Indian Classical music is classified into two broad systems:
  • North Indian or Hindustani music; and
  • South Indian or Carnatic music.

According to the early music historians of India, there was only one system of classical music throughout India till 13 - 14 AD. The bifurcation of Hindustani and Carnatic systems emerged only after 14 AD. Hindustani music seems to have been profusely influenced by the music of Persia and Arabia. Well-known instruments such as Sarod, Sitar and Tabla; musical forms like Khayal, Thumri, Dadra and Tarana; Ragas such as Peelu, Yaman, Pahadi, Sindubhairavi etc seem to be the result of intercultural exchange between Persian and Arabic rulers in the past, viz. from 14 to 19 AD.

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Though the theoretical tradition of Hindustani music speaks about the Raga - Ragini systems, Prabandhas and Tala system, the performing tradition of Hindustani music is highly influenced by the music of Persia and Arabia. It can, however, be observed that the lyrics of songs are not in Urdu but in Hindi or Braj Basha and they speak of the deeds of Gods Krishna and Radha, Siva and Parvati or Rama and Sita.

The main architect of the existing system of Hindustani music was Pandit V N Bhatkhande, who was responsible for the classification of the Ragas into the 10 Thats.

Hindustani music has a number of embellishments and ornamentations or Gamaks like Meend, Kana, Murki, etc. which enhance its aesthetic appeal. The tabla plays a very important role in maintaining the rhythm during a Hindustani concert. There are a number of Tals like Ek-Tal, Jhap-Tal, Dadra, Teen-Tal and so on. Each Tal has its own characteristics.

Owing to its ancient roots, there are also a number of styles or schools of music called Gharanas like Gwalior, Agra, Patiala, Kirana etc which are unique in their own way. There have been a number of stalwarts in each of these gharanas.

Key concepts of Hindustani music

The Raga system


Musical forms


The Javanese Gamelan

Western music

World music


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