referred to). The alap itself is sung in four parts without words or rhythmic accompaniment. The intonation and pitch provide the musical range: The vilambit section that is sung in the low register and can be considered an exploration of the raga; the madhya section sung in the middle register with an increase in the pulsation and broader embellishment of the notes; the drut and nom-tom (an alap whose rhythm repeats the vocables nom & tom or na re de na) sections sung in a high register with an alternating pace of notes and regular repetition of notes and sounds like de, ne, ri. The singer begins each part with the shadja.
The fixed (dhrupad/bandish) section is in four parts of which only the first two are performed regularly: Sthayi (pallavi in Carnatic music) - the first line of the sthayi serves as a cadence, while the section itself serves as a base for the singer returns to the sthayi time and again after each part; Antara (anupallavi in Carnatic music) - the intermediate part sung in a high register focusing on the tar shadja, with a good deal of text manipulation and repeated forays into sthayi; the third section Sanchari (caranam in Carnatic music) - created by the division of the abhoga and it remains a free-moving section; the fourth and concluding section abhoga (pallavi in Carnatic music because this section is often replaced by the sthayi) includes notes from all three registers, and in present-day performances, may well be sung with the sanchari, if these two sections are included.
In a dhrupad composition, the text, the rhythm and the melody are determined and each aspect receives equal attention. The constant improvisation and manipulation of the text in careful synchronization with the rhythms is an important feature of dhrupad, and is known as Bol-banth (bol means words, banth means divisions).