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A historic pandit's statue in a museum

A Pandit (Sanskrit: पण्डित, romanizedpaṇḍita; Hindi: पंडित;[1] also spelled Pundit, pronounced /ˈpʌndɪt, ˈpændɪt/;[2] abbreviated Pt. or Pdt.) is a man with specialised knowledge or a teacher of any field of knowledge in Hinduism,[1] particularly the Vedic scriptures, dharma, or Hindu philosophy; in colonial-era literature, the term generally refers to Brahmins specialized in Hindu law.[3] Today, the title is used for experts in other subjects, such as music.[4][5] Pundit is an English loanword meaning "an expert in a particular subject or field who is frequently called upon to give their opinions to the public."

Ustad is the equivalent title for a Muslim man in the musical sense.[5] The equivalent titles for a Hindu woman are Vidushi,[6][7] Pandita, or Panditain;[8] however, these titles are not currently in widespread use.[9]

In Sanskrit, pandit generally refers to any "wise, educated or learned man" with specialized knowledge.[10] The term is derived from paṇḍ (पण्ड्) which means "to collect, heap, pile up", and this root is used in the sense of knowledge.[11] The term is found in Vedic and post-Vedic texts, but without any sociological context.

Pandit as a title in Hindustani classical music[edit]

Pandit (abbreviated as Pt. and written as पंडीत/पंडित in Marathi/Hindi) is an honorific title for an expert person in Indian classical singing and instrumental playing, used for an Indian musician. It is used in Hindustani classical music to recognize master performers for classical singing and other performing arts, like Classical dance,[12] to recognize master performers. It is used as a Music Title. The title is awarded to musicians by their teachers, prominent individuals, or members of their gharana in recognition of their expertise.[13] It is used in various languages including Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi and other languages which are there in India. An Indian woman, who is an expert in Indian classical music is given the title of pandita or vidushi. Ustad is the equivalent title for a Muslim man.


As these titles of pandit (and even ustad) are appended informally to the names of classical singers and players by their admirers, individuals or institutions, once they have reached eminence in their performing art, especially on public performances. As they are informal titles mentioning names of eminent singers without those appendages is ok unlike prefixes like Dr. awarded formally by educational institutions.[13]

But this title pandit of a classical musician and the pandit which is used as a title given to a knowledgeable person, is different.

There are many pandits in Hindustani classical music, for example, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Kumar Gandharva, Pandit Nayan Ghosh, Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Suresh Talwalkar, Pandit Yogesh Samsi, Pandit Vyenkatesh Kumar, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Pandit Kishan Maharaj, Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar, etc.

Equivalent titles for an Indian woman are Vidushi[6][7] or Pandita.[8]

Few examples are, Vidushi Kishori Amonkar, Vidushi Prabha Atre, Vidushi Gangubai Hangal, Vidushi Padma Talwalkar, Vidushi Veena Sahasrabuddhe, Vidushi Aruna Sairam, Vidushi Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande, Vidushi Kaushiki Chakraborty, Vidushi Mita Nag[14] and Vidushi Anuradha Pal.[14]


As ustad is equivalent to pandit but used for a Muslim man, similarly a music title that is equivalent to pandit and used for an Indian man itself is given the title of Vidwan. Generally this title is given to a male Carnatic classical singer or instrument player. One prominent example is of Vidwan Thetakudi Harihara Vinayakram.

For a woman Carnatic classical singer or instrument player, the title of Vidushi is given.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pundit" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 649.
  2. ^ "pandit". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  3. ^ Timothy Lubin; Donald R. Davis Jr; Jayanth K. Krishnan (2010). Hinduism and Law: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-139-49358-1.
  4. ^ a b Axel Michaels; Barbara Harshav (2004). Hinduism: Past and Present. Princeton University Press. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-691-08952-2.
  5. ^ a b Daniel Neuman (1980). The Life of Music in North India. Wayne State University Press. p. 44.
  6. ^ a b "Behind the titles".
  7. ^ a b[bare URL PDF]
  8. ^ a b "Overlooked No More: Pandita Ramabai, Indian Scholar, Feminist and Educator". The New York Times. 14 November 2018.
  9. ^ "The sitar from different angles (Pt. 2): Modern players, global experiments".
  10. ^ Monier Monier-Williams (1872). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. p. 527.
  11. ^ Monier Monier-Williams (1872). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. pp. 526–527.
  12. ^ Jafa, Navina (April 2021). "Meet Pt. Birju Maharaj, the poet". The Hindu.
  13. ^ a b "Pandit title usage".
  14. ^ a b[bare URL PDF]

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Pandit at Wikimedia Commons