Ratnakar Kaal Prabandh Concepts

The following information is borrowed from the notes by Samir Bildikar and from the notes on shadjamadhyam.com
This paper also discusses how these concepts are transformed into today's Hindustani Classical Music.

Ratnakar kaal: Prabandh concept and various Prabandhas
The term 'Prabandha' is explained in Sangeet Ratnakar as "A composition which is bound by Dhatu and Ang" Dhatu means the limbs or parts of a musical composition like Sthaayi, Antara, Dhruvpad etc..Ang means the different elements that comprise the Prabandha like swar, taal, pat, birud etc..
It is shown in the thesis, with examples, how dhatu and angas in the Prabandha are present in the modern vocal forms. Here musical terms like Geet, Prabandha, Roop Vidhan ec are discussed. As no satisfactory term meaning 'vocal form' is found in Marathi, a new term 'Geyabandha' is defined.
Geybandha: Geybandha is a musical compostion, which is bound by Dhatu (limbs) and Matu (literature) and which has its own style of singing.
Special Prbandhas in Ratnakar period
1) Dhruv Prabandha: This prabandha cosists of four parts viz. Udgrah, Dhruv, Antar and Abhoga. Each line of this prabandha consists of a fixed number of letters. Thus, compositions set to meter is a characteristics of Dhruva Prabandha. Dhruva Prabandha gives importance to the emotional recitation. Different raagas are chosen to create different moods. Thus the characteristics of Dhruva Prabandha match with the characteristics of 'Dhruva' in the Natyashastra. It also shows similarity with Dhrupad in the modern period. Dhrupad also consists of four limbs which were called as Udgrah, Dhruv, Antara and Abhoga in fifteenth century. Compositions of Dhruad are set into meters and Dhrupad was a Rasamaya i.e. emotional vocal form till the seventeenth century. Thus there is a link between Dhruv-Dhruv Prabandha and Dhrupad.
2) Roopak Prabandha: The prabandhas used for the recitation of ragas are known as Roopak Prabandhas. There are two styles of singing the Roopak prabandha.
a) Bhanjani: The text of the prabandha is sung in different ways making use of swara and laya. If a part of prabandha is sung with varieties, it is known as 'Sthay Bhanjani' and if the complete prabandha is sung with the 'Swaroop-roopantara' in samgayan and Patgeet in the Jaigayan. It can be said that the 'bol-ang' used in Dhrupad or Khayal in the modern period is derived from the Bhanjani.
b) Pratigrahnika: Here, aalap are sing in different parts of the prabandha. In the first part, aalap is sung, which in accordance with this part and again that part is recited. This procedure is repeated several times to show the melodical beauty of a raga. Then the next part of the prabandha is sung, suitable alap is sung and that part of prabandha is repeated. This is known as Pratigrahnika which is a basic principle of Khayal gayaki.
3) Tribangi - Chaturmukh and Kaiwad Prabandhas: In the above prabandhas, various combinations of the elements like swara, pad and pat are made. These prabandhas are the origin of the Trivat and Chaturang in the modern period.
4) Chachchari Prabandha: This prabandha is associated with the Holi festival. It is erotic. The raagas used for this prabandha are similar to raagas like Dhani, Tilang, Khamaj in modern period. The 'Chachchari taal' used in this prabandha is similar to Deepchandi or Dhamar in the modern period. The 'Kreeda' taal used in this prabandha is similar to Dadra in modern period. Thus Chachchari prabandh may be the origin of light classical forms in the modern period.

Some noteworthy Prabandha

Dhruva Prabandha

This comes under the category of saalag SooD. Jaati sangeet and sudhdha swaras were used in dhruva Prabandha. The Dhruva that is mentioned in the Natyashastra is based on this particular Prabandha. The mood creation was its uniqueness. Slowly raag sangeet started to appear in this Prabandha gaayan. But inspite of that the mood creation and the Chanda framework remained intact. That is the reason this type of Prabandha singing came to be known as Dhruva Prabandha.
Dhruva literature: Here one can see the use of various rasa ie moods. Like the Veer rasa, or shrungaar rasa. In fact it was an all inclusive literature.
Compositions: The compositions had 4 parts namely Udgraaha, Dhruva, Antara, and Aabhog.
Singing Style: Rasa creation was the main intention. Along with that use of Raga, VarNa and alankaar can be seen here.
Taal: The rhythm cycles used in this particular type of Prrabandha gaayan were taals like Aditaal, KriDataal, pratimeTh, ektaal etc.
Roopak Prabandha:
Singing Raag Sangeet using a composition (poetry or lyrics) is called roopakaalapti. The song is paused in between to sing the aalap. Here one can see the similarity between Khyaal and Roopakaalapti.
Chaturmukha Prabandha:
This is similar to the Chaturanga that we see today. Meaning there are lyrics, sargam, bols of Tabla/ percussion instrument, and a part of taraana.
Vartani Prabandha:
Here one can see the use of swara, hence similar to the sargam geet.
Tribhangi Prabandha:
Comparable to the TrivaT.
Shrirang Prabandha:
There is use of 4 Taals and 4 different Raagas.
KaiwaaD/karpaaT Prabandha:
This category includes various different types of geet.

