:: Rich Heritage of Dhrupad Sangeet in Pushtimarg::

Chapter 4: Introduction to Dhrupad Dhammar Style of Composition and Tradition in Pushtimarg

The Stand of Dhrupad Sangeet in Indian Classical Music

The Dhrupad composition style in Indian classical music, progressed a lot in 15th century. There are basically two reasons for the progress of this style since this style was widely accepted in all the vaishnav sampradayas, this style was very well preserved in vaishnav temples.

This style was also widely appraised by Royal families and kings. From A.D. 1486 to A.D. 1518, the king Mansingh of Gwalior, in madhyapradesh, with the help of Rakshu, Bhame and Baiju made a lot of progress in the Dhrupad style. Many talented musicians were encouraged by the state and began to take an interest in singing Dhrupad. Even the famous singer in the court of Akbar, Tansen, was a keen follower of the style.

Definition of Dhrupad Style of Composition

Famous musician Shree Bhav Bhatt Pandit, in his work “Anup Sangeet Ratnakar”, has defined the “Dhrupad i.e Dhruv-pad” as the style of singing the divine sports of Purusha in which shrungar Rasa is there in Sanskrit, or in other languages, and it is sung in Ragas with Alapchari. The first stanza of Dhrupad composition is sung after every other stanza of the composition. It is than known as “Dhrupad Dhammar”. In Dhrupad, the kirtans are sung in 4 differernt ways.

  • Sthaayi
  • Antara
  • Sanchari
  • Aabhog

Generally the pada in Dhrupad is composed of 2 kadis i.e. 4 stanzas. The first stanza is sung in Sthaayi, second stanza in Antara, third in Sanchari and forth in Aabhog. This sangeet is also known as “Mardani Sangeet” or “Jordaar Gaayan”. Two important aspects are a must to sing Dhrupad sangeet

(1) Best knowledge of swargyan

(2) Best knowledge of Raga

At the beginning of each performance, Alapchari is done and then the kirtan is sung.

Fourbranches of Dhrupad sangeet are famous:

    • Gobarhani Baani - according to Krishna mat.
    • Nauhaari baani - according to Shankar mat
    • Daaguri baani - according to Bharat mat
    • Khandaari baani - according to Hanumat mat

Amongst these four Banis, the “Gobarhaani Bani” is accepted in pushtimarg. The root of the word “Gobarhaani” is from “Gobar’ i.e. cow’s dung. “Gobar” is regarded as very pure in Hindu Culture. Vrajbhaktas use to make (Mountains) from “Gobar” and use do poojan and sing the songs of praises and thus, this style of singing came into existence.

In Dhrupad sangeet, approximately 36 ragas are accepted as important. They are sung in various different taals. Taal is the division of time through which the tempo of music is controlled. Taals like Chautaal, Dhamaartaal, Ada chautal, Charchari taal etc are used.

In 18th century, people’s interest in music began to change. Different types of music came into vogue and Dhrupad style came to the verge of extinction. Fortuntly, the havlies of Pushti marg preserved the ancient style and even now, Dhrupad is sung in the Pushtimargiya havelies.

The Tradition of Dhrupad Sangeet in Pushtimarg

In the 13 th century, in accordance with the wishes of Shreenathji, Shree Mahaprabhu Shree Vallabhcharyaji installed the physical swaroop of the Lord Shreenathji at Shree Govardhan Mountain in a small temple. At that time, Shree Kumbhandasji, a devotee who was also a poet, used to live at the Jamunavata village near the mount Govardhan. During a darshan of Shreenathji, Kumbhandasji experienced all the leelas of the Lord Shree Krishna, as performed in the Saraswatkalp. Shree Mahaprabhuji instructed him to sing kirtans before the Lord.

So the first kirtan of Pushti Marg was sung by Shree Kumbhandasji in the presence of Shreenathji, at dawn, in Bilaval Raga and Dhammar Taal. Kirtan sung had the bhav of a Khandita – spurned lover, as mentioned below:

1st Stanza - “Sanjh ke sanche bol tihaare” - Sthaayi

2 nd Stanza- “Rajani anat jaage Nandnaadana, aaye nipat savaare” ||1 Kadi|| - Antara

3 rd Stanza- “Aatur bhaye neel pat odhe, peere basan bisaare” – Sanchari

4 th Stanza-“Kumbhandas Prabhu, Govardhandhar, bhale ju bachan pratipaare” ||2 Kadi|| - Aabhog

This kirtan is known as Khandita Kirtan. Shree Mahaprabhuji and Shreenathji became pleased with Kumbhandasji’s seva.

