Dhrupad is a form of Indian classical music, whose origin is linked to the recitation of Sama veda, the sacred Sanskrit text. It does not seek to entertain but to evoke a sense of quiet contemplation in the listener. Dhrupad probably evolved from the earlier chanting of Om, the sacred syllable that is claimed to be the source of all creation. Later, the rhythmic chanting of the Vedic scriptures evolved into singing of Chhanda and Prabandha. From this early chanting, Dhrupad evolved into a sophisticated, classical form of music.

According to some accounts, Dhrupad was sung in temples as prayer. One significant characteristic of Dhrupad is the emphasis on maintaining purity and rendering of a raga and its swaras. The language of Dhrupad gradually changed from Sanskrit to Brijbhasha sometime between the 12th and the 16th century.

About six centuries ago, Dhrupad came to be patronized by the royal courts and its rendering became highly sophisticated for royal audiences. The compositions became more secular. Some were written in praise of the emperors; others were elaborations on the music itself.

Dhrupad was closely guarded by families of musicians and handed down within the guru-shishya parampara. Amongst these traditions, are the Dagar Tradition, The Darbhanga Tradition, The Talwandi Tradition and The Bettiah Tradition.

The tradition of Dhrupad took a definite shape as a musical repertoire around five hundred years ago, under the able guidance of Swami Haridas – a highly regarded saint-musician, poet, composer and teacher. Tansen, Nayak Baiju, Gopal Nayak, were few among the most illustrious performers and composers who were under the tutelage of Swami Haridas.

The king Mansingh Tomar (1486 – 1516 CAD) of Gwalior patronized dhrupad by engaging several dhrupad musicians in his court. He formalized the existing gayaki in Gwalior into a form called Dhrupad by using Brijbhasha, the popular language for the lyrics of compositions.

What makes the ultimate performance? The ultimate performance evokes, rasa, different from the feelings we have in everyday life. Rasa literally means ‘taste’ or ‘flavor’; Ordinary emotions don’t result in a bliss state.

In fact, rasa results from the dance of the song and instrument as quoted in The Sangeet Ratnakar, “Gitam, Vadyam and Nrittam, Trayam Sangeetam ucchate.”

The Dagarvani dhrupad rendition is characterized by a meditative and leisurely development of the alapana maintaining the purity of a raga.

Ustad Behram Khan (1753-1878) who learnt music from Kalidas Paramhans, was the royal court musician in Jaipur. Baba Behram Khan taught handful of famous musicians such as, Zakiruddin Khan, Allabande Khan, Nasiruddin Khan and Ziauddin Khan.

Zakiruddin Khan's son Ziauddin Khan, was equally proficient in singing dhrupad as well as playing the rudra veena. He was the royal court musician of Udaipur. His sons Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Khan (1929-1990) – who revived the anceint instrument rudra veena for solo performance and Ustad Zia Fariduddin Khan who has taught a maximum number of performers, are the representatives of the 19th generation of this tradition. Ustad Mohi Baha’ud-din Dagar is the caliph of the Dagar tradition.

Ustad Allabande Khan's four sons, Nasiruddin Khan, Rahimuddin Khan, Imamuddin Khan and Husseinuddin Khan were extremely gifted and highly respected Dhrupad maestros. Ustad Sayeed’ud-din Dagar is carrying his family’s tradition forward.

Nasir Moinuddin Dagar and Nasir Aminuddin Dagar – representatives of the 19th generation, now referred to as the senior Dagar brothers, were the elder sons of Nasiruddin and grandsons of Allabande Khan. Ustad Wasif’ud-din Dagar is the carrying his family’s tradition forward.

The riyaz of Dhrupad is Nada Yoga, the practice of the "first" swar, SA and many Dhrupad compositions have this knowledge inherent in them. One such composition is that of Nayak Baiju.
• Prathama aada Shiva Shakti,
• Nada Parameshwara,
• Nada Tumbaru, Sarasvati,
• Mana bhajare.

Whatever is heard in the form of nada is shakti (power): That which is the Parameswara.
• Anahata Nada Adinatha.
• Gunasaagara svaroop.
• Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh.
• Liye Muni.

Adinatha, according to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Svatmarama 15th CE propounded 1 1/4 crore methods of trance. Of these, the hearing of the anahata nada can be meditated upon by:

“Sitting with Mukta asana and with the Sambhavi Mudra, the Yogi should hear the sound inside his right ear, with collected mind. The ears, the eyes, the nose, and the mouth should be closed and then the clear sound is heard in the passage of the Susumna nadi which has been cleansed of all its impurities.”

“The union of the mind and the sound is called the Raja-Yoga. The (real) Yogi becomes the creator and destroyer of the universe, like Shiva.”

“Mind is the master of the senses, and the breath is the master of the mind. The breath in its turn is subordinate to the laya (absorption), and that laya depends on the nada.”

Aesthetic sound vibrations enter the body and are absorbed. Breath control prepares the body for this absorption. The aesthetic sound that is absorbed transports our mind to the blissful state of Rasa.

A Dhrupad performance begins with very slow melodic movements of accurately struck sound traversing over the notes to the laya or tempo-- the rhythm of breath. This improvization is the alaapana or alaap, an exploration of the raga.

The exploration is a movement-- on, between, around, through notes interspaced with lengths of silence, like a painter’s brush. Alaap opportunes the search for the perfect pitch of every note, when absorbed transforms the mind into a state of bliss.