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Music of Uttar Pradesh


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Music of Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh has a time honoured tradition of dance and music forms. Its vast geographical extent has enabled a variety of classical, semi-classical, folk and rural forms of music and dance to flourish equally. Added to this is its rich history as the centre of the Mughal Empire’s connection to art, music and dance and the result is a vibrant mix of the pure and vivacious that is enjoyed by people of the sub-continent as well as overseas. The famous Bhatkande School of Music is located in Lucknow.

Hindustani Classical Music Uttar Pradesh

Swami HaridasThe doyen of classical music, Swami Haridas came from Uttar Pradesh; his mastery and fame earned him accolades all over the world. Mian Tansen or Ramtanu Pandey who was an accomplished classical music vocalist, composer and musician trained under Swami Haridas. Tansen was the court singer in Emperor Akbar’s durbar.

Varanasi or Benares has been a citadel Hindustani Classical Music for many centuries; several popular, versatile and incredibly accomplished musicians of classical music hail from here. Bhajans, Alaaps, Khayals and Tumris form the basis of Hindustani classical singing. A casual glance at the “Who’s Who” of Hindustani Classical Music will show a large number of accomplished singers and musicians originating from Uttar Pradesh.


The ghazal was a popular singing style that was performed only in the royal courts of the Awadh region; today it has left the confines of the princely courts and more accessible to the common masses. It is a mellifluous style of singing, basically uniting verses in prescribed formats.


Qawwalis are the poems of Sufi saints, usually sung in tandem by two or more people while others form a circle dancing around the tombs of Sufi saints with much fervour that the heady flavour of music and dance leads to a trance-like state.


Marsiya is the term used to refer to the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Hussain. It is very solemn and the sad content of its lyrics and music is popular among the Shia Muslims.


Among the folk music genres especially from eastern Uttar Pradesh, Birha is the most common and very popular one. Birha denotes the sombre mood of lamenting wives who are separated from their husbands as they go in search of livelihoods.


This is specifically sung during the Chaitra month of the Hindu calendar and the themes revolve around the playful fights and arguments between beloved lovers.


Mostly sung during the monsoon months, Kajari is also reflective of the mood of separation.

Dances of Uttar Pradesh

The dance forms in this state can be classified as “Classical” and Folk. These two genres have consolidated the cultural ethos of Uttar Pradesh


Kathak performanceKathak is the most famous classical dance form, indigenous to Uttar Pradesh. It is said to have been fine-tuned during the Mughal reign in the royal courts of Awadh (Lucknow) when court dancers performed elaborate and graceful compositions of Kathak to packed audiences. Counted among the top classical dance forms of the country, Kathak has had many famous exponents, like Birju Maharaj; its rich tradition and unique style have been preserved over centuries. The two famous gharanas (schools) of Kathak, Lucknow and Banaras flourish in the state.


This dance form is associated with Radha-Krishna and the compositions are popularly sung during Holi, Janmashtami and to honour the Brajbhoomi, the sacred land that endorses the footprints of Krishna.

Other forms of folk dance and folk theatre popular all over Uttar Pradesh and performed on several occasions such as religious as well as culture include:
  • Ramlila – dramatic re-enactments from the story of Lord Rama, the Ramayana
  • Raslila – dramatizations of the plays that Krishna enacted in his lifetime
  • Nautanki – a form of mimicry
  • Naqal – also a blended form of mimicry and dance

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