After Shree Kumbhandasji, other poet bhaktas were established at the Haveli.

(1) Shree Surdaji, who in the first meeting with Shree Vallabhacharya, sung a very famous Kirtan describing the birth of Lord Shree Krishna in Saraswat kalap and it is still sung when bathing the Lord with Panchamrut at Janmashtami. “Vraj bhayo Mahar ke put…”

(2) Shree Paramananddasji, was also very famous kirtankaar and composed “Paramanand Sagar”, a collection of the padas composed by him.

(3) Shree Krishnadasji ,was a Patel from Gujarat. He was also a great Kirtankaar. He learned to play the Veena while performing the kirtan seva of Shreenathji.

(4) Kumbhandasji, as mentioned above, he was the first vaishnav to be appointed as a poet / singer in the divine court of Shree Govardhannathji.  

The above four sevaks of Shree Mahaprabhuji were the great poet bhaktas and did the kirtan seva for Shreenathji and sang the kirtans in Dhrupad style. They used Tanpura, Mrudang, Jhanj and Veena during their musical seva.

During the period of Shree Mahaprabhuji, the daily routine of kirtan seva was very simple. After the construction of new temple of Shreenathji, paid for by Puranmal Kshyatriya, Shreenathji the seva became more elaborate and more temple servants were employed.

After Shree Mahaprabhuji, when Shree Gusaiji Shree Vitthalnathji i.e. Younger son of Shree Mahaprabhuji became the Acharya, Shree Gusaiji expanded the three aesthetics of seva i.e. Raag, Bhog and Shrungar. At that time, Shree Gusaiji also increased the seva prakaar in Raag, Bhog and Shrungar of Shreenathji. Shree Gusaiji himself was expert in playing Veena.

Shree Gusaiji set up the complete daily and utsav seva and kirtan schedule of Shreenathji for Eight Prahars. For that he appointed eight poet bhaktas known as “Ashta Chaap” for the seva of Shreenathji. Amongst the eight poet bhaktas, Five poet bhaktas were the sevaks of Shree Mahaprabhuji i.e. Shree Kumbhandasji, Shree Surdasji, Shree Paramananddasji, Shree Krishnadasji and Shree Vishnudas Chippa and other 3 were the sevaks of Shree Gusaiji i.e. Shree Govindswami, Shree Chaturbhujdasji and Shree Chittaswami.

After some years, the composer of “Shree Ramcharit Manas” Shree Tulsidasji’s cousin brother Shree Nanddasji became the sevak of Shree Gusaiji. Due to the old age of Vishnudas Chippa, he requested other form of seva which wold be less strenuous for him. Shree Gusaiji appointed him as a watchman of the haveli at Gokul. Shree Nanddasji was then substituted in place of Shree Vishnudas Chippa. Thus finally the Ashtachaap Mandal was formalized by Shree Gusaiji in A.D. 1602. 

Shree Gusaiji also gave the agya to some of the non-pushtimargiya vaishnavs to do kirtans before Shreenathji. Bhaktas like Shree Haridasji and Shree Vyasdasji from Vrindavan were some of them.

Progress of Dhrupad Sangeet in Pushtimarg

The famous performer of Kirtans and Scholar of Dhrupad Sangeet Shree Champakbhai Nayak has divided the tradition of Dhrupad Sangeet into 3 eras.

  • A.D 1500 - 1650
  • A.D. 1651 – 1800
  • A.D. 1801 – 1950

The starting phase includes poet bhaktas like Shree Kumbhandasji etc. who were the sevaks of Shree Mahaprabhuji. Next phase included the kirtankaars who were the sevaks of Shree Gusaiji i.e. Shree Govindswami etc. This phase includes the period of Shree Gokulnathji too, an active supporter of Dhrupad Sangeet.

The second phase includes Shree Hariraiji, encouraged kirtans and he himself also composed many kirtans in Vraj language and other languages for Shreenathji. Shree Hariraiji was a scholar and a great poet too. In the same period, Shree Dwarkeshji Bhavnaware also composed several kirtans and uplifted the Dhrupad Sangeet. Shree Vrajdhishji also composed many kirtans which could attain the position in the Pushtimargiya Kirtan Routine. The Kirtans composed upto this era were included in the Kirtan Pranalika of Pushtimarg.

