Indic Varta

  • Visitor:9
  • Published on:
  • 4 min read
  • 2
  • 0

Did Hindustani music result from a collaboration between Hindu and Muslim artists? Dr. Subroto Roy shatters many common misconceptions in this rare and insightful piece.

ustad bismillah khan

Ghazwāa-e-Hindustāni Sangīt

Ghazwā-e-Hind is popularly believed to be the conquest of India’s (henceforth called Bhāratīya) territory and mind by Islām. But some like Raśīd Qidwai[1] (Oct 2019) try to interpret it differently with shallow arguments. 

Bhāratīya sangīt śāstra has its origins in Sāma Veda and its exegetic traditions like Nāradīya Śikṣā. It is beautifully explained later by Dattila Ṛiṣi in his Dattilam, Bharata Muni in his Nātyaśstra, Mātaṅg Muni in his Brihaddeśi, Shādaṅgdev in his Saṅgīt Ratnākar, and Abhinavagupta in his Abhinava Bhārati (and other works) to name a few- all before or around the beginning of the Islāmic plunder of Bhārata.

Note that the conquest of the Sanātan mind was seen possible only when the Sanātan sanskriti and its parts are conquered. So they attacked every aspect of Indian heritage (tangible or intangible) and either reduced them to rubble, made masjids over them, or converted the practitioners to Islām. 

For this Ghazwā-e-Hindustāni music as an intangible target was a logical project for the Islāmic invaders. Such intangibles were, however, turned out to be a Himālayan task for them to misappropriate given their very limited intellectual capacities vis a vis the magnificent edifice of Bhāratīya heritage itself.

Sangīt being a rather effective way of communication, they employed missionary material of Sufi songs and clothed them with Rāga-s. But great masters like Baiju Nāyak refused to teach the likes of Khusrau. When they became rulers, the Muslims converted (by various means and ways) the Sanātani musicians who then became representatives of Islāmic culture. They were taught to say ‘voh to ek hai…kisi bhi mazhab se dekho’ (God is one…you may see him through any religion) which was a feel good factor.

So, the Ghazwā-e-Hindustāni music was effectively Ghazwā-e-Hindu Sangeetkār. Yet, the sum total effect of this was, generations of musicians with Muslim names flooded the then society. As a result even musicians today, fight for the rightful place of Islām in Sanātan music without valid reason. 

The proof of this is lies in its results- almost all representatives of the music, after Moghul rule got a stranglehold of most parts of Bhārata, were Muslim names. Also our arts were systematically and often perforce misappropriated.[2]As a result, the title Khān is so common in NIAM that the music is even referred to as Ustādi music, although it is not an Islāmic, but a Mongolian surname. 

Fake Narrative of Conversion of Pundit (Pdt.) Tānsen

The most important and famous name that comes to one’s mind in this context is Pdt. Tānsen. There is no evidence to show that Pdt. Tānsen had converted from a Brāhmana to Islām. The ‘miyān’ in his name is not known to have been used during his lifetime. So much so, that in most of his compositions he uses his name in the last stanza as ‘Pdt. Tānsen’ and sometimes followed by ‘…ke Prabhu’ (Pdt. Tānsen’s Master more often referring to Śri Kṛṣṇa).

The ‘miyān’ is prima facie a later addition to show respect to the departed singer par excellence. However, from a salute it was inadvertently or by design changed to a noun and then everyone started identifying him as Miyān Tānsen. This new noun went so deep that the Rāga-s which are attributed to Pdt. Tānsen are even named as ‘Miyān Malhār’ and ‘Miyān Ki Todi’. 

Once to my shock many years ago, when I was discussing Rāga Malhār with my late Guru, Ustād Sayīduddin Dāgar, I used the name ‘Miyān Malhār’. My guru snapped at me and said ‘kaun miyān…ham kisi miyān viyā ko nahi jānte’/Who is this miyān? We do not know any such miyān.

Rāmtanu Miśra which is Pdt. Tānsen’s name is believed to have been summoned by Akbar when he had already crossed the age of 50 and achieved great mastery over his art. Miyān in the noun form must be a name given after this by others not by himself and before he reached Delhi. Actually, he would address himself in his own compositions more often by his own name ‘Tānsen’. Some examples:

‘Tānsen ke prabhu tumhari gati avyakta…’ – Rāga Megh

‘ Tānsen ke prabhu vahīn sidhāro…’ – Rāga Āsāvari

‘Tānsen ke prabhu thāde raho balaiyā lehu…’ – Rāga Bhairava

‘Tānsen ke prabhu tum bhakt nāyak…’ –  Rāga Kedār

‘Tānsen yahi prasāda māngata…’ – Rāga Bhairava

‘Tānsen suta ajān…’ – Rāga Todi

‘stuti karata’ Tānsen tum ho bhaktajana ke Bhīśmajanani…’ – Rāga Jogiyā 

However, when one suddenly finds a composition like the ‘Saghana ban chāyo…’ with ‘Miyān Tānsen…’ at the end, it raises doubts of interpolation. If Pdt. Tānsen had at all converted to Islām then why would his daughter be Saraswati, sons be Vilās and and only one be Surat? That Akbar could not convert fearing revolt is my understanding.

Actual Conversions

Real conversions happened in this context during Jehangīr at the behest of his Naqṣbandi Sufi advisor Ahmad al-Fārūqī al-Sirhindī (1564–1624) although due to this man’s increasing clout Jehangī jailed him for a year. 

