Gharanas of Tabla

Before starting a discussion about this topic, it is necessary to understand the phrase- Gharana. It can also be called a lineage or tradition. Just as a descendant takes over the form of a family, in the same way when a Playing-Style, Guru-Shishya (Teacher-Disciple) Tradition grows it forms a Gharana.
A total of six Gharanas of Tabla were recognized in Indian Music - Delhi Gharana, Ajrada Gharana, Lucknow Gharana, Farukhabad Gharana, Banaras Gharana, and Punjab Gharana. All of these Gharanas have their own playing style(in some manner), lessons, and execution of Bols. Let us discuss the Origin, Development, and Characteristics of these Gharanas along with a composition as an example.

Delhi Gharana

The foundation stone of this Gharana was laid by Ustad Siddhar Khan "Dhadhi". The name of his pupils, U. Roshan Khan, U. Kallu Khan, U. Tullon Khan, and three sons U.Bugra Khan, U. Ghasita Khan, and his third son (whose name is not mentioned in records) well-known to take this Guru-disciple tradition forward. This third son of U. Siddhar Khan Dhadhi had three sons – U. Makku Khan, U. Modu Khan, and U. Bakhshu Khan. Who had played a very important role in the history of Delhi Gharana. U. Nathu Khan, U. Kale Khan, U. Boli Baksh, U.Gami Khan, U. Inam Ali, U. Latif Ahmed Khan, U. Anthony Das, U. Gurpreet Singh, etc. .. Many qualified tabla players, this Gharana has given.

In Delhi Gharana First and Middle Finger has a very important role in Playing that is why it is also known as ‘Kinar Ka Baaj’. Peshkar, Kayda, and Rela are mostly used. Most of the compositions of this Gharana are in ‘Chatrsat Jati’. This Gharana is ideal for Solo Performance.

Vadan Shaili / Playing Style:

  • Delhi Gharana performers use Kinaar prominently. That's one of the reasons why they have limitations with the tabla phrases.
  • Peshkar, Kayda, Rela, Mukhda-Mohra, Tukda are used. There is less use of Paran, Chakardars, etc.
  • Most of the compositions are in Chatursat Jati. But still, they introduced a very different and attractive element in solo tabla technique - Deodi aka Devdi. They start the kaida in ekgun laya, then transform it in Devdi or 1.5 laya speed and then they start 2X speed.
  • This Gharana is well known for their Solo Performances but they have limitations when accompanying someone. They have to borrow other Gharana phrases.
  • As It is referred to as "Do Ungli Ka Baaj" most of the compositions can be executed with Index and Middle Finger only, Later they started using ring finger also.


Dhati Dhage Nadha Titkit Dhati Dhage Tina Kina
Tati Take Nata Titkit Dhati Dhage Dhina Gina

Ajrada Gharana

There is a Village named Ajrada in the state of Meerut. There were two brothers Kallu Khan and Meeru Khan. They learned Tabla from U. Sitaab Khan in Delhi and went back to their hometown Ajrada. Where they thought of many disciples and with their untiring efforts and innovation to rhythm and compositions, they finally laid the foundation of a new Gharana and named ‘’Ajrada Gharana’’. U. Shammu Khan, U. Chand khan, U. Kale Khan, U. Habibuddin Khan, U. Manju Khan, U. Hashmat Khan, U. Akram Khan, etc. ... are the prominent and well-known masters of this Gharana.

The characteristic of Ajrada Gharana is the use of Adi Laya which makes it more difficult to improvise and execute the compositions. The phrases of this Gharana are mostly played in adi or devadi laya and faster in speed than Delhi Gharana compositions, which makes a big difference in their repertoire. Ajrada Gharana is suitable for both solo and accompaniment.

Vadan Shaili / Playing Style:

  • The immense use of Trisat Jati allows them to play much faster than their root style - Delhi Gharana.
  • Compositions are meant to be played at Sulaf Ki Laya or at a high speed.
  • Use of Meend element on the bass drum or Dagga.
  • They started the use of ring fingers in their performances. Which helps them to produce much faster and complex compositions.
  • This style is well-known for their Solo-Performances. With dance also now a days they started performing by borrowing ideas from lucknow gharana.


DhaS Ghetak DhinDhi NaGina DhaTit Ghetak TinTi NaKina
TaS Ketak TinTi NaKina DhaTit Ghetak DhinDhi NaGina

Lucknow Gharana

This Gharana is a sub-branch of Delhi Gharana. At that time, at the invitation of Nawab of Lucknow U.Modu Khan and U.Bakshu Khan of Delhi Gharana was sent to Lucknow, Where Their playing style got influenced by the musical and social environment of this region and affects their style. After that, they laid the foundation stone of a new Gharana and named - ‘Lucknow Gharana’ with their efforts and hard work.  U. Mohammad Khan, U. Abid Hussain, U. Wajid Hussain, U. Afaq Hussain, Pt. Hirendra Ganguly, etc. .. are in the elite cast and masters of this Gharana.

Dance had influenced the culture of Lucknow from the beginning, which directly affects the performance of tabla masters. Their playing style then becomes stronger, swift, and energetic by the accompaniment of the dance. They use both Kinaar and Syahi, mostly in their compositions.

