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Dagar Tradition

A Brief History of the Dagar Family by Dr. Ritwik Sanyal


Tracing its history back to nineteen generations, we can say that the Gharana took firm roots under the able supervision of Ustad Behram Khan, who went to Jaipur and founded his gurukul. The greatness of his contribution to Dhrupad is admitted on all hands. Ustad Behram’s father was Baba Gopal Das Pandey. So the Dagars are the progeny of Pandey brahmnins.. Gopal Das was ostracized by his fellow brahmins for having chewed a pan offered to him by the then mughal ruler in Delhi, Muhammad Shah Rangile, for his excellent rendition of Dhrupad. Haidar and Behram were his two sons.

Behram was very talented. He became a satsastri as a disciple of Baba Kalidas Paramahansa, who both taught him Sanskrit and trained him in music. Behram Khan spent the best part of his life of 120 years in establishing the purity of the gayaki not known before and in popularizing khayal along with Dhrupad. He was a superb teacher. Among his popular disciples were Alibaksh Fateh ali (Allya-Fattu), Gohki Bai, Kale Khan and Abdullah Khan. His elder brother Ustad Haidar Khan died at a young age. He taught music to his own sons Saddu Khan and Akbar Khan and also to his nephews Mohammed Ali Khan and Mohammed Jan Khan. Gifted with a long life, he also trained his grandson Pt. Enayet Khan and his nephews’ sons Zakiruddin Khan and Allabande Khan. The entire credit for keeping alive and passing down to posterity the pure form of dagarvani goes to him. He passed at Jaipur in 1877.

After his death Ustad Saddu Khan became the chief court musician of Udaipur. And the two sons of Haidar Kahn also became renowned singers. Pandit Enayat, Saddu Khan’s son, qualified as a satsastri and became a great composer and singer.

Mohamed Jan Khan had two illustrious sons, Ustad Zakiruddin Khan and Ustad Allabande Khan. They were under the able guidance of Baba Behram Khan and were popularly known as Ram Lakshman for their excellent jugalbandis. Zakiruddin was the premier court musician of Udaipur and Allabande that of Alwar. The legendary beenkar Ustad Bande Ali Khan was sop impressed by the two brothers’ music that he gave them his two daughters in marrige.Ustad Riazuddin Khan, son of Pt. Enayat Khan was well versed in both theory and practice of music. He had a gifted voice and was also a composer and poet.

Ustad Ziauddin Khan, the only son of Zakiruddin, succeeded his father as the premier court musician of Udaipur. He was both a great singer and skilled beenkar. Because of his unparalleled skill in layakari, he used tobe called dhamarnath. Ustad Allabande Khan had four sons Nasiruddin, Rahimuddin. Imamuddin and Husseinuddin: all of them became Ustads. Ustad Nasiruddin had his talim from Pt Enayat and from his uncle and his father for 20 years. He had a sweet and deep voice and became the court musician of Indore.He died at the age of 75. Ustad Rahimuddin Kahn had an attractive voice and was well versed in Sanskrit and Persian. He was awarded the title of padmabhushan. Ustad Imamuddin Khan had a gifted voice with a wide range and became the court musician of Udaipur. Ustad Husseinuddin, court musician at Alwar, reverted to Hinduism and named himself Tansen Pande. His voice in the mandra sapatak was strikingly perspicuous.

The Dagar tradition lives on. The seven Dagar brothers or cousins and some of their well groomed disciples are carrying the rich heritage quite competently. Ustad Aminuddin Dagar, recipient of Padmabhushana (1986) along with his elder brother the late Nasir Moinuddin Dagar, popularised the dagarvani not only in India but also in the west. Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, the greatest exponent of rudravina in the family, and his younger brother Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar, Director -Dhrupad Kendra- Bhopal, have added to the popularity by their global level concerts and work-hops. No less commendable is the contribution of the other cousins: Ustad Nasir Zaheeruddin, Nasir Fayyazuddin who lived in Delhi and were popularly known as Dagar Brothers (junior) . After 1970, Their efforts topropagate Dhrupad music made agreat change in Dhrupad scenario.

Ustad Fahimuddin Dagar , who is a son of Ustad Rahimuddin Dagar , is a great scholar and performer of Dhrupad music and he is a very well versed in demonstrating the theoretical and practical aspects of Dhrupad. He is said to have a great collection of old Dhrupad composition. Presently he lives in Delhi. Ustad Hussain Saiduddin Dagar , son of Ustad Hussainuddin Dagar lives in Pune is a another great singer in Dagar brothers. His soulful and melodious rendering of Alap and Dhrupad is remarkable.

In young generation there are four musician in Dagar tradition. Mohi Bahauddin Dagar is ( son of Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar ) is a only Rudra Veena player in young generation . He is carrying forward the tradition of his father in true manner. Wasifuddin Dagar (son of Faiyazuddin Dagar)is a very important singer of young generation and he is known for the style which he has adopted from his father and uncle Ustad Zahiruddin Dagar. Aneesuddin and Nafeesuddin Dagar (both son of Ustad Saiduddin Dagar) have started giving performance in Jugalbandi last year and there is a great hope that they will becomea great performers of Dagar tradition.

Musical features of the Dagarvani:

The Dagarvani’s forte is the alap. As we make the myriad tonal patterns in alap and Dhrupad, we directly experience the joy it occasions. It frees us from tension. It relates us to what existentially supports us and surpasses us. As one hears the alap, one glides from here to eternity. The dagarvani alap brings into play each and every note in the raga in all three registers. The vacillations on each note are so subtle, so deep that they become hardly noticeable to the unskilled and untrained ears.

The voice culture of the dagarvani is especially delicate. There is a fluidity in its expository style and a feeling of expansiveness. This is done, in addition to the tone shades, by dividing each tone into several microtones (ananta sruti). The correct use of these microtones take many years of training for the musical ears.

The main art of dagarvani singing lies in the merukhand alap, which is structured on ten finesses (svara-laksana-s) artistically named akar, dagar, dhuran, muran, kampita, andolita, lahak, gamak and sphurti. The akar is a round finesse around each note. The alap begins with its guiding figure-word around the sadja.

After the akar is established, the singer proceeds to weave zigzag patterns of note-permutation. The typical phrases of the raga is woven out: this is called the dagar, which literally means the pathway. The Dagars give the imagery of tracks traversing mountainous areas.

When the singer expounds the sruti-s in a round and ascending order, these make the dhuran. When the round melodic patterns return to a more sounding note in a descending order, the process of recession is called muran. The technique of dhuran-muran is somewhat akin to the gamaks named ullasita and namita as enumerated in Sangita Ratnakara of Sarngadeva. This artistry conforms to the mizarb and java of string-instruments, the rudravina and the rabab.

In been-playing, the tender feelings of the notes are pronounced by plucking the wires on the fret. The vocalists produce this effect on the vocal cord by sensitive modulation called the kampita. When such a modulation is on swinging or wavy nature by the ascent and descent of notes, it is andolita.

In lahak, the Dagars make notes travel in a lashing manner with some breath-force. In gamak, the notes spring with a modulating force and are articulated with rounded lips. In haddock, the articulation is heavy and the notes are pulled upwards with extra breath force creating a hum sound, it resembles the humphita described by Sarnagadeva. In the final phase of the alap the sphurti is performed. This is rendered in a very fast tempo, consisting of several rhythmic variations in the jhala movement.

The playing on Rudravina has isomorphic characteristics enumerated above. In the Dagar tradition, singing and Vina playing have always been together one complementing the other. The singer has borrowed many subtle nuances from been playing and beenakrs have imitated the good qualities of the singer. In fact all good beenkars were well trained singers. Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, who was the only beenkar in the family then, is an excellent vocalist though he does not sing publicly.


1. Dr. Ritwik Sanyal (

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