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Dhrupad is a form of music that is meant to bring the mind to a peaceful, meditative state. It's an ancient science of sound and music that aim to develop human consciousness and the corresponding nervous system. It is the original form of Indian classical music and has been retained in its pure form to date by succsessions of masters. Hence, it also forms a major part of the Indian cultural heritage. Like other great sciences of old India, as for instance Yoga or Ayurveda, it is a powerful tool for life improvement.

The form and concept of Dhrupad, with its particular way of developing a composition, came about around 1100 - 1200 AD, though its origin can be traced back to the Vedas. Dhrupad is a form of Gandharva Veda, the Vedic science of music, which again is a branch of Sama Veda. Although the original text of Gandharva Veda, which contained 3000 verses, have been lost, Vedic knowledge is primarily an oral tradition, of which Dhrupad is an integral part.

A musical exposition in Dhrupad starts with the key note of the scale after which a musical theme gradually and slowly is developed through improvisation. After a while, the rendering increases in intensity and at a certain point commonly becomes accompanied by a drum playing specific, repeating rhythmical patterns. As in Indian classical music in general, the exposition is always accompanied by an instrument called tampura, which continuously plays the key note and the fifth or fourth, or sometimes the sixth or seventh, of the scale.

Dhrupad is first of all vocal music, but is traditionally also played on a string instrument called veena and on flute. For rhythmic accompaniment, it traditionally uses a drum called pachawaj. One needs to be able to sing the music in correct tuning to play it correctly. Hence, the instrumentalists in the Dhrupad tradition were usually also good singers. Dhrupad can, however, be performed on any instrument that can play microtones and slide between the notes of a scale.

As a vocal practice, Dhrupad aims at removing all blockages for the expression of sound and to make the sound vibrate all over the body. This removes tension, opens the subtle channels of energy and creates complete relaxation.

The musical basis of Dhrupad is a large collection of microtonal scales. As any frequency of vibration can be a microtone, the number of potential microtones is infinite. Learning to sing or play the right microtones for the different scales used in Dhrupad needs guidance by a proper expert. The difference between a correct and an incorrect microtone for a scale can be so small that it is hardly audible for an untrained ear. The exact selection of microtones is, however, the essence and the basis of Dhrupad. It is the crucial key to its power, and what truly manifests what is called the raga, the special mood of the scale that enraptures both performers and listeners and might bring one to a state of blissful ecstasy.

Another important feature of Dhrupad is the use of sliding, which means moving a note gradually from one to another, and thus to enhance the beauty and the mood of the music.

The real purpose of Dhrupad is not merely to entertain, but to expand human consciousness. The microtonal scales develops our sense of hearing by making us more sensitive to the nuances of sound and their influences. Dhrupad is an effective and joyful means for life improvement both for listeners and performers.


(A word for musical notes)

When Sur comes into existence,
it unfolds
a uniquely constructed form
in the design of nature,
with its own space in
the grand harmony.

It creates a flame
of an ever-increasing brightness
and a definite structure
of consonance.

In our effort to understand Sur,
we rush
to assign meaning to it.
We translate,
this contentment
that we receive from the Sur
into a meaning relevant in our world.
(The world of words)

We draw a curtain across this fierce light
only to dilute its essence
so it becomes easier for us to see.
Without realizing that it
cannot be named,
we give it the attributes joy, sadness, yearning...

to have the courage
to stand before the Sur
and witness its creation and fire thereafter,
to accept
its intensely beautiful bareness,
to allow
the experience to be its own self
our participation or interference,
this is the task.

We know
its power and truth are what
we are unable to stand and watch.
Its radiance is clearly too radiant.

And, in the general playfulness of nature,
every pure note
that comes into being
also creates a field of Maya around it.
Like the disc of the sun
throws beams of light 360 degrees outward
so that the eye is unable to comprehend
through its fog of light,
the actual figure of the sun itself.

And yet,
to stand by Sur,
this is real Sadhana.

To stand still,
and wait in this brightness,
though it may be too sharp to bear.
To watch slowly,
the intensity of the Sur give way
for our mind
to comprehend its form
across the glare of Maya.

To offer this strength,
and to be allowed
into its fold...
This is
to be in
the presence of the Almighty.

- Unknown writer