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Hindustani classical music



melody: VocalsSitarSarodSurbaharRudra veenaViolinSarangiEsraj/DilrubaBansuriShehnaiSantoorHarmoniumJal tarang

rhythm: TablaPakhawaj

drone: TanpuraShruti boxSwarmandal


classical: DhrupadDhamarKhyalTaranaSadra

semiclassical: ThumriDadraQawwaliGhazalChaitiKajri



Thumrī (Devnagari: ठुमरी, Nastaliq:ٹھمری) is a common genre of semi-classical Indian music.

The text is romantic or devotional in nature, and usually revolves around a girl's love for Krishna. The lyrics are usually in Uttar Pradesh dialects of Hindi called Awadhi and Brij Bhasha. Thumri is characterized by its sensuality, and by a greater flexibility with the raga.

Thumrī is also used as a generic name for some other, even lighter, forms such as Dadra, Hori, Kajari, Saavan, Jhoola, and Chaiti, even though each of them has its own structure and content — either lyrical or musical or both — and so the exposition of these forms vary. Like Indian classical music itself, some of these forms have their origin in folk literature and music.


Some of the most commonly used ragas are Pilu, Kafi, Khamaj, Gara, Tilak Kamod and Bhairavi. The compositions are usually set to kaherava taal of 8 beats, addha tal of 16 beats, dipchandi of 14 beats or jat of 16 beats and in "dadra' tal of 6 beats.


Thumrī arose in popularity during the 19th century in the Lucknow court of nawab Wajid Ali Shah. At that time, it was a song sung by courtesans, accompanied by dancers. That was the bandish ki thumri or bol bant ki thumri. When this style of thumrī went out of vogue at the turn of the 20th century, a new style sung in Varanasi, known as bol banal, became more popular. Since Varanasi is to the east (poorab) of Lucknow, the new style became known as Poorab ang or the eastern style thumrī.[1]

Noted Thumri artists[edit]

Purab Ang[edit]

Famous artists of the 'Purab Ang' thumri' of the Benaras gharana or Banaras gayaki are Badi Motibai, Rasoolan Bai, Siddheshwari Devi, Girija Devi and Pandit Channulal Mishra.[2]

Other famous singers of thumri are Gauhar Jan, Begum Akhtar, Shobha Gurtu, Noor Jehan and Prabha Atre. Shobha Gurtu is often regarded as the thumri queen. The bol banao style has a slow tempo and is concluded by a laggi, a faster phase where the tabla player has some freedom of improvisation.

Another stalwart in the genre of thumri was Naina Devi, who was married to a royal family but later devoted her life to the singing of the song of Tawaifs. For a member of the royal family to take such a step in those days meant fighting countless social stigmas that had enough power to totally alienate someone from the society, but she had the support of her husband.[3]

Classical Thumri[edit]

Some khyal singers took an interest in thumrī and sang it their own way, as in the case of Abdul Karim Khan, Nazakat-Salamat Ali Khan, Barkat Ali Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, and Prabha Atre [2]

Today thumrī is sometimes sung at the end of khyal concerts as a concluding item. Besides the tabla and the tanpura, other typical instruments in thumri are sarangi and swarmandal.


Thumrī singers pay considerable attention to the lyrics, though they may be difficult to follow in the ornamented enunciation. This is especially where the focus is on love, and many lyrics deal with separation or viraha. Krishna's ras leela or love play with Radha and other gopis of Vrindavan appear frequently. As an example, here are the lyrics of a thumrī composed by the medieval poet Lalan[disambiguation needed], celebrating Krishna's flute - how its tunes are driving Radha mad. Braj or Vrindavan is where Krishna is indulging in this love play; Radha is the "girl of Braj".

ab naa baajaao shyaam
ba.nsuriyaa naa baajaao shyaam
(e rii) vyaakul bhaayii brajabaalaa
ba.nsuriyaa naa baajaao shyaam
nit merii galii.n me.n aayo naa
aayo to chhup ke rahiyo
ba.nsii kii terii sunaaiyo naa
ba.nsii jo sunaaiyo to suniye
phir shyaam hame.n aapnaaiyo naa
aapnaaiyo to suniye laalan
phir chhoDo hame.n kahii.n jaaiyo naa
ba.nsuriyaa naa baajaao shyaam
enough! now stop
playing on your flute, dark lover
this braja girl's heart is aflutter,
i ask you, please stop playing
don't come to my lane all the time
and if you have to come,
just don't play your flute
I am warning you now:
if you have to play that flute
then you'll have to be mine
you won't be able to go elsewhere
so will you please stop playing now?


  1. ^ [1]. Retrieved on March 9 2013.
  2. ^ a b A thumri concert in Varanasi The Hindu, Sep 14, 2007.
  3. ^ Mazumdar, Subhra. "Naina Devi and the nautch girl". Retrieved 25 September 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dance in Thumri, by Projesh Banerji. Published by Abhinav Publications, 1986. ISBN 81-7017-212-8.
  • Thumri in Historical and Stylistic Perspectives, by Peter Lamarche Manuel. Published by Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1989. ISBN 81-208-0673-5.
  • Thumri, Tradition & Trends, by Ramanlal Chhotalal Mehta, Published by Indian Musicological Society, 1990.
  • Hindi Poetry in a Musical Genre: Thumri Lyrics, by Lalita Du Perron. Published by Routledge, 2007. ISBN 0-415-39446-5.

External links[edit]


  • Thumri in Historical and Stylistic Perspectives by Peter Manuel