Now, if Pdt. Tānsen had converted to Islām, why would Sarasvati have to ‘accept Islām’ while getting married to Naubat Khān (earlier name Misri Singh)?[3] She had to take the new name Husseini because Naubat Khān was not a title, but the new name of Misri Singh after he was forced to convert. Probably Husseini would then go on to create a Rāga titled Husseini Todi. So, you had Sanātani-s first converted and then asked to make rāga-s on these converted names. My conjecture is the Miyān Malhār, and Miyān ki Todi were interpolations after the death of Pdt. Tānsen, but needs a separate research. Later you find several rāga-s like Shāhāna, Zeelaf, etc joining the rāga family. 

All the children of both these two Sanātani musicians then automatically became Muslim by name. Here an important milestone was achieved – Muslim domination over our music…Gazwā-e-Hindustāni Music.

History tells us that Misri Singh was ‘given the title of Naubat Khān’, which some history texts contradict. It was his grandfather Rājā Samokhan Singh who refused to play for Akbar and invited his wrath. Akbar attacked him out of anger and in the bloody battle, young Misri was taken prisoner and later converted to Islām by Akbar’s son. This is Akbar ‘the great’ for you.

Among the students of Dāgarvāni Dhrupad it is well known that Dāgar-s were Brahmana-s of the Vāsiṣta Gotra. The late Ustād Aminuddin Dāgar has gone on record in a documentary made by an unknown film maker[4] where he reveals that their forefather was Mangaldās Pānde and ‘due to some reasons’ the family had to convert to Islām during the reign of Mohammad Shāh. The same has been corroborated privately by the Late Ustād Fariduddin Dāgar who has revealed their gotra. Roy (2017) has also written about his Guru the late Ustd. Sayīduddin Dāgar’s father the Late Ust. Husseinuddin Dāgar renamed as Pdt. Tānsen Pānde by the Rājah of Alwar.

The Dhrupad tradition of the Gaudiya tradition which is also known as Gaurhār Vāni could be traced to Nāth Viśvambhar, the ancestor of the legendary Pdt. Tānsen’s guru Swāmi Haridās Goswāmi. A prominent descendant of this family, Usdt. Allādiyā Khān who was a Brāhmana of the Śāndilya Gotra and got converted during the Moghul era gave the so-called ‘Khayāl’ form a new ‘gharānā’ (Atrauli Jaipur).[5] This has also been corroborated by Kumar Prasad Mukherjee (2006, Penguin).

My Khayāl guru the Late Pdt. Bhāskarbuā Jośi once had shared a story about his Guru the legendary Rāmkṛṣṇabuā Vazhe/Vazhebuā. When Vazhebuā was asked by his guru Ustād Nissar Hussein Khān of Gwālior to do some errand, Vazhebuā had prayed in front of his guru to excuse him from the errand as he was a Brāhmana. 

Responding to this and to Vazhebuā’s utter shock and dispelief ‘Khānsāheb’ showed him his yagyopavit (sacred thread) and said ‘…then who do you think I am?’ (sic as told to me by Bhāskarbuā). Nissār was one of the Gwālior trio Ustd. Haddu Khān, Ustd. Natthu Khān, and Ustd. Nissār Hussein Khān under the royal patronage of the then king Daulatrāo Scindia.

Amir Khusrau

Born in Patiyāli (U.P.) in 1253 Amir Khusrau must have been a super human to have learnt Rāga-s merely by sitting inside a room stealthily and listening to the great Gopāl Nāyak singing the most complex and difficult form of our music – Dhrupad. He must have been God himself to go ahead and create a new form of music that he called ‘Khayāl’, Tarānā, etc, just by listening to a music which takes at least 25 years to merely master its singing! 

Khusrau must be a Super God to have invented the sitar by combining the Bhāratīya vīna and Iranian tambura and created the Tablā by modifying the Pakhāvaj, with little knowledge of Bhāratīya music. Contradiction here which opens a pandora’s box is Khusrau’s own statement. Foreigners, Khusrau writes, find it almost impossible to master its melodic structure and intricate rhythm. Note that when he tried to learn Dhrupad, he was a first generation Indian.  Quite contrary to his Super God status promoted by zealots, Khusrau openly expresses in the Nuh Sipehr, that Bhāratīya music was the best in the world which is difficult to learn even after prolonged effort.

With no prejudice towards his explicit love for Bhārat, it is necessary to call a spade a spade and ask questions. Why would Gopāl Nāyak not teach Khusrau face to face? A traditional guru like Gopāl Nāyak would not start teaching a student from the day he meets him. He would test the prospective student for months before even initiating leave alone giving knowledge of rāga-s. Did Khusrau fail and therefore had to hide and learn? Are  we to believe that within a short period, Khusrau, without passing any test of the guru, without being initiated, and without learning the ropes of rāga singing mastered Dhrupad and created a new forms which he gave the Islāmic name Khayāl? Incredulous.

Roy (24.03.2021) has shown through simple arguments that the name ‘Khayāl’ is itself a misnomer given to an older Dhrupad form of singing.[6] He shows that the name ‘Khayāl’ does not describe the song form efficiently.

Khusrau’s admiration for Bhāratīya music notwithstanding, the Ghazvā-e-Hindustāni music is a logical and more reasonable outcome of the above discussion because, the zeal in Moghuls to convert everyone to Islām is well known. This, despite major coverups by the so-called ‘fathers’ of Bhārat.

Khusrau’s alleged contribution must be given a harder look. The difficulty in learning Bhāratīya Śāstrīya sangīt, led the Islāmic invaders to convert great Sanātani musicians to Islām, make them musicalise Islāmic songs like Quