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the Dhrupad maestro, Guru, musicologist all rolled into one ….


Ashish Sankrityayan is a dhrupad exponent and since 2011 has worked as the guru and director of the Dhrupad Kendra, Bhopal – an institution of the Madhya Pradesh Government established in 1981 to give training in the traditional guru-shishya system of apprenticeship to aspiring dhrupad singers. As an exponent of the Dagar Tradition of Dhrupad, Ashish S has trained for twenty years under three maestros of the Dagar family and is well known for his frequent concert appearances and teaching. Ashish S started his musical training at an early age, first learning the sitar and subsequently vocal music. While studying mathematics at the University of Bombay he was inspired to take up Dhrupad when he heard a recording of the senior Dagar brothers Nasir

Moinuddin and Nasir Aminuddin Dagar, and met Rudra Veena maestro Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar.

He later trained under several maestros of the Dagar family Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar, Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar and Ustad Hussain Sayeedudddin Dagar for twenty years and was awarded the National Junior Culture Fellowship by the Indian National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama (the Sangeet Natak Akademi). Ashish has given numerous public performances of

Dhrupad in India, Europe and the U.S. and has given lectures and workshops in institutions like the Anton Bruckner University in Linz, The Free University of Berlin, Hochschule Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin, Hildesheim University, University of Copenhagen. He often performs with medieval, renaissance and contemporary music as also with dance choreography. 


Ashish Sankrityayan’s as the Guru and chair of the Dhrupad Kendra in Bhopal, is trying to revive the tradition among the youngsters who are keen to learn from him. Those who pursue Dhrupad as a degree in Music will now be able to get their Bachelor’s degree in Dhrupad from Bhopal University, to which the Dhrupad Kendra in Bhopal is affiliated, due to Ashishji’s endeavours finally. Ahish S’s travels throughout the country in search of his disciples has not been a waste. In the age of post-modern music and fusion culture, he has young aspirants and talents training under his dedicated guidance from numerous parts of India and abroad. Someone who has seen Ashishji perform, will know, that singing dhrupad the way he does, using the prana yoga, is a secret-sacred knowledge which goes back to the rich ages of the past, and which needs to be revived, and passed on, before it is lost forever to the world. There are many dhrupad singers, but very few do follow or know this secret art of dhrupad singing involving the practice

of prana yoga.

Here’s a clip from his recent performance in Switzerland, where he also speaks briefly about his art of dhrupad singing. But one needs to experience his performance in person, to understand the musician-guru’s dedication to his art and feel the waves of baritone swirls with his prana, which connects you to the sublime and transcendental plane of peace and ecstasy.

As a musicologist Ashish ji has been researching on Dhrupad and its roots for the last thirty years. The volume undoubtedly will be an asset to the libraries at home and abroad. 

Dhrupad of the Dagars, Conceptual Foundations and Contemporary Questions, deals with the history of the tradition of the Behram Khanis – the Dagars, and the conceptual foundations of their art, within the overall context of Indian music and of the vast changes in the environment and the system of patronage that came about in the last few centuries. It deals at length with the traditional pedagogical system of the Dagars, and also the new models of teaching of the genre. It establishes through the documented teachings and explanations of the various Dagars, and in particular of Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar – reportedly the last storehouse of knowledge of the tradition, that dhrupad is the culmination of a long process of development from the vedic chants and differs in a fundamental sense from the forms that developed later in the very conception of a note, of tonal relations and of raga. It writes that the conception of rāga of the Dagars is based on the older system of śruti, grāmas and mūrcchanās. The concomitant use of a system of sound and resonance through what are called the vedic svaras udātta, anudātta and svarita, got supplanted by the new thāṭa or mela system based on twelve notes around the seventeenth century, with the older system surviving as esoteric knowledge within a few traditions.

In the context of the music of the Dagars, the book also touches on various Sanskrit and vernacular texts on music over the ages, on traditions like that of the Senis, of Vishnupur, Betiah, Darbhanga, Jaipur-Atrauli and others, and on the work of many musicians and musicologists – Rahimsen, Amritsen, Behram Khan, Bande Ali Khan, Inayat Khan, Zakiruddin and Allabande Khan, Musharaf Khan, Alladiya Khan, Wazir Khan, Kudao Singh, Nana Panse, Ziauddin Khan, Nasiruddin Khan, Vishwanath Rao, Radhika Prasad Goswami, Chandan Choubey, Ramprasanna and Gopeshwar Bandopadhyay, Birendra Kishore Roychowdhury, Dabir Khan, V. N. Bhatkhande, Ernest Clements, K. B. Deval, Alain Danielou, Dhurjatiprasad Mukhopadhyay and many others. The book analyzes and quotes from many contemporary accounts, newspaper reports and reviews as also the reports of the various conferences of the pre-Independence era – the All-India, the Allahabad University, the All-Bengal, the Music Academy Madras conferences, to analyze the practice and performance of dhrupad in the changing environment. It also looks at the phenomenon starting from the 1960's of genres like dhrupad finding niche audiences worldwide, and tries to arrive at an understanding of the state of dhrupad and of the Dagar tradition today.


As Ashish S writes on the blurb of the book to be published soon, his main aim in this research has been,


“to give a comprehensive account of the knowledge and insights into dhrupad and Indian music, that I got from my teachers of the Behram Khani Dagar tradition, from my own research, and from the whole process of using this in performance and teaching over the last three decades. The book has several parallel narratives – musicological, historical, and anecdotal, as also one through pictures, which serve the purpose of giving faces to the names of many of the musicians, whose music and lives have been dwelt upon here. While assuming a certain basic familiarity with Indian music, the book does not require any prior knowledge of music theory, barring a familiarity with the most elementary of concepts – of notes, scales, and melody. Every term or concept has been briefly explained where it first occurs in the book. Media files have been referred to by their reference numbers in the archives of the Dhrupad Anjali Kala Sansthan.”

Here is an Excerpt from his forthcoming book: Click Here

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