natraj1.jpg (8229 bytes)

MUSIC is the soul of life, OM or PRANAV is supposed to be the root of creation. SAMVEDA, one of our earliest scriptures is also our earliest music. Later SAMGAAN developed into various forms and styles of is known that every land has its own music. These are called after the place as for example Karnatak Music or Pahari Music. Similarly a person of a group develops its own style and that becomes a school or Gharana of Music.Kashi-Varanasi- Banaras is the oldest living city of the world and no wonder it has its own rich history and treasure of music.When and in what form music developed in this area, it is difficult to say. When Renu (son of Vishwamitra) and Mahagovind founded this city, they also brought with them the Aryan traditions and the Vedic culture. It can therefore, safely be coneluded that during the Vedic period SAMGAAN must have echoed everywhere. The presiding diety of this city is Shiva- Mahadeva, the lord of Dance and Music (Natraj). Naturally the city worshipped him with Taals, Songs and Dance. This city has been called the capital of all learning and the Goddess Saraswati must have played her Veena here. Pauranic tales describe the Apsaras, Gandharvas and Kinnars lived here and made the city musical.Jatak tales narrate the story of Veena competition in the "Sudershan" city. Ashwaghosh in his famous work "Sunnderanand" describes GANIKAS of kashi. During the Mahajanpada period we have a glimpse of Banarasi way of life full of Fairs and Fastivals with Music & Dancing. Guttal Jatak tells us that Kashi was the centre of Music and there was lot of Dancing and Singing in the temples.During the Goiden Age of Guptas, we find Kashi vibrating with the poems of great poets like Kalidas and with Dhruvagayan & Prabandh Sangeet.

The "Chatrurbhani" of the fifth century shows us a "Gayika"of Varanasi playing "Pichola" standing in a window in Ujjain. Excavations at Rajghat have given us a marvellous terracota wherein two musicians are playing percussion instruments with intense joy & pleasure.During the nineth century Damodar Bhatt in his famous work "Kuttanimattam" Faithfully describes the "Shringar Heat" of Kashi and tells us of Music and Drama during Sheo Puja Krishna Mishra in "Prabodh Chandrodaya" describes the "Rasiks" ( Music-lovers) of Varanasi. The 12th century scholar Hemchandra describes "Banarasipan". Jin- prabha Suri in his Vividh Teerth Kalpa "describes"MADAN VARANASI". "Vikrant Kauravam" is a drama written in the 14th century buy Hastimal and here we find a beautiful description of Banarasi Music.Fifteenth Century is the age of "Bhalci Movement" (Age of Devotion). Great saint Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to Kashi and made the city "Kirtanmaya". Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya settled in Varanasi and the Vaishnava temples echoed with "Haveli Sangeet". Saints like Sur, Kabeer, Raidas, Meera, Tulsi made rich and valuable contributions to the Devotional Music and their Bhajans are still very popular. Ascetics of Banaras sing Nirgun Bhajans on Khanjari or Ektara.During this period music took a new turn and developed DHRUPAD GAYAKI. We have a galaxy of great Dhrupadias like Swami Haridas. Baijiu, Tansen, Gopal Nayak who made the country vibrate with there music. Dhrupad had four schools: Dagar Bani, Gobarhaar, Noharbani and Khanhaar Bani. And Banaras was a centre of this Dhrupad style.