Prabandha based on Raag Sangeet

Chachari Prabandha:
Shringaar Rasa creation is the highlight of this Prabandha. Here the Chachari Chanda has 16 beats.
Later from these 16 beats taals like teentaal, adhdha tritaal etc came into being.
Oovi, Lori:
This Prabandha consists of just 2 dhatu, Udgraaha and Dhruva.
PadhdhaDi and raahaDi:
One can see the praises of brave army men, for e.g PovaDa (taken from folk music)
Dhaval prabandha:
The Prabandha that was sung at auspicious occasions like the wedding ceremony is called the Dhaval Prabandha.

Nibadhdha gaayan - Roopakaalapti

This is a singing style using the various Dhatu. Here music is created using the raag structure and the Taal as well. This has been further divided into two types.
1. Pratigrahanika:
Singing the mukhda of the bandish after singing the aalap is Pratigrahanika. After the first part of the bandish is sung the higher swaras are sung and then the antara starts. Thus the uttarardha of the raag is sung in the antara, and then again the mukhada is sung again and again. The word Prati stands for again and again and Grahanika means taking it.
2. Bhanjani:
Singing the aalap, followed by boltaan, and then the taana after singing the Bandish is called Bhanjani. Here one has to stay within the framework of the Taal and the Sthayi has to be performed in various styles. Laykaari is also done here. This is called the Bhanjan of the Dhrupad sthayi.
3. Roopakbhanjani:
Singing the entire bandish with lots of variations is Roopakbhanjani. For e.g the bandishes of Dhrupad- dhamaar, Khayaal are sung with variations.
Sangeet Ratnakar has a mention of about 80 different types of Prabandha. Prabandha is divided into three parts namely SooD, Aali, and VipraKirna. SooD consists of sudhdha swaras in its traditional form. Saam jaati geet are called Sudhdha geet. The compositions that do not have lyrics or poetry, no swara, and no taal but have chhanda are called shudhdha SooD. For e.g ela, karaN, vartani, Dhenki etc
The Prabandha that were sung using the Raag and taal were known as saalagSooD. For e.g DhruvaPrabandha, Raas Prabandha etc.
Arya, Gaatha etc were classified under the Aali category.
Viprakirna is a mixed version of SooD and Aali. For e.g the lullabys(lori), Oovi, Dohale (songs that are sung at baby shower), Gaatha etc.

