Hindustani Music and Carnatic Music

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March 22, 2024

Why in news?

Recently the Carnatic classical vocalist T M Krishna has been conferred the Sangita Kalanidhi award, the most prestigious recognition in Carnatic music by the Madras Music Academy.

What are the key features of Indian classical music?

  • Indian classical music is generally described using terms like Marg Sangeet and Shastriya Sangeet.
  • Origin-The roots of the classical music of India are found in the Vedic literature of Hinduism and the ancient Natyashastra, the classic Sanskrit text on performing arts by Bharata Muni.
  • Samaveda- It is one of the four Vedas, structured entirely to melodic themes.

There are 4 vedas namely the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda.

  • Pillars-
    • Swara- It is used to define ‘note’ or ‘scale degree’ in composition
    • Raga- It forms the fabric of melodic structure
    • Tala-It keeps the time cycle.
  • Rasas- The reason behind the creation of ragas was to evoke emotional responses in the performer and the audience which is evoked through the singing and playing of instruments are called Rasas.
  • Traditions- Indian classical music has two major traditions
    • North Indian classical music known as Hindustani and
    • South Indian expression known as Carnatic music.
  • Evolution of traditions- During the period of Mughal rule of the Indian subcontinent, the traditions separated and evolved into distinct forms.
  • Sangeeta Ratnakara- It is a 13th century Sanskrit text of Sarangadeva patronized by King Sighana of the Yadava dynasty in Maharashtra, which is regarded as the definitive text by both the Hindustani music and the Carnatic music tradition

Key aspects

Hindustani music

Carnatic music


The origins of Hindustani classical music can be traced back to ancient India, where it evolved from the sacred music of Hindu temples

It is comparatively pure, formed during the Bhakti movement in the 15th and 16th centuries, and gained popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries.


North  India

South India

Total Ragas




It adopted a scale of Shudha

Swara Saptaka or the ‘Octave of Natural Notes’

The Carnatic branch creates music that is played in the traditional octave

Main Instruments

Veena, Mridangam and Mandolin

Tabla, Sarangi, Sitar and Santoor


Afghan, Persian, and Arab


Total Sub-Styles

There are several sub-styles which lead to emergence of ‘Gharanas’.

Only one particular prescribed style of singing.


Open to experimenting with variations and improvisation

Improvisation is restricted

Gharana system

It is specific to Hindustani music characterized by distinct music styles.

The emphasis is on learning and interpreting the compositions rather than adhering to a particular style associated with a family or lineage.

Need of Instrument

Instruments equally important as vocals

Vocal is more important than Instrument


Flute and Violin

What are the features of Gharana system in Hindustani music?

  • It is a system of social organisation characterized by distinct musical styles that trace back to particular instructors or regions, often linked by lineage or apprenticeship.
  • The word gharana comes from the Urdu/Hindi word ‘ghar’, which means ‘family’ or ‘house’, it typically refers to the place where the musical ideology originated.
  • Origin- It emerged in the 19th century as a means for musicians to maintain their artistic authority in an era of declining court patronage
  • A gharana also indicates a comprehensive musicological ideology and differentiates one school from another. It directly affects the thinking, teaching, performance and appreciation of music.
  • Example- Some of the gharanas well known for singing Hindustani classical music are Agra, Gwalior, Indore, Jaipur, Kirana, and Patiala.

What is the genesis of Carnatic music?

  • Parts- Pallavi, Anu Pallavi, Charana
  • Annamacharya- He is the first known composer of Carnatic Music who composed sankirtanas in praise of Lord Venkateswara, a form of Lord Vishnu.

He is widely recognised as ‘Grandfather of Telugu Song-writing’.

  • Purandara Dasa - He is referred as father/grandfather of Carnatic Music”, his composition includes Dasa Sahithya.
  • Trinity of Carnatic Music- They are also known as the Three Jewels of Carnatic Music, refers to the outstanding trio of composer-musicians of Carnatic music in the 18th century
    • Tyagaraja,
    • Muthuswami Dikshitar, and
    • Syama Sastri.

Quick facts

Madras Music Academy

  • Origin- It emerged from the All India Congress Session in Madras, 1927.
  • Inauguration- The Academy officially opened on August 18, 1928, by Sir CP Ramaswami Aiyar.
  • Purpose- It is aimed to be the benchmark for Carnatic music standards.
  • Annual conferences- It is started in 1929, leading to the December music festival in Madras.
  • Sangita Kalanidhi award- It is the title awarded yearly to a Carnatic musician by the Madras Music Academy.
  • The idea of the award was conceived in 1942 by the then Academy President KV Krishnaswami Iyer.



  1. Indian Express- T M Krishna gets Sangita Kalanidhi Award
  2. Raag- Introduction to classical music
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