From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Hindustani classical music



melody: VocalsSitarSarodSurbaharRudra veenaViolinSarangiEsraj/DilrubaBansuriShehnaiSantoorHarmoniumJal tarang

rhythm: TablaPakhawaj

drone: TanpuraShruti boxSwarmandal


classical: DhrupadDhamarKhyalTaranaSadra

semiclassical: ThumriDadraQawwaliGhazalChaitiKajri



Thumrī (Devanagari: 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 raag.

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.


Thumri is one of the most important forms of North Indian music after khayal. Its exact origins are not very clear, given that there are no historical references to such a form until the 15th century. Etymologically, the word thumri comes from thumka which means a nimble beat of the foot or walking with a dancing pace. First appearance of Thumri go back to 15th century, this has link with the classical dance form Kathak. According to historical records, a new version of Thumri arose in 19th century, bearing similarity with Khayal and depending on the elaboration of Ragas. 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]

Thumri and Khayal[edit]

Unlike the khayal, which pays meticulous attention to unfolding a raga, thumri restricts itself to expressing the countless hues of shringar by combining melody and words. The contours of a khayal are most definitely broader and fluid. Thus, a khayal singer is capable of encompassing and expressing a wide range of complex emotions. A thumri singer goes straight to the emotional core of a composition and evokes each yarn of amorous feeling, each strand of sensuous sentiment, with great discretion. Khayal aims at achieving poise and splendour; thumri is quicksilver in tone and ardently romantic in spirit. It needs a delicate heart, and a supple and soulful voice capable of expressing several shadings and colours of tones to bring out its beauty. To draw an analogy from the world of painting, khayal is closer, in form and spirit, to the unrestrained and energetic world of Renaissance masters like Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian - forcefully executed brush strokes are seen on a broad canvas; whereas thumri, with its affinity for finer points and shades of feeling, emotion and mood, is closer to the finely-detailed still-life paintings of the Dutch masters of the 17th century.

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] In contemporary times, Pandit Mahadev Mishra was known as "Thumri Samrat" or "King of Thumri" for his gentle, lyrical and vivid style of singing thumris.

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, 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, 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 and Kaushiki ChakrabortyA 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