Dhrupad is a genre in Hindustani classical music. It is the oldest form of compositions in classical music and a form that is also found in the South Indian (Carnatic) tradition. It is a Sanskrit name, derived from the words dhruva (immovable, permanent) and pad (verse), a combination that means "pillar". The roots of Dhrupad are ancient, and it is discussed in the Hindu Sanskrit text Natyashastra (~200 BCE - 200 CE). It is also described in other ancient and medieval Sanskrit texts, such as chapter 33 of Book 10 in the Bhagavata Purana (~800-1000 CE), where the theories of music and devotional songs for Krishna are summarized.
The term denotes both the verse form of the poetry and the style in which it is sung. It is spiritual, heroic, thoughtful, virtuous, embedding moral wisdom or solemn form of song-music combination. Thematic matter ranges from the religious and spiritual (mostly in praise of Hindu deities) to royal panegyrics, musicology and romance.
A Dhrupad has at least four stanzas, called Sthayi (or Asthayi), Antara, Sancari and Abhoga. The Sthayi part is a melody that uses the middle octave's first tetrachord and the lower octave notes. The Antara part uses the middle octave's second tetrachord and the higher octave notes. The Samcari part is the development phase, which holistically builds using parts of Sthayi and Antara already played, and it uses melodic material built with all the three octave notes. The Abhoga is the concluding section, that brings the listener back to the familiar starting point of Sthayi, albeit with rhythmic variations, with diminished notes like a gentle goodbye, that are ideally mathematical fractions such as dagun (half), tigun (third) or caugun (fourth). Sometimes a fifth stanza called Bhoga is included. Though usually related to philosophical or Bhakti (emotional devotion to a god or goddess) themes, some Dhrupads were composed to praise kings.
Dhrupad (or Dhruvapad) is an ancient form of classical music and it is described in the Hindu text Natyashastra. It is one of the core forms of classical music found all over the Indian subcontinent. The word comes from Dhruva which means immovable and permanent. It is spiritual, heroic, thoughtful, virtuous, embedding moral wisdom or solemn form of song-music combination.
The Yugala Shataka of Shri Shribhatta in the Nimbarka Sampradaya, written in 1294 CE, contains Dhrupad lyrics. The Bhakti saint and poet-musician Swami Haridas (also in the Nimbarka Sampradaya), was a well known dhrupad singer with songs dedicated to Krishna. Swami Haridas was the guru of Tansen, the latter is famous, among other things, for his Dhrupad compositions.
The earliest mention in Persian texts of Dhrupad is in Ain-i-Akbari of Abu Fazl (1593). He defines the dhrupad verse form in his Ain-e-Akbari as four rhyming lines, each of indefinite prosodic length.
Dhrupad is ancient, and another genre of music called Khyal evolved from it. Dhrupad is solemn music, uplifting and heroic, pure and spiritual. Khyal adds ornamental notes, shorter, moody and celebratory.
Dhrupad as we know it today is performed by a solo singer or a small number of singers in unison to the beat of the pakhavaj or mridang rather than the tabla. The vocalist is usually accompanied by two tanpuras, the players sitting close behind, with the percussionist at the right of the vocalist. Traditionally the primary instrument used for dhrupad has been the Rudra Veena, but the surbahar and the sursringar have also long been used for this music. Preferably, any instrument used for dhrupad should have a deep bass register and long sustain.
Like all Indian classical music, dhrupad is modal and monophonic, with a single melodic line and no chord progression. Each raga has a modal frame - a wealth of micro-tonal ornamentations (gamak) are typical.
The text is preceded by a wholly improvised section, the alap. The alap in dhrupad is sung using a set of syllables, popularly thought to be derived from a mantra, in a recurrent, set pattern: a re ne na, té te re ne na, ri re re ne na, te ne toom ne (this last group is used in the end of a long phrase). Dhrupad styles have long elaborate alaps, their slow and deliberate melodic development gradually bringing an accelerating rhythmic pulse. In most styles of dhrupad singing it can easily last an hour, broadly subdivided into the alap proper (unmetered), the jor (with steady rhythm) and the jhala (accelerating strumming) or nomtom, when syllables are sung at a very rapid pace. Then the composition is sung to the rhythmic accompaniment: the four lines, in serial order, are termed sthayi, antara, sanchari and aabhog.
Compositions exist in the metres (tala) tivra (7 beats), sul (10 beats) and chau (12 beats) - a composition set to the 10-beat jhap tala is called a sadra while one set to the 14-beat dhamar is called a dhamar. The latter is seen as a lighter musical form, associated with the Holi spring festival.
Alongside concert performance the practice of singing dhrupad in temples continues, though only a small number of recordings have been made. It bears little resemblance to concert dhrupad: there is very little or no alap; percussion such as bells and finger cymbals, not used in the classical setting, are used here, and the drum used is a smaller, older variant called mrdang, quite similar to the mridangam.
There are said to be four broad stylistic variants (vanis or banis) of classical dhrupad - the Gauri (Gauhar), Khandar, Nauhar, and Dagar, tentatively linked to five singing styles (geetis) known from the 7th Century: Shuddha, Bhinna, Gauri, Vegswara, and Sadharani. But more importantly, there are a number of dhrupad gharanas: "houses", or family styles. The best-known gharana is the Dagar family  who sing in the Dagar vani or Dagar gharana. The Dagar style puts great emphasis on alap and for several generations their singers have performed in pairs (often pairs of brothers). The Dagars are Muslims but sing Hindu texts of Gods and Goddesses. Some of the best dhrupad singers outside the Dagar family, such as Uday Bhawalkar, Ritwik Sanyal, Nirmalya Dey and the Gundecha Brothers, also belong to the Dagar vani, as does instrumentalist Pushparaj Koshti, who plays the surbahar. The Bishnupur gharana features Manilal Nag, among others.
From the state of Bihar come the Darbhanga Gharana and the Bettiah gharana. The Malliks of the Darbhanga gharana are linked to the Khandar vani and Gauharvani. Ram Chatur Mallik, Vidur Mallick, and Siyaram Tiwari were well known exponents of Darbhanga gharana in the last century. Dhrupad of the Darbhanga gharana has a strong representation in Vrindaban owing to late Pandit Vidur Mallik, who lived and taught in Vrindaban during the 1980s and 1990s.  The Mishras practise both Nauhar and Khandar styles with some unique techniques for nomtom alap. This gharana flourished under the patronage of the kings of Bettiah Raj. The most famous exponents of the Bettiah gharana today are Indrakishore Mishra and Falguni Mitra. The form of dhrupad prevalent in Darbhanga and Bettiah is known as the Haveli style. In Pakistan, dhrupad is represented by the Talwandi gharana, who sing in the Khandar style.