Dhrupad or ‘Dhruv Pada’ is the most ancient form of music in India. It is the ‘mother’ of all other genres of music. We may trace its origin to Saamaveda. The Saamaveda is, in essence, a system of ‘reciting’ the verses of the Rigveda. This system gradually evolved with time, laying the foundation of a more complex system of musical improvisation, which came to be known as Dhrupad. Therefore, the nature of Dhrupad is ‘spiritual & meditative’ and was originally a form of temple music, meant to be sung or played as an offering to the Lord.
The traditional treatises such as the Sangeetratnakara (by Sharangdeva) mention two forms of music- Margi and Desi. Desi music, as the name suggests, is the popular ‘local’ music (des: country). It is driven more by the complexities of human emotions and is also used to address many social issues. Emotions form an important part of Desi sangeet- the object being to express human emotions, rather than studying the intricacies of raag and swara. On the other hand, ‘Marg’ in Sanskrit means a road or a ‘path’. Margi music is that which sets us on a path that leads to spiritual realisation. This is exactly what Dhrupad seeks to do. Dhrupad may be defined as the ‘study of “Naad” in terms of the swara’. Naad is the original cosmic sound, which can be realized only by careful practice and meditation. Dhrupad uses the swara and the Raga as the medium which enables us to meditate, directing the mind to an inward journey. The physical practices involved in mastering dhrupad are parallel to the practice of Yoga. In fact, dhrupad may be regarded as a form of ‘Naad Yoga’ or the Yoga of ‘sound’. It studies the swara to the finest possible extent and breaks lifts the mind of the superficial plane of entertainment, which is probably why it was compared with the ‘Dhruv’ star (the Pole Star)-just as the Pole Star shines resolutely in the vast expanse of the universe, Dhrupad stands resolute amidst all other forms of music, distinct and self-illuminated.
The genre became popular even in royal courts in the medieval ages, at the time of Akbar and Raja Mansingh Tomar. Miya Tansen, Nayak Baiju, Nayak Bakshu, Nayak Charju are well-known musicians of the royal courts and their contribution to the field of music made their name immortal in the history of music. They were all practitioners of Dhrupad.
The Dhrupad recital is divided in four parts- the vilambit alap, the madhyalay (middle-tempo) alap or ‘jod’ and the drut alap or ‘jhala’. The first three parts are unaccompanied explorations of the raag in different tempos. The recital is concluded by the rendition of a composition involving literary text. The compositions are set to the taals of the Pakhawaj, the oldest percussion instrument in India the main taals are Chautal, Dhamar, Sadra, Sooltal, Teevra and Adital. Dhrupad is always accompanied by the Pakhawaj.
This rich, ancient tradition of Dhrupad has been nurtured carefully by the Dagar tradition, which is one among four original traditions of Dhrupad- the Dagar Vani, the Khandahar Vani, the Gauhar Vani and the Nauhar Vani. The Dagar Vani is one of the most prominent traditions flourishing today, owing to the painstaking and consistent efforts of the great masters such as the Senior Dagar Brothers, Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar, Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and their disciples. The Gundecha Brothers (Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi awardees), comprising the Late Pt. Ramakant Gundecha, Pt. Umakant Gundecha and Pt. Akhilesh Gundecha are the foremost performers and gurus of this tradition. Shri Mukund Dev is a senior and very accomplished disciple of the Gundecha Brothers and has devoted himself to his illustrious Gurus’ mission of promoting Dhrupad among the younger generation and spreading it far and wide through teaching and performances.
The Dhrupad Music Foundation is a part of this mission and organizing concerts, workshops, Lecture demonstration and Shri Mukund Dev plans many such events in future. The Foundation is all set to begin teaching and other professional activities, preserving and promoting this ancient and unique tradition of Dhrupad for many years to come.