Dapha music

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Medium Music
Ancestor arts Newa devotional music
Descendant arts Bhajan Khala
Originating culture Newa
Originating era 17th century

Dapha music (Nepal Bhasa: दाफा) is a Newa artform in which singers and musicians perform devotional music, based on classical raga and taal system.[1][2] The music is performed by a group of musicians called Dapha khalah in places called dabu. Dapha is the oldest surviving devotional music of Nepal, with its origin in the 17th century.[3] The dapha music saw a growth in the early 18th century with royal patronage.[3] It expanded during that era to include sets of nine different drums that are standard today.[3]


Classic devotional music has been in existence in Nepal for more than a thousand years.[4] The time period between 11th to 17th century saw an increase in literary activity in Kathmandu.[4] Numerous devotional music, dances, and plays have been found from this era.[4] Most experts believe that the literary development during this era culminated in the development of Dapha music form.[4]

The earliest treatise on dapha found till date is a book in Nepal Bhasa called Sangit Chandra.[5] The book was written as an appendix to Natya Shastra by the king of Bhaktapur Jagat Jyoti Malla and his minister Vanshamani Ojha.[5] The book elaborates on Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra and Abhinavagupta's Abhinavabharati.[5] This was followed by Gayanlochan, written during the reign of Jitamitra Malla. Gayanlochan focuses more on introduction to raga (and raginis), their characteristics, and performance.[5] Various treatises on musical instruments used in Dapha such as Taal anukaranam, Mridanga anukaranam, Panchataal baaja etc. have also guided Dapha over centuries.[5]


The dapha ensemble consists of percussion instruments consisting of moo dhimay, khin, paschima, nyah khin, jwo nagara, damaru, accompanied by cymbals such as taa, bhusya and kaynpin. The melody is maintained by flutes called basuri.[6] Dapha has a set of rituals from the initiation of a musical performance to its end.[7] The pieces of music played are called gwaras and the first gwara is always "Nasa dya gwara" or "Dyah lhaaye", which is a devotional piece dedicated to Nasa dya.[6] The ragas sung are preceded by a short alap.[8] Dapha music moves from Dyah lhaaye (द्यः ल्हाय्), then proceeds to chuma (छुमा), bhatwa (भात्वा), lajah (लज), chali (चाली), gau (गौ), dhocha (धोचा), arati (आरती) and finally ends with dyah lhay (द्या ल्हाय्).[7]

The dapha music is performed according to a fixed schedule. There are specific pieces of music which are played during specific season, specific day of week and specific hours of day.[9] The following is a list of musical compositions along with their timings[9]

Seasonal variation in dapha music

Season Festival Song Comments
Grishma (Summer) Sithinakha to Gathāmuga Chare Sinjyā
Warshā (Monsoon) Gathāmuga Chare to Yanlā Punhi Tukājyā
Sharad (Autumn) Silu mye
Hemant (Winter) Dashian (Mohanee) Mālshree Incorporated into mainstream Nepalese music as the music of Dashain
Shishir Holi mye
Basanta Shree panchami to Buddha Jayanti Vasanta Played to Head of state of Nepal in Nasalchowk on Vasant Panchami

The schedule of different ragas played by Dapha on different times of day are as follows-

Rāg Time of day
Kola Midnight to 1 am
Namāmi 1 am to 2 am
Mālawā 2 am to 3 am
Bihan chuli 3 am to 5 am
Bhakta 5 am to 7 am
Jayashree 7 am to 9 am
Māluwā 9 am to Noon
Bibhas Noon to 1 pm
Asavari 1 pm to 2 pm
Padmajati 2 pm to 3 pm
Desh 3 pm to 4 pm
Kausi 4 pm to 6 pm
Kedar 6 pm to 7 pm
Wijaya 7 pm to 10 pm
Wimāsa 10 pm to 11 pm
Nāya 11 pm to Midnight

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paper:Understanding change in the Newar music culture: the bhajan revisited, Author:Ingemar Grandin
  2. ^ Asian Images
  3. ^ a b c Kathmandu University Department of Music
  4. ^ a b c d उपत्यकाभित्रका भक्तिगीत तथा भजनहरू Author: Dr. Saphalya Amatya
  5. ^ a b c d e Book:Nepalbhasa Sahityaya Itihas, Author:Premshanti Tuladhar, Publication:Nepalbhasa Academy, ISBN 978-99933-56-00-4
  6. ^ a b Live at the Vajra: Traditional Newa Music
  7. ^ a b Article: परम्परागत दाफा गायनको पद्धति र प्रयोगात्मक लौकिक शास्त्रीय पक्ष, Author: Ramkrisha Duwal
  8. ^ Dhrupad: Tradition and Performance in Indian Music, Ritwik Sanyal, D. R. Widdess
  9. ^ a b Book: Kantipru (कान्तिपुर), Author: Basu Pasa (बासुपासा)

External links[edit]