Do you know Makrand pandey, father of great Tansen, breathed his last in Kashi?In the 16th century Govind Chandra ruled Varanasi and during his reign Dhrupad was the royal music. With Dhrupad came its associates- the Dhamar, Hori & Chaturang and they still are a speciality of Banarasi Music.This is the period when one ofthe great trios of Karnatak Msuic-Sri Muthuswami Dixitar lived here on the banks of Ganges for five years. Great writers of this are Ganapati in his "Madhvanal Kamkandha" and Damoodar in "Unkti Vyakti Prakaranam" give us a glimpse of music, Puppetry, Bhand plays. Similarly Banarasi Das in his "Aardh Kathanak" describes these very colourful music of Banaras.During this period Jaunpur a city adjacent to Kashi had a Musical King the "Sharki" and he gave us "Jaunpuri", "Hussaini Todi" Almost during this period Indian Music took another turn and "Khayal" became the latest style. Sadarang and Adarang gave new dimensions to Khayal "gayaki" with slow and rapid speed. RABAB and SURBAHAR were great instruments the day.While Nirgunias of Kashi sang the Famous Assarwari "Ghunghat ke pat Khol...", Nababs Awadh ruled Varanasi and the turbulent 18th century saw Meer Rustom Ali ruling Banaras as its Subedaar. Meer became a true Banarasi and patrnised Music Festivals like Jhoola, Jhoomar, Kajri, Birha, Dangal, Gulab Bari and Music Festivals on Boats. Soon a new Banarasi style emerged. Banaras bade tearful farewell to Meer and Raja Balwant Singh became Kashiraj. In his court we find great Kalawants like Jagraj Das, Khusal Khan and others.He was succeeded by Raja Chet Singh and his court honoured musicians. Budhwa Mangal received Royal patronage and Dulari, Kajjan, Kishori, Rukmini,Chittan sang on the waves of Ganges.In the court of Raja Maheep Narayan Singh, Tansen's sons Jivan Shah and Pyare Khan were appointed as the court singers. Next came Raja Udit Narayan Singh and during his reign Jahandar Shah ll- the Moghul prince came and stayed at Raja's palace in Shivala and in the retinue of Shah there were a number of Court Mussicians of Delhi.Nabab Asafudaula was a music-lover and he gave a new turu to "Besarageeti" and called it "Tappa". Now the great savant of Tappa was Shori Miya. His disciple Gammu Khan with his son Shade Khan came and settled in Banaras and gave a new form to Tappa called "Banarasi Tappa". Shade Khan's disciple Nagendra Nath Bhattacharya taught this Tappa style to two of his worthy students-Chitra and Imambardi and when they sang in Calcutta, Tappa became a craze of the country.Later in Kashiraj Darbar we find many musicians of Senia Gharana (of Tansen) like Zafar Khan, Basat Khan, Umrao Khan, Mohammed Ali and others.In Nineteenth century we see Kali Mirza Mahesh Chandra in the darbar of Maharaja Ishwari Prasad Narayan Singh. Thakurdayal Mishra, a disciple of Adarang-Sadarang, and his two sons Prasiddhu-Manohar called "Shrutidhars" won acclaim all over the country. They were the music teachers of the last Moghul King Bahadur Shah Zafar. Nineteenth century of Banaras had great musicians like Badku, Rasulbux, Manju Khan, Mithai Lal, Dargahilal and other. There was a pair nicknamed "Demons of Music" the great Shiva- Pashupati, who had no equal in the country.This century also saw a great galaxy of Gayikas Suggan, Maina, Tokhi, Gaffuran, Munna, Rajeshwari,Husna and others. Bhaiya Saheb Ganpatrao of Gwalior, great Harmonium player and Music Guru settled in Varanasi and his court we find Shyamlalji, Gauharjaan, Malka, and the phenomenal musician the doyen of Banarasi Thumri Moijuddin Khan and with him was the King of Banarasi Thumri Jagdeepji.In the present era Maharaj Prabhu Narayan Singh gave shelter to Bahadur Shah's court Musicians like Waris Ali, Akbar Ali, Nisar Khan, Sadiq Ali and great Ashiq Ali Khan. Ali Mohammad and Ali Bux the sons of Basat Khan were considered the "jewels" of Kashiraj Darbar.This galaxy of great musicians gave Banaras a place of pride in the country.

