The Agra Gharana

The Agra Gharana

Among the Pillars of Raga Sangeet Parampara

BY SAMARTH NAGARKAR

Gharana and Gayaki

Musical traditions were passed on through family lineage in the early years of their evolution. In the early nineeenth century, khayal music came to be established as the predominant genre of North Indian classical music, also known as Hindustani music or Raga Sangeet. Although dhrupad music was still widely prevalent, and although khayal compositions already existed before this period, it was only in the nineteenth century that khayal obtained its formal structure of presentation and gradually evolved to the forefront to being recognized as the face of Raga Sangeet. From time to time exceptional musicians from different parts of North India rose to the forefront with their performing skill, musical prowess and scholarship as well as their remarkable innovative contributions to the khayal tradition.  Over  time,  more  musicians  of  their  families  successfully  carried  on  their legacy and that distinction of style and aesthetic ideology. These families formed the early gharanas. ‘Gharana’ literally means ‘family’. As these musicians and their styles became popular among audiences, patrons and fellow-musicians of the time, they came to be identified with - and assumed the names of - the regions, cities, princely states or kingdoms to which they belonged, such as Gwalior, Agra, Jaipur, etc.