The meaning of the term dhrupad as "the literal rendering of verse into
music" essentially suggests that dhrupad songs have a particular impact on
both audience and the performer. It is the oldest and considered to be the
grandest form of Hindustani vocal music. Its roots are traced back to older
forms like the Prabandha and the Dhruvapada. Dhrupad was essentially
devotional and prior to the reign of Akbar, temples used to be the only place
where it could be performed. However, dhrupad catapulted into fame and
reached its climax in Akbar"s reign when stalwarts like Swami Haridas, Baba
Gopal Das, Tansen and Baiju Bawra performed it. It was further adapted for
court performance during the reign of Raja Man Singh Tomar (1486-1517) of
Gwalior. Great contributors in developing and evolving dhrupad were Swami
Haridas and his disciple Tansen. However, it began its downward journey
from the 18th century.
    Dhrupad, which is essentially a poetic form incorporated into an extended
presentation style, has four parts or stanzas. The composed verses are
preceded by the exposition, called alap, and is usually the longest portion of
the performance. A dhrupad performance is typically carried out by one or
two male vocalists accompanied by the Tanpura and Pankhawaj. Although
originally dhrupad compositions were written in Sanskrit, they are usually
written in Braj Bhasha, and sometimes in Punjabi, Rajasthani, Bengali and
    A detailed description of five major styles or geetis of shastriya sangeet,
namely, "shuddha", "bhinna", "ghodi", "sadharani" and "vesura", can be found in
the work of Sarangadeva (13th century AD) ,the Sangeeta Ratnakara. Of all
these, the only one still surviving in its original form today is the "Sadharani
geeti". It is the Dhrupad sung by the Dagars. Four forms of Dhrupad singing
existed: Dagar Bani, Khandaar Bani, Nauhar Bani and Gauhar Bani. The
leading school of Dhrupad singing today is Dagar Bani, which has not only
survived changing musical patterns but also presents itself in all its
originality. The only renowned exponents of this genre of music known to
exist today are the Dagar brothers (Rajasthan) and Pandit Ram Chatur
Mullick (West Bengal).