Vadan Shaili / Playing Style:

  • Immense use of Syahi and Maidan area.
  • Their playing style is vibrant and strong.
  • Kaida compositions in Lucknow Gharana are comparatively longer than Delhi and Ajrada Gharana.
  • Layakari Tukde, Farad, Chakardar, Paran, Rau, etc. are used prominently.
  • They have a good influence of Punjab Gharana also as U. Modu Khan got married to a girl from Punjab who was a daughter of a Tabla Master. he got 500 gats as a Gift from his father-in-law. Which they still play with the Title "Dahej gat".
  • They have a very dominant playing in all sections - accompaniment and as well as Solo.


DhinGin TakDhin Nanakit DhinGin TakDhin Nanakit TakDhin Nanakit
DhinGin TakDhin Nanakit DhinGin DhinGin TakDhin Nanakit TinKina
TinKin TakTin Nanakit TinKin TakTin Nanakit TakTin Nanakit
DhinGin TakDhin Nanakit DhinGin DhinGin TakDhin Nanakit DhinGin

Note: Tabla Gharana are also known as School of Tabla.

Farukhabad Gharana

This Gharana came into existence a bit later when U. Bakshu Khan married his daughter to a residence of Farukhabad named Haji Vilayat Ali. He taught him higher education of tabla. After learning and practicing for years he then introduced a new style in Tabla and announced Farukhbad as a new Tabla Gharana. He trained many disciples which empowered his Gharana. U. Imam Baksh, U. Hussein Ali Khan, U.Salari Khan, U. Munir Khan, U. Ahmed Jan Thirakwa, U. Amir Hussain, U. Karamat Ullah, U. Maseet Khan, U. Sabir Khan, etc. These are the most prominent masters of the Gharana.

Their compositions have a sense of Lucknow Gharana style as it is the branch of Lucknow. Apart from this, gat, rau, and chhands are also used in this Gharana.

Vadan Shaili / Playing Style:

  • They have a very strong playing style. without showing any impact of any other playing style on their performance. They tried to make it unique.
  • This Gharana has a vast and unique variety of Rela-Rau compositions.
  • The playing style is well-known for both Solo and accompaniment.
  • The very famous Peshkar starting with "DhinS Krdhina" got famous and associated with U. Ahmed Jaan Thirakwa Sahab, aka Mount Everest of Tabla.


DhaTitkitDha GhenaDhage TinaSDha GhenaDhage
Tinakina DhaTitkitDha GhenaDhage Tinakina
TaTitkitTa KenaTake TinaSDha GhenaDhage
Tinakina DhaTitkitDha GhenaDhage Dhinagina

Banaras Gharana

The first tabla player of this Gharana is Pandit Ram Sahai, who got his education in Tabla from U. Modu Khan of Lucknow, and with his efforts and creative capabilities, he laid the foundation stone of Banaras Gharana. His son Pt. Bhairav Sahai and grandson Pt. Baldev Sahai and Great Grand Son Pt. Durga Sahai all carry forward his lineage and give good recognization to Banaras Gharana. Pandit Kanthe Maharaj, Pt. Kishan Maharaj, Pt Anokhe Lal, Pt. Bikku Ji, Pt Samta Prasad Ji, etc. are the prominent Masters and well-known figures of this Gharana.

This Gharana is more famous for its accompaniment style as they are too good with Laggi, Ladi, parn, rela, chakradar, bant, and chhand. This Gharana is the highest in terms of Thumri, Dance, and Solo-Playing.

Vadan Shaili / Playing Style:

  • Immense use of Maidan area. Mostly they play with maidan and syahi.
  • They use than, Gat, Paran, Mukhda, Mohra, Tukda, Chhand, etc.
  • They use Aamad at the start which they explain as Alaap, as other gharanas play Peshkar.
  • They have an impact of dance, nakkara, tasha, dukkad on their syllabus and playing style as well.
  • A very special and unique way to use bayan bass sound effects.
  • This style is well-known for both solo and accompaniment.


DhageTit TageTit KrdhaSKr dhaSKittak DiSDiS Nananana KatitDha SKaST
DhaSKat DhaKatit DhaSKaS TdhaSKat DhaSKati tdhaSDha SKaST DhaSKat

Punjab Gharana

This Gharana is different from all other gharanas and its playstyle seems to have developed independently. The foundation stone of this Gharana was laid by Ustad Faqir Baqsh then carry forwarded by U. Karm ilahi, U. Mallan Khan, U. Kadir Baksh, U. Allahrakha, and their son U. Zakir Hussain who are the greatest names in the history of Tabla. The playing style of Punjab Gharana is slightly different as they have a huge impact on Pakhawaj. Their playing style is vibrant, power-packed, and energetic.

Vadan Shaili / Playing Style:

  • They have a strong tonal quality due to the impact of the pakhawaj instrument.
  • They started dividing beats into quarters, half, or three quarters. like - 9 ¼  beat, 9 ½ beats, and 9 ¾ beats.
  • Punjab is very rich in its syllabus. they have a large variety and collection of the syllabus.
  • The use of bayan and tabla tonal is also a specialty of this Gharana.
  • This Gharana is well-known for both Solo and Accompaniment.


Dhage Tit Tage Tit Dhage Titkit Tikta Titkit
DhaS Titkit Tikta Titkit DhaS Titkit Tikta Titkit


All the above Gharanas are best in their knowledge and work in their field - Tabla. But they always differ in some manners, like - Syllabus, Compositions, Playing Style, Development of Bols, Etc.

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