Banaras developed unique Banarasi Thumri, Dadra, Chaiti,, Hori, Bhairavi, Kajri, Tarana, Ghato and what not, There was now less known, Tirwat, Sadra, Khamsa, Lavni,, Chaturang,, Sargam, Ragmala, Kirtan, Qauwali, Kathagayan, Bhajan, Ramayan and Birth and all of these reigned supreme.Banaras has a very rich store of Folk Music like Bedesia, Pitma, Lachri, Badhaiya, Pujaiyao Geet, Fauwara, Gauri, Ghori, Nahchu, Alha, Sohar, Chandini, Nirwahi, Lachchan, Barahmasa, Maand, Sawani< Kajri etc. Before the Aryan settlement the local tribals must have had their own Music and some research scholar must peep into these foktunes and find out their indigenous character.Banaras not only sings, it plays also. Shehnai and its Maestro U. Bismillah Khan are now famous all over the world. "Tabla" has become "Banaras Baaz". Ram Sahai was a disciple of Maudu Khan,, the Tabla player in the court of Wazid Ali Shah. Later Ram Sahay ji developed his own style and this has now become the "Banaras Baaz". This school has produced great percussion masters like Bhairo Sahay, Janki Sahay, Bhairo Prasad, Maulvi Ram, Bachha Maharaj,, Suraj, Kanthe Maharaj, Biroo, Gama, Anokhelal, Samta prasad, Kishan Maharaj, Sharda Sahay, Ishwari prasad, Ramji, Chhotelal, Maisi and a host of others.Other percussion instruments are Pakhawaz and Mridangam and Banaras Masters have left their imprint on these instruments, Famous among these are Madan Mohan, Bhola Nath, Pathak, Mannuji, Amarnath Mishra,, Brindwan Das,, Ramdeo, Subodh Babu etc.Banaras is proud of its Harmonium players and famous among them were Ganpatraoji, Shyamlal, Biroo, Harendra, Ishwari Lal and others. Dhruvaji at present is the torch bearer of this tradition. Among the Flutist names of Shyamlal, Raghunath and Tarak Nath are famous. Banarasi Veena vaadaks like santu Babu and Lalmani Mishra are always remembered.Would you believe that famous Sitar Maestro Pandit' Ravi Shankar was born in Banaras. Ustad Mustaq Ali was also Banarasi. We remember Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan the great Sitar player in the days of yore. Jyotin Bhattacharya and Rajesh Moitra are Banarasi Sarod players. Dr. (mrs) N. Rajam is a rekniwned Violinist of Banaras.But one instrument which is truely Banarasi in nature is "Saarangi" We had great Sarangias like Sohnisiddh,, Tamakuji, Shambhu- Sumer, Birai Ganesh, Sursahai, Aashiq Ali, Munshi Ram, Siyaji, Pannalal, Gopal Mishra, Maulvi Mishra, Sarju and Baijnath. Hamuman ji, Narayan Vinayak and other still represent Banaras school of Sarangi.Though Banaras never had a Devdasi tradtion yet Gayikas on their own sang in the temples on special occasions.Present list of Vocalist is quite big and to name a few we have had Gayikas like Rasoolan,Vidyadhari,Badi motia, Siddheshwari,Girja Devi etc.We are proud of Jaikaranji,Akhoji,Bade Ram Das, Chhote Ram Das,Hari Shankar,Mahadeo,Rajan-Sajan and so many others.Banaras is called Mini India and artists from all over India have made it their home.In this list we have Pt.Omkar Nath Thakur,Rama ji and other from Gujrat,Pt.Vishnu Digambar,Bhaave Bua Hirlekar, Bhaiyaji Lande, Phadke, Kalwint, Belsare, Tambe, Patekar, Sapre, Damle and others from Maharashtra. Bengal gave us Aghor Chakravorty, Upendra Babu, Suren Ganguly, Hari Narayan, Rakhal Das, Santu Babu, Harendra Nath and others. There had been musicians from other provinces also.Dance is an integral part of Music. Banaras developed its own school of Kathak Dance. Here we had Jagdeepji, Ayodhya Prasad Babu Ram, Kalika Prasad brothers of great Kathak Maestro Binda Deen was known as "Banaras wale". Even our present maestro Birju Maharaj is related to Banaras. The main architect of Banaras school of Natwari Nritya was Sukhdeo Maharaj whose daughters and grand children Tara, Sitara, Alaknanda, Gopi Krishna, Mohan, Madhavi, Ram Krishna, Durgalal, Mala sisters have put Banaras in the Dance Map of Banaras. Do you know Natraj Uday Shankar belonged to Banaras? Similarly Bharat Natyam exponent Prof. C.V.Chandrashekhar has close association with Banaras.So this is in short a glimpse of Banarasi Music and its history. Even today the City boasts of its artists and also its elite learned listners. In the present day noisy, discordant, dishamonius, non-musical atmosphere the true Banarasi still drinks Gangajal and murmurs the famous Bhairavi.


Pandit Gudai Maharaj
Pandit Hanuman Prasad Mishra
Pandit Mahadev Mishra
Bismilla Khan
Gopi Krinshna
Pandit Birju Maharaj
Pandit Ravishanker
Pandit Kishan Maharaj
Pandit Vikas Maharaj
Smt. Girja Devi
Smt. Sitara Devi
Smt. N. Rajan
Rajan-Sajan Mishra

Tradition of Banarasi Music & Dance

1. Anadi Nagar Nad-


Shiva- Damaru-Swer, Tal
2. Samgan- In Gyanpuri
3. City of Gandhava & Kinnar
4. Lavkush- Katha Gayan, Kathak/Kathkali, Harikatha Gayan
5. Mahajanpad Yug- Utasav, Rasik, Garikayen
6. Buddha- Theory of sang Veena-Vadan,
Murtiya- from Rajghat "Terakota" Musical
Gutthil Jatak- Kashi is centre for Sangit Vidaya
7. Natyashashtra- Dhruva Gayan
8. Music & Dance in Temples-
9. Chaturbharni- Garika 0f Kashi along with musical insument Pichhola
10. Gupta Yug (Kalidas)- Singing a song in Lanes & arranged music
11. Damodar Bhatt- Kuttani Mattam-Sringar Hat, Dance with music, Veena, Banshi
12. Parabodh Chandrodaya- Sri Krishna Mishra- Rasikata
13. Hemchandra- Banarasipan
Jinprabha Suri- Madan Varanasi
14. Hastimal- Vikrant Kaurvam(Natak), Music
15. Dhrupad- Tansen-
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Kashi- Kirtan
Vallabhacharya- Haweli Music
16. Govindchand- Dhrupad, Dhamar, Hori, Chaturag, Mridangvadan, Kathaputali, Bhand
Banarasi das- Ardha Kathanak, Rag-rang
Sur, Kabir, Mira, Tulsi & Ravidas Bhajan
Tulsi- Ramlila-Ramayan Gayan, Khajari, Ektara, Thol, Manjira
17. Sharki - Khayal Gayan-Jaunpuri, Husaini Tori, Sdarang-Adarang, Rabab, Surmandal
Muhammad Shah - Banarasi Khayal, Banarasi-Nirgun
18. Avadh Ke Nawab-
Mirrustam Ali- Banarasipan, Holi-Budwa Mangal, Jhula-Jhumer, Birha, Kajali, Gulabbadi
Balvant singh- Musician- Chaturbihari Mishra, Jagraj das, Khushal Khan Kalavant
Raja Chet Singh- Budwa Mangal-Dulari, Kishori, Kanjjan, Rukmani, Chhittan
Mahdeep Narayan Singh- Kalvant jivan Sah, Parae Khan
Mugal Janhadar Shah-II Gumman Khan, Shade Khan (Banarasi Tappa)
Udit Narayan Sigh- Rabab Vadan, Veena Vadan- Jafer Khan, Pyarae Khan, Bsat Khan, & Muhamad Ali
19. Ishweri Narayan Singh- Kali Mirza, Jafer Khan, Pyarae Khan, Basat khan, Veenakar Mahesh Chandra Day
20. Prabhunarayan Singh- Musicial Varis ali (Veena), Akaber Ali (Tappa), Nisar khan (Drupad), Sadik Ali (Khayal), Aashik Ali (Sitar)
21. At end of 19th Century- Badaku Miya, Bsat Khan, Ali Bakhsha, & Rasul Bakhsha (Drupad), Daulat Khan & Manju Khan (Sarod), Tasdduk Husain, Sadik Ali, Nisar Ali, Mohamad Ali Khan (Rabab), Mithayi Lal (Veenakar), Dargahi Lal, Vajir Khan (Dhrupad)
In Period of Shah Alam-II Pyarae sahab, Ashil Ali (Khayal), Chhunnu Miya, Jangi Khan
Female Singers Suggan, Badi Maina, Mangu Bai, Sarwsti, Rajeshwari, Tokhi, Gafuran Munna, Husna
22. 20th. Century- Bhaiya Sahab-Ganpat Rav (Harmonium), Bsheer khan (Sarangi), Shyam Lal Ji (Harmonium)
Jagdeep Ji ( Banarasi Thumari )
Maujiddin- By birth musician (Banarasi Thumari, Chaiti-Kajari, Ghato, Hori, Dadara, Bhairawi, Tarana, Jhumer-Jhula, Shahnayi, Birha, Dhrupad, Dhamar, Kabira Tirvat, Sadara, Khamasa, Lawani, Chaturang, Sargam, Ragmala, Kirtan, Kauwali Katah-Gayan, Bhajan, Ramayan, Gajal, Birha)
Folk Sangs- Nirgun, Bideshiya, Pitam, Lachari, Badhaiya, Pujaiya, Geet, Fauvara, Gari, Ghori, Nahachhu, Nadaamkkad, Alha, Sohar, Chandaini, Nirvah, Lakshan geet, Barahmasa, Mand, Swani
Sahanayi- Bishmilla Khan
Tabala- Ram Sahay, Bhairav Sahay, Kanthe, Beru, Gama, Anokhae, Janki Sahay, Bhairav prasad, Maulavi Ram, Bachcha Mishra, Suraj, Samata Prasad(Godai Maharaj), Kishan, Ishweri(Lallu), Sharda Sahay, Ramji, Chhotae Lal, Maesi, Panchu, Ashutosh Bhattacharya.