In the last and third era, the nation and pushtimarg experienced a little change in the Dhrupad Sangeet. Influsenced by other forms of classical music,especially Khayaal. Today, modern kirtankaars sings with the mixer of Khayaal music in it.

When Shree Govardhaneshji became the Tilakayat, at that time most of the swaroopas of Pushtimarg migrated from Vraja to different parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat. As a result, different kirtankaars got distributed to several different parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Three different regional Styles have emerged in pushtimarg for kirtans:

  • Nathdwara and Kankroli tradition
  • Gokul, Mathura, Kamvan, Kashi tradition
  • Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Jamnagar, Junagadh and Porbandar tradition

The period after A.D. 1950 can be called as modern period for Dhrupad Sangeet. In the last 40 years, the kirtan tradition of Pushtimarg has changed a lot. Experts in Dhrupad Sangeet have become fewer and far between. When Dhrupad Sangeet seemed all but extinct due to lack of musicians, the well known kirtankaar and music maestro Shree Vitthaldas Bapodara came forward and started a revolution to rejuvenate the Sangeet. He started the initiative to teach the Dhrupad Sangee to youngsters and thereby preserved the rich tradition of Dhrupad Tradition. He started the learning centres at various different places across India and in amongst the foreign lands where the diaspora has settled. He conducted short kirtan classes all over the world. Along with Shree Vitthaldas Bapodara, other kirtankaars of Pushtimarg like Shree Madhusudan Khambhodaja, Shree Ghanshyambhai Champaklal Nayak from Ahmedabad, Shree Jamnaprasad Sharma from Mumbai etc took participation in this process and started teaching the Dhrupad Sangeet.

Today, several Goswami Acharyas of Pushtimarg has also attained excellence in Dhrupad Sangeet. The Goswami Acharyas like Goswami Shree Gokulotsavji (Nathdwara-Indore), Goswami Shree Rasikraiji (Mathura-Porbandar), Goswami Shree Kalyanraiji ( Surat), Goswami Shree Vrajeshkumarji (Kankroli-Baroda) and other Goswami Acharyas has attained excellence in Dhrupad Sangeet.

Kirtan Literature of Pushtimarg

In the rich tradition of Pushtimarg of about 525 years, we have a huge collection of Kirtanas/Padas. The Ashta Sakha i.e. 8 poet Bhaktas of Shree Vallabhacharyaji and Shree Gusaiji composed numerous padas and sung them in various Ragas. Even Shree Gusaiji composed kirtans in Sanskrit.

Shree Kumbhandasji composed about 400 padas.
Shree Surdasji composed 125,000 padas but only 5000 have survived to present date.
Shree Krishnadasji composed 1200 padas.
Shree Paramananddasji composed 2000 padas.
Shree Govindswami’s 400 padas.
Shree Chittaswami’s 200 padas.
Shree Chaturbhujdasji’s 200 padas.
Shree Nanddasji’s wrote 300 padas, included in the Kirtan pranalika.

The Kirtan Literature is mainly classified into two parts:

  • The padas describing the divine sports of Lord Shree Krishna i.e. Bhagwad Leela padas
  • The padas describing the Mahatmya i.e. greatness of Lord.

Poet Bhaktas other then ‘Ashtachaap’ kirtaniyas

Gadadhar Misra




Kishnajeevan Lacchiram


Gopaldas (Vallabhakyaan)

Laghu Gopal

Gangabai (Shree Vitthal Giridharan)

Jaganaath Kavirai

Tulsidas Jalharia

Thirdas (Shree Damodasdas Harsaniji)




Dhondhi (Muslim)













Bhagwan Hit






Vichitra Bihari

Hit Harivanshji

Harivansh Swami

Vitthal Vipin





The Acharyas who composed the kirtans

Shree Gusaiji

Shree Gokulnathji

Shree Raghunathji

Shree Ghanshyamji

Shree Hariraiji

Shree Dwarkeshji

Shree Kalyanraiji

Shree Vrajbhushanji

Shree Dwarkeshji

Shree Vrajpatiji

Present Goswami balaks who are the composers

Shree Rasikraiji

Shree Gokulnathji

Shree Kalyanraiji

Shree Shyam Manoharji

Shree Purushottamji (Pankaj Bawa)

Shree Yogeshkumarji

Shree Vagishkumarji