Vocal form in the Modern Period: The evolution process

Dhrupad, Khayal, Tarana are the classical forms in the modern period. In this chapter, it is shown how these vocal forms evolved from the ancient vocal forms.
1. Dhrupad: The Dhruva Prabandha in the Rantnakar Period consisted of Udgrah, Dhruv, Antara and Abhoga. 'Rasa' was the important aspect of this prabandha. In this post Ratnakar period, Hindustani music started shifting towards the melody and 'Raga' became the important aspect.
As the first line established the raga, it was called "Sthayee" and it became important. Hence the Udgrah and Dhruva were transformed into Sthayi. Melapak was now used to show the whole character of the raga and hence it was now called as Sanchari. Thus, the Dhruv-Prabandha which now consisted of Sthayi, Antara, Sanchari and Abhoga and which gave importance to the 'raag gayan' was now called as 'Dhrupad'. It was being sung according to Bhanjani principle of Roopak prabandha.
It was being sung according to the Bhanjani principle of Roopak prabandha. The Nom-Tom part was later attached to the Dhrupad in 18th century. The raga is eaborated in the 'Nom-Tom'. The 'Tanta Anga' i.e. style of string instruments like Veena was usedin the elaboration. This idea of imitating the sounds of musical instruments is originated from the 'Saptageet' of the Natyashastra period. Different talas used for Dhrupad in the last few centuries are similar to the tala used for the Dhruv Prabandha.
2) Khayal: Meaning of the word Khayal is to imagine. This is a persia word. The vocal form 'Khayal' existed in India from the thirteenth century but it was not popular as compared to Dhrupada.
Various experiments were carried out many musicians to develop an attractive style for this vocal form, and this form acquired status in the eighteenth century. Sadaranga and Adaranga took special efforts to establish this form. In the Khayal, melody was given the prime importance. Consequently, Pad and Taal became secondary. The 'Pratigrahnika' priniciple of the Roopak prabandha was used to elaborate the raga. After the vistar, 'bol alap' are sing in khayal, which originate from the Bhanjani principle. Taan is a special feature of khayal. In the Ratnakar, several types of Taan and Gamak are discussed. These are still being used.
At the end, Chhota khayal is sung in the fast tempo to reach the climax. This idea originates from the 'Saptageeta' in the Natyashastra period.
3) Tarana/Trivat/Chaturanga etc: These are called 'Shushka' or dry vocal forms as they are literally meaningless. The tradition of making use of meaningless but rhythmic or musically attractive syllables exist from Vedic period. In Samgayan 'Stobh' was used.
In the purankal, Nergeet was made up of meaningless syllables. In the Natyashastra period, Saptageetas made use of sounds of musical instruments. In Ratnakar period, sargam, pat were used in Prabandhas like Tribhangi, Kaiwad, Chaturmukh etc. They are being sung in the modern period almost in the same way with the names Tarana, Trivat and Chaturanga.
Tarana consists of syllables like Tom Tan Nan, Dir Dir which resemble the sounds of sitar. Trivat consists of these syllables along with the sargam and sounds on the Mridanga. Chaturanga has a lyric in addition to sargam, pat and tantakshara.
Semi Classical Forms
a) Thumri: Thumri was known as 'Jhumari' in the fifteenth century. It was a dance form at that time. In the modern period, it is recognized as a semiclassical vocal form. Thumri is erotic. It is associated with the Holi festival. Thumri is set to Deepchandi taal of 14 beats or Adha Tritaal of 16 beats. These taalas are derived from the chachar taal in the folk music, by taking two different measures of the laghu. Thus, Thumri has originated from Chachari prabandha. Because of the influence of Khayal, the Thumri accepted the 'Pratigrahanika' principle. But the 'Vistar' in the Thumri gave importance to the expression of emotions than the expression of the raga.
b) Tappa: The folk songs which are sung at the time of marriages in Punjab are known as Tappas. Speedy, abrupt and surprising patterns is the speciality of Tappa. This style matches with the description of 'Vesara Geeti' in the Ratnakar period. Vesara or Vegaswara was a folk style of singing. It can be said that the Tappa gayaki is the modern name of the Vesara geeti in the Ratnakar period.

Relation between Modern vocal forms and Ancient vocal forms

In the last chapter, the process of evolution of the modern forms was discussed. In this chapter, it is discussed how these vocal forms are actually presented and do they still have any relation with the vocal forms described in 'Ratnakar'.
While discussing ancient and modern vocal forms, it is observed that there are a few common basic principles in all these vocal forms. These principles are as follows:
1. With the help of Swar, Laya and Pad, a frame or a structure is established.
2. This structure us divided into different parts or limbs for musical purpose. There are 'Bhakti' in Sam, 'Vidari' in Jati, 'Dhatu' in prabandhas and Sthayi-Antara in Khayal and Dhrupad.
3. Variations in swara, laya and pad are created within the framework. This principle can be seen through - Sam Vikas and Sam Roopantara, Padgeeti in Jati and the 'Bol Anga' in Khayal and Dhrupad.
4. Meaningless syllables are used for musical purpose. In every period, there are vocal forms which make use of meaningless syllables. 'Stobhakshara; were being used in the samgayan. Nirgeet, Bahirgeet ad Saptageeta in Natyashastra period, Prabandhas like karan, kaiwad in Ratnakar period and Tarana, Trivat, Chaturang in modern period are the vocal forms which use meaningless syllables.
5. Two streams always coexist in Hindustani music. One is classical and philosophical in which musical thought has the prime importance and the other is purely for entertainment. These two streams are seen through the Vedic and Loukik, Marg, Desh and Classical and light music.
Now let us consider the actual recitation of modern vocal forms.


