Divisions of Indian Classical Music

During the medieval period, Indian classical music was broadly based on two traditions.

  1. Hindustani classical music in North India
  2. Carnatic music of South India

Hindustani Classical Music

Hindustani classical music can be traced back to the period of the Delhi Sultanate and to Amir Khusrau (AD 1253-1325) who encouraged the practice of musical performance with particular instruments. He is believed to have invented the sitar and the tabla and is said to have introduced new ragas.

Most of the Hindustani musicians trace their descent to Tansen. Different styles of Hindustani music are Dhrupad, Dhamar, Thumri, Khayal and Tappa.

India also has a rich variety of musical instruments of different types. Amongst the stringed instruments the most famous are sitar, sarod, santoor and sarangi. Pakhawaj, tabla and Mridangam are precussion or tal giving instruments. Likewise, flute, shehnai and nadaswaram are some of the chief wind instruments.

The musicians of Hindustani classical music are usually associated to a gharana or a particular style of music. Gharanas refer to hereditary linkages of musicians which represent the core of the style and distinguish them from the other. The gharanas function in gurushishya parampara, that is, disciples learning under a particular guru, transmitting his musical knowledge and style, will belong to the same gharana. Some famous gharanas are Gwalior gharana, Kirana gharana, and Jaipur gharana.

Carnatic Music

The compositions in Carnatic music can be attributed collectively to three composers who lived between AD 1700 and 1850. They were Shyam Shastri, Thyagaraja and Mutthuswami Dikshitar. Purandardasa was another great composer of Carnatic music. Thyagaraja is revered both as a saint and an artist and epitomises the essence of Carnatic music.

The main compositions are known as kriti and are devotional in nature. The three great musicians experimented with new forms. Flute, veena, nadaswaram, mridangam, ghatam are some of the instruments to accompany Carnatic music.