Ruchira Kedar(nee Ruchira Kale) is one of the leading young Hindustani vocalists in India today and has established herself as one of the most promising torch bearers of Gwalior-Jaipur gharana. She is a foremost disciple of the Hindustani music legends Pt.Ulhas Kashalkar & Vidushi Girija Devi.Her performances are acclaimed for her exceptionally skillful & emotive renditions of a variety of Hindustani musical forms like Khayal, Thumri, Dadra, Kajri, Hori etc. which has earned her the hearty admiration of connoisseurs & music lovers everywhere. Ruchira regularly performs at prestigious music festivals all over India and abroad which are widely covered by the local and national media.
This article aims to explore the significance of the Bandish as a comprehensive element in Indian Classical Music with special focus on Thumri. The historical evolution of the form and its particular importance to the artist in providing a structured framework to explore and expand the boundaries of music has been detailed.
Throughout the history of Indian Classical Music, it has been seen that the Bandish has always been given prime importance and its significance to the particular art it encompasses has been great. Bandish plays the important role of providing the framework for an artist to develop the abstract concepts of Sur, Laya, Raga & Tala and transform them into a tangible entity to be savored & cherished for years together. The word “Bandish” has its origins in Urdu & Persian, and it literally means ‘to bind together’. In the context of Hindustani music, it indicates the section in a music presentation in which the union of sur, tala and lyrics can be seen. It is a structured melodic composition in Hindustani vocal or instrumental music set in a specific raga and fixed in a rhythmic pattern to a specific tala with the words providing the literary aspect to bring all the elements of the composition together.
Bandish as a form has its origins in the Prabhandh form of the Vedic times. The term 'Prabandh' is explained in the ancient treatise of Indian Music, “Sangeet Ratnakar”, as a composition which is bound by Dhatu and Ang. Dhatu means the different parts of a composition like Sthayi, Antara, Dhruvapad & Ang means the elements that comprise the Prabandha like Swar, Tala, Pat, Tenak, Birud etc. ["Ratnakar Kaal," n.d.]
The radical changes in India’s political and cultural climate brought about the evolution of classical arts with the rise of the Mughal era in Indian history. Indian music underwent a transformation throughout the Mughal era from 16th to the 19th century resulting in the Hindustani music of modern times. This period saw the evolution of music from the Prabandh Gaan-age into musical forms as we know them today like Dhrupad, Khayal & Thumri.
However, as is the case with all arts as with music, evolution rather than invention is the norm and musical forms & influences can most of the times be traced back to some similar form in the past. Hence, the Bandish as a form has trickled down in its many hues to take shape as Dhrupad, Khayal, Thumri, Dadra, Gazal and other forms of Indian music.
The Bandish offers a structured framework for the entire performance and enables a singer to perform by giving the musical material to improvise and return to the refrain (mukhada) in various ways. It can be said that while the Alaap is the gradual unfolding of the Raga, the Bandish is its blueprint and in many ways, the foundation of the performance. Another feature of the Bandish, which has to be considered is that it has to be in accordance with the style of music in which it is to be presented, namely the way of presenting the musical phrases, specific rhythm patterns and also to an extent the Bhav or Rasa, which the particular style is expected to give a flavor of. Thus, we have separate types of Bandishes for Dhrupad, Khayal, Thumri & other forms of Hindustani music. (Koratkar, 2011)
The power of the Bandish in Indian Music is unmatched and hence, on a lighter note, we come across fables of the maestros of the past who used to give so much value to their Bandishes, that they were more willing to part with their daughters in marriage than with their precious Bandishes! Similarly, there are stories of many Gharanas guarding their Bandishes from moving out of the family and to achieve that, they would present jumbled up versions of the same!
Let us consider the Bandish in the context of Thumri now. The Thumri as a form of music is essentially wedded to the concept of Bandish, as the form requires equal emphasis on literary as well as musical elements in order to flourish in performance. Thumris were incorporated as a musical accompaniment to Kathak in the royal court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh who was a great ‘rasik’ & patron of music and dance. The Nawab gave unhindered patronage to the dance-songs and operas performed in his court and as a result, Thumri served as an able aide to Kathak in the royal court as well as the courtesan salons of Awadh in the 19th century. The Bandish Thumri is of special significance here as an accompaniment to Kathak as the lyrics, laya, Tala and the flow of the composition support Kathak very aptly. The lyrics of Bandish Thumri are set to the meter of the Tala perfectly in an odd-even combination and the various shades of enactment that can be interpreted from the song text by the dancer offer ample scope for Abhinaya. Sample the following Thumri as a Holi scene and the myriad scenes it creates within few lines:
होली खेलन को चले कन्हैय्या, ग्वाल बाल सब अत ही आनंद भये
गावत मधुर सुर ,बांसुरी की धुन पर नाचत नट नागर अत रस सो
ता ता थैय्या ता ता थैय्या ता ता थैय्या
रंग अबीर गुलाल लिए भर भर झोली, तक तक मारत कुमकुमे
निरखि हरखि सुर नर मुनि जन कहे धन गोकुल वृन्दावन,धन जमुना तट ब्रिज भूमि धन ,
धन मुरली धुन, धन न्यारो रास रचैय्या रास रचैय्या रास रचैय्या(Ratanjankar,1994)
As we can see, the Bandish itself offers a strong foundation for lyrical, musical and rhythmic interplay for a singer/dancer to recreate and interpret. These compositions also apply the technique of “Bol-Baant”, which is the skilful division of the lyrics in a rhythmic manner in accordance with the laya of the Tala in which the Bandish is composed; hence they are also called “Bol-Baant” Thumris.
Some of the famous composers of Thumri like Sughar Piya, Kadar Piya, and especially Lalan Piya were known for composing Thumri Bandishes in captivating ways which would challenge the singer/dancer on their Swar-Laya-Tala mastery as well as pronunciation skills too! Lalan piya composed some intriguing Bandishes which didn’t apply use of labials like pa, ba, ma, fa etc. These were called “Adhar-Band” Thumris .A sample of one such Thumri:
सखि सैयाँ की सुरतिया जियरा हरे
ऐसो नयना अनियारे खंजन से खरे
चारु हेरन चतुर अधिक ललित दसन
दरसत रस रंग सो, कहि न सकत सुघरताई
ललन छैल रसिया रंगीलो ठाढो तीर तरु तरे (Bajpai,1977)
Another genre of Thumri-the majestic “Bol-Banao” Thumri employs the Bandish in a rather different way. Here, the Bandish serves as a medium to express the main Rasa behind the composition through creative manipulation of the text. Hence, the singer finds himself at liberty to express the composition as he finds fit so he can achieve the emotional climax of the Bandish. The”Bol-Banao” Thumri Bandishes are usually composed in Ragas according to the lyrics of the Bandish as the Bhava which dictates the Bandish is in focus here. So it is seen that Thumri Bandishes which have Bhava-s like mischievous frolic, coyness or flattering description of the Nayak/Nayika are generally composed in Ragas like Khamaj, Mand, Des, Kafi, Jhinjhoti etc. For example,
छबि दिखला जा बाँके साँवरिया, ध्यान लग्यो मोहे तोरा (Khamaj)
तुम तो करत बरजोरी, रे लला , तुमसे को खेले होरी (Kafi)
In contrast, the Thumri Bandishes with the Bhava of pathos or longing have been composed in the Ragas like Pilu, Kalingada, Jogiya etc. For example,
पपीहरा पी की बोली ना बोल, सुन पावे कोई बिरहा की माती, दई हैं पंख मरोर (Pilu)
पिया के मिलन की आस, दिन दिन बढ़त सगरो जोबनवा (Jogiya)
Another offshoot of the Bol-Banao Thumri is sung in the Patiala Gharana style of singing which is popularly called the “Punjab Ang” of Thumri. The Bandishes of Punjab Ang Thumri are different in respect of the musical characteristics. Though the Bhava and subject matter are similar, the expression of the lyrics is quite different. As the notes are not prolonged much, the Bandishes are also lighter in character with a faster tempo and hence set to the Keherwa Tala of 8 beats. All these characteristics make the Punjab Ang Bandishes frothier in character and effect. For example, the popular Punjab Ang Thumris- 'Yaad Piya ki Aaye' or 'Saiyyan Bina Ghar Soona' illustrate this point clearly. (Koratkar, 2011)
To conclude, it can be said that the Bandish as a musical form is extremely versatile and prone to evolution in nature even though it is by definition a fixed and structured musical entity. These characteristics have allowed the Bandish to traverse history and evolve according to the times it found itself in and it is very likely that newer formats of Bandish would be found across musical genres in the foreseeable ages to come.
1. Bajpai, B. (1977). Lalan Piya ki Thumariyan. Lucknow :Utter Pradesh Sangeet Natak Akademi
2. Koratkar, S. (2011). Bandish in light classical music (thumri, dadra and other varieties). Punyaswar. Pune,MH: Lalit Kala Kendra, University of Pune. Retrieved May 25,2016 from http://www.shadjamadhyam.com/thumri_dadra_light_classical_bandish
3. Ratanjankar, S.N. (1994). Abhinav Geet Manjari Part I. Mumbai: Acharya S. N. Ratanjankar Foundation.
4. Ratnakar kaal: Prabandh concept and various Prabandhas (n.d.). Retrieved May 25,2016 from www.shadjamadhyam.com/prabandha_concept
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