Pakhavaj- Madan Mohan, Bhola Nath Pathak, Munnaji, Amernath Mishra, rindavan Das, Ramdev panday, Subodh Babu.
Harmonium- Ganpati Ji, Shyam lal, Harendra, Biru Bhattacharya, Dhruva Ji, Ishwer lal Nepali.
Bansuri- Shyam Lal, Raghunath, Tarak Nath.
Veena- Santu Babu, Lalmani, Gopal
Sitar- Pandit Ravi shanker, Mustak ali, Ashik Ali Khan, Noni Gopal, Moti Lal, Gullu Maharaj, Ram Chakrawerti, Krishna Chakrawerti, ShivNath, Ram Ganguli, Vimal Chatarji, Rajbhan Singh, T.N. Nagar.
Sarod- Jyotin Bhattacharya, Bhola Nath, Rajesh Maitra
Vaylin- N. Rajam, Gopinath swami, Bhagavatji, V.J. Jog.
Sarangi- Sohani Sidha Tamakuji, Chand-suraj, Shambhu Sumer, Birai, Ganesh, Sursahay, Munshi ram, Ashik Ali, Sarju, Siyaji, Maulavi Mishra, Panna Babu, Gopal Mishra, Hanuman, Baijnath, Narayan, Bade Gopal, Bhawani, Ganga prasad, Sikander Ali, Vinayak.
Female Singers- Janki Bai (Chhappan Chhuri), Jeenat, Gulbadan, Sukhbadan, Bhagavati, Menhdi, Badi Maina, Chhoti Maina, Tokhi, Husna, Jaddan, Kaiser, Jwaher, Chanda, Kashi Bai, Shahjanha, Tami, Gauher, Serswati, Rajeshweri, Kamleshweri, Vidyadhari, Sidhaeshweri, Rasulan, Girja, Hira, Ratna, Bageshweri, Naina, Shivkuwer, Badi Moti, Mohani, Mahalka.
Male Singers- Jaikaran Ji, Bade Ramdas, Chotae Ramdas, Kamta, Jwala Prasad, Shivarayan Guru, Harishanker, Mahadev, Amernath, Pashupati Nath, Rajan, Sajan, Chhannu Lal, Jalpa Mishra.
Bangali, Marathi, Gujarati, Shouth Indian- Omkar Nath Thakur, Ramji, Vishnu Digamberji, Pathak ji, Bhawaybua, Hilenker, Bhaiyaji Landay, Somnath Gujerkar, Somnath Bandray, Narayan Fadakae, Madhav Kalvint, Madhavji Spray, Baelsaray, Tambay, Pataeker, Dalmalae, Bhagavatji, Aghor Chakrawerti, Upendra babu, Suren Ganguli, Hari Narayan, Pran Krishna, Rakhal Babu, Santu Babu, Direndra Chakrawerti, Harendra bhattacharya, Subodh babu, Bhola Bhattacharya.
Dance- Jagdeep ji, Ayodhya prasad, Babu Ram, Ahobal Shastri(Mayur Dance), Kalika Prasad(Banaras Walae), Sukhdev Maharaj, Birju Maharaj, Tara, Sitara, Alaknanda, Gopi, Chturbhuj, Ram, Annpurna, Mohan, Madhav, Durgalal, Jayanti mala, Udai Shanker, Chandrashekhar.