Niceties and subtleties of Gwalior gharana


Before I talk on the niceties and subtleties of Gwalior gayaki, I would like to make it quite clear that whatever knowledge my Gurus have passed on to me, I am afraid, I am not even a small percentage of it to comment or illustrate on it. My observation is based purely on the experience that I have acquired over the years and not on any theoritical aspects given in books. Though I am a follower of Gwalior gharana, having learnt from masters like Pandit D.V.Paluskar, Prof. B.R.Deodhar and Pandit Sharadchandra Arolkar, I am not a fanatic of the gharana. I keep my eyes and ears open to all that is best in other gharanas and try to assimilate it.

No assessment of the contribution of leading gharanas in the Hindustani vocal tradition will be complete without taking into account the pioneering role of the Gwalior ghaarna. It is believed that khayal was projected first in the princely court of Mohammed Shah Rangeela of Delhi. But it was in Gwalior State that khayal began to flourish as a popular singing style and also reached perfection. The patronage that it deservedly received in time to come helped the tradation to establish itself as the Gwalior gharana.

After the slow decline of Mohammed Shah Rangeela in Delhi, all the contemporary musicians gathered in Gwalior, where its ruler Daulatrao Scindia, a great patron of music had employed Natthan Peer Baksh who is regarded as the Founder musicians of Gwalior gharana.

It is said that after the fall of the emperor of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah in 1857, his court musician Bade Mohammed Khan of Kawwal Bachhe gharana came to Gwalior, where he too, was employed as a court musician. He was known for his proficiency in 'taans'. It was from Natthan Peer Baksh that Ghagge Khuda Baksh of Agra learnt the Khayal gayaki.

Natthan Peer Baksh had three grandsons, namely, Haddu Khan, Hassu Khan and Natthu Khan. According to my Guru Arolkarji, their father's name was Amir Baksh and not Qadar Baksh as commonly known. He was poisoned to death by his rivals when he was in his prime. Gwalior Maharaja was quite disturbed about this tragedy and thought of sacking Bade Mohammad Khan from the employment and asking him to leave Gwalior. He, however, consulted Natthan Peer Baksh before doing so. The latter shrewdly planned that Haddu-Hassu Khan be made to hear Bade Mohammed Khan's singing without his knowledge. In process the two brothers intellectually picked up his taan pattern which was his forte. Bade Mohammad Khan felt so insulted and cheated that he had to leave the state. Haddu Khan must have been 50 years old as he was 75 when he died in 1883.

The question now arises how, if Haddu Khan had not achieved anything before acquiring command over Bade Mohammed Khan's taan, was found deserving of employment in the Gwarlior Court? Certainly not. After all taan is an alankar which he must have obviously added as an embellishment to his original, exuberant gayaki. Viewed from this point, therfore, it sounds ridiculous, even derogatroy to suggest, as is popularly believed that Haddu 'stole' Bade Mohammed Khan's gayaki to qualify for eminence.


The period of about two centuries and perhaps more, traced back to the times of Sadarang and Adarang witnessed the high point of Khayal Gayaki. This period, till the end of the 19th century can be rightly regarded as the Golden Era of the Gwalior gharana.