Tabla Gharanas in Indian classical music

Not just an instrument, tabla is a legacy of Indian classical instruments

Supporting the rich, royal, and illustrated tradition of Indian classical music and dance is the vast repertoire of Indian classical instruments. Compliment every aspect of the classical Indian art, these instruments, just like music and dance has been part of the Indian tradition since the inception.

While we do see people using instruments like tabla, sarangi, bansuri, and harmonium, among others on stage enhancing the classical renditions. These classical instruments have been part of Indian celebrations, be it a wedding or a get-together, adding the zest and glamour. However, it is tabla that has gained prominence in the global market, thanks to table maestro Zakhir Hussain.

And just like there are different schools, aka gharanas, for classical music and dance, there are famous tabla gharanas as well.

Founded by Miru Khan and Kallu Khan, disciples of Sitab Khan of the Delhi gharana, at the Ajrara village, in Uttar Pradesh in the nineteenth century, Ajrara gharana is today weakly presented on the world stage. The unique factor and distinctiveness of this Gharana is the use of complicated Bol patterns and Meend than the Delhi gharana. Also, this gharana is known for applying the use of third finger playing on Siyahi (the black dot in the center of the table).

Benares gharana
A little over 200 years old, this gharana was founded by Pandit Ram Sahai. After learning under Modhu Khan of the Lucknow gharana, Sahai felt the urge to bring a significant change in his tabla playing style. And what he developed is now known as the Benares baj or style of tabla playing.

His style of playing is versatile for one to perform solo, and at the same time accompany any form of music or dance. Sahani went on to compose numerous compositions within existing compositional forms and even created new forms, such as uthan, Benarasi theka, and fard.

Delhi Gharana
Founded in the early 18th century by Mia Siddhar Khan Dhadi, sometimes also referred to as the inventor of the table, it is the oldest table gharanas and the first to have established the improvisation rules. The Delhi gharana tabla temperament and style of playing is generally soft and esoteric.

Farrukhabad Gharana
Deriving its name from Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh, this gharana was created in the 11th Century and is one of the oldest and among the six prominent playing styles of North Indian table in Hindustani classical music. It is characterized by extensive use of resonant strokes played on the sur of the daya.

These lesser-known table gharanas are gems that needs to be restored and cherished.

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