The word ‘Dhrupad’ is derived from ‘Dhruva’ meaning fixed ‘Pad’ meaning words or song. Therefore, the term Dhrupad means “The literal rendering of verse into music” and so the songs have a particularly potent impact. Dhrupad is the oldest and perhaps the grandest form of Hindustani vocal music. It is said to have descended from older forms like the Prabandha and the Dhruvapada. Dhrupad was essentially devotional in essence. In fact, prior to the reign of Akbar it was performed almost exclusively in temples. Dhrupad reached its pinnacle of glory during Akbar’s reign when stalwarts like Swami Haridas, Baba Gopal Das, Tansen and Baiju Bawra performed it. By the 13th century AD, Dhrupad as a form of music was well developed. It was adapted for court performance during the reign of Raja Man Singh Tomar (1486-15 17) of Gwalior.
Swami Haridas and his disciple Tansen have also greatly contributed in its development. Haridas and his disciple Tansen have also helped in its development. Dhrupad has been in decline since the 15th century. Dhrupad is essentially a poetic form incorporated into an extended presentation style marked by precise and orderly elaboration of a raga. The exposition preceding the composed verses is called Alap, and is usually the longest portion of the performance. Dhrupad compositions have four parts or stanzas. A dhrupad recital typically consists of one or two male vocalists accompanied by the Tanpura and Pakhawaj.
Dhrupad compositions are usually written in Braj Bhasha (Braj language), though sometimes Punjabi, Rajasthani, Bengali and Urdu are also used. Originally, the compositions were written in Sanskrit. The Sangeeta Ratnakara of Sarangadeva (12th century A.D) contains a detailed description of five major styles or Geetis, of Shastriya Sangeet (classical music) – Shuddha’, ‘Bhinna’, ‘Ghodi’, ‘Sadharani’ and ‘Vesura’. Of these the only one surviving in its original form today is the Sadharani Geeti’ which is the Dhrupad sung by the Dagars. There are four forms of Dhrupad singing: Dagar Bani, Khandaar Bani, Nauhar Bani and Gauhar Bani. The Dagar Bani, which is the leading school today, has survived changing musical patterns and presents this art form in all its originality. At present, the only renowned exponents of this genre of music are the Dagar brothers (Rajasthan) and Pandit Ram Chatur Mullick (West Bengal). Other important exponents of this form of singing are Bhavani Shankar Majumdar, Phalguni Mitra, Siyaram Tiwari, Abhay Narayan Mallick and Vidur Mallick from Darbhanga.