1. Dhrupad begins with Nom-Tom. Ragvistar is done step by step with Tant Anga. In this 'Swasthaan Niyam' (Please see the details at the bottom of the article) in Ratnakara is followed with some liberties. To begin a song with Shuskalap is a characteristic of Saptageeta in Ratnakar. Thus the Nom Tom is associated with Ratnakar.
2. Dhrupad consists of two parts viz. Sthayi and Antara. They belong to the Dhatu of Dhruva prabandha in Ratnakar.
3. Dhrupad is sung with variations in swara, laya and pad. It belongs to the tradition of Bhanjani Tatwa, in prabandha, Padageeti in Jati and Sam Roopantara.


Stylistically Dhamar is similar to Dhrupad. It is set to Dhamar tal of fourteen beats. Holi songs are used in Dhamar. Thus Dhamar is originated from the Chachchari Prabandha in Ratnakar, by using the Bhanjani Tatva in it.


1. Khayal begins with a short raagalap. The text of khayal consists of Sthayi and Antara. There parts are derived from the Dhatu in Prabandha.
2. In the Khayal, raga is sung elaborately according to the structure of the khayal. When sthayi is sung, those alap are sung which are in harmony with the sthayi and after every alap, Mukhada i.e. part of the Sthayi is repeated.
This is the 'Pratigrahanika Tatva' in Ropak prabandha.
3. Bol Anga used in Khayal is originated from the Bhanjani Tatva. Tans and Gamaka used in khayal are described in Ratnakara.
4. Chhota khayal is sung to reach the climax. It is originated from the saptageetas.

Tarana - Trivat - Chaturang

These forms are usually sung in fast tempo. Tanta anga is used in it. These consist of meaningless syllables originated from sounds from different musical instruments. Thus they show resemblance with Prabandhas like Tribhangi, Chaturmukh, Kaiwad and also the Saptageetas which are descried in the Ratnakar.

Thumri & Tappa

These are semi-classical forms. Thumri is erotic and is sung with elaboaration but the emphasis is given on the expression of the mood. It is set to Deepchandi Taal of fourteen beats or Adha Teentaal of sixteen beats. Holi songs are used in it. Thus Thumri is associated with the Chachchari Prabandha, using Pratigrahanika Tatva in it.
Tappa is a peculiar vocal form. It consists of fast, abrupt patterns of Tana. It shows connection with the vesara geeti in Ratnakar. Thus with the help of Ratnakar, it can be said that the modern classical vocal forms belong to ancient tradition in Hindustani Music. These have their roots in the various ancient vocal forms described in Ratnakar.

Swasthaan Niyam :
'Sangeet Ratnakar' has mentioned various rules or rather ways to do 'Alaap' in Prabandh Gayan. One of them is 'Swsthaan Niyam'. Which is explained in a shloka in the book 'Sangeet Visharad' by Vasant. The basic (main) alaap is done around Sthayee (Ansh) note. Next is done around Dwayarth note which is the fourth note from Sthayee. Third place for alaap is Dwigun, which is eighth note from Sthayee. And the fourth place is Ardhasthit note which is between Dwayarth and Dwigun. The musician/singer comes to Sthayee in between these alaap expansions.

Some of the other ways or rules for Alaap mentioned in 'Sangeet Ratnakar' include: Roopakaalaap, Alipt-Gaan, Avirbhaav-Tirobhaav, Sthaay, Mukhchaalan


  1. Thanks so much for this information which was so rare and valuable, Sampada Ji. I was looking for some literature on prabandh gayaki and your article is the only piece of literature which is exhaustive and comprehensible. Thanks a ton for taking time out to write so thoroughly.

  2. Thank you very much for your comment, I appreciate it.

  3. Thanks so much for this information - सुनिल
    मोदी संगीताचार्य

  4. 'Sangeet Ratnakar' has mentioned various rules or rather ways to do 'Alaap' in Prabandh Gayan. One of them is 'Swsthaan Niyam'. Which is explained in a shloka in the book 'Sangeet Visharad' by Vasant. The basic (main) alaap is done around Sthayee (Ansh) note. Next is done around Dwayarth note which is the fourth note from Sthayee. Third place for alaap is Dwigun, which is eighth note from Sthayee. And the fourth place is Ardhasthit which is between Dwayarth and Dwigun. The musician/singer comes to Sthayee in between these alaap expansions.

    Some of the other ways or rules for Alaap mentioned in 'Sangeet Ratnakar' include: Roopakaalaap, Alipt-Gaan, Avirbhaav-Tirobhaav, Sthaay, Mukhchaalan

  5. Glad to c
    Contribute more & more to Google in English format because we have a very little info of Music avbl in English.