Bhendi Bazaar – the area ,the gharana , the gayaki

The name Bhendi Bazaar , instantly brings out a picture of rustle – bustle of crowded streets , and rightly so , the area “Bhendi Bazaar” is located close to the Fort area, the commercial center of Bombay (now Mumbai). The locality close to the Fort area was referred to as “Behind the bazaar” by the British, which in local language came to be known as “Bhendi Bazaar”

Three brothers, Chajju Khan, Nazir Khan and Khadim Hussain Khan  had come to settle in Mumbai from Muradabad in Uttar Pradesh. They had trained under their father, Ustad Dilawar Hussain Khan. In order to expand the field of their knowledge, they took training in Dhrupad from Ustad Inayat Khan of the Dagar Parampara. They settled in a then prosperous area of Bombay , located behind the Fort area called ‘Behind the Bazaar’ which later became “Bhendi Bazaar” There they formed their own singing style which came to be widely appreciated and acclaimed. They were called ‘’Bhendi Bazarwalle’’ and the Gharana or Gayaki became the Bhendi Bazar Gharana. The Bhendi Bazar Gharana has a history of over 150 years. It was established around 1870. This Gharana has many an illustrious name to its credit. Anjani Bai Malpekar, Ustad Aman Ali Khan, Pt Shiv Kumar Shukla, Pt T. D Janorikar to name but a few. This Gharana has flourished and enriched our music over time with its unique features and specialties alongside the other well-known Gharanas of Khayal music.

Unique Nuances of Bhendi Bazaar Gayaki include the following prominent characteristics :

* Improvisation of the raga (alap, taan and sargam) based on Khandmer principle, i.e. various combinations of a given set of notes to bring out beauty and melody of the Raga

* Presentation in Madhya laya (medium tempo), and madhyadrut laya (medium fast tempo)

* Inclusion of some melodious ragas of Karnatak Music, such as Hamsdhwani, Nagaswarawali, Pratapwarali. The aakaar sung in an open voice, the prevalence of merkhand (intricate singing of the sargam), and a clear articulation and intonation are the characteristic features of this gharana. Stringent practice of breath control permits the singer to sing a long stretch of the raga without pausing.


In the context of Bhendi Bazaar Gharana, the lineage can be traced to Ustad Dilawar Hussain Khan. His three sons, Ustad Chhajjoo Khan, Ustad Nazeer Khan and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan (the Founders of Bhendi Bazaar Gharana) shifted in the year 1870 from Bijnaur, near Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh to Bombay. Their brother Vilayat Hussain used to stay in an area called “Bhendi Bazaar” . The triumvirate had received training in music, initially from their father, Ustad Dilawar Hussain Khan, and later from Inayat Hussain Khan of Rampur Sahaswan Gharana and from Ustad Inayat Khan of the Dagar Gharana. The three brothers developed their own style and gained reputation as singers from “Bhendi Bazaar” and their style was called “Bhendi Bazaar Gayaki”.They trained under their father Dilawar Hussain Khan, and Inayat Hussain Khan of the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana.


While Hindustani classical music has been dominated by other Gharanas like Kirana Gharana, Agra Gharana and so on, many feel that Bhendi Bazaar Gharana is a forgotten chapter and barely finds a mention in the Indian music scene. Said Suhasini Koratkar, currently one of the oldest members from the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana, based in Pune, “The problem with this Gharana was the death of many of its stalwarts before time. Ustad Aman Ali Khan passed away quite early. The singers from this Gharana were not very much into performing at concerts. They used to teach their pupils and they were happy doing that. They considered that music was for spiritual purposes and not for sale. This is probably one of the reasons why this Gharana did not become so popular. Some of the well known names who recieved talim of Bhendi Bazaar gharana are : Ustad Aman Ali (who specialized in complex sargams without sidelining swara and laya, and taught Lata Mangeshwar, known also as ‘India’s nightingale’), Anjanibai Malpekar (who taught Kishori Amonkar). The Bhendibazaar Gayaki presented a novel approach in presentation of a raga and the impact on listeners and other musicians was so great that many stalwarts of other Gharanas and budding musicians preferred to take training; for example, Ustad Shahmir Khan (father of Ustad Amir Khan), Ustad Amir Khan himself, Ustad Chand Khan, Kader Baksh, Ustad Mamman Khan, Ustad Zande Khan, Lata Mangeshkar, Pandita Kishori Amonkar, Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Begum Akhtar, Naina Devi, Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki, Pt.Vasantrao Deshpande, Asha Bhosale, Mahendra Kapoor, Manna Dey. The current singers of Gharana keeping the tradition alive , are Kedar Bodas and Anuradha Kuber. (This blog was inspired after listening to concerts of these two artists recently)


In an effort to revive interest in this Gharana, Pune based Sudhir Vishwanath Gadre (65) launched a website called Swarmandakini .The website gives a detailed account of the history of the Gharana, its origin, the renowned exponents and pioneers of this gayaki.


About Prasad Bhave

Clinical Scientist / Healthcare Informatics Consultant
This entry was posted in Bhendi Bazaar, Bhendi Bazaar Gharana, Bombay, Classical Music, Hindustani Classical Music, History, History of Bombay, Indian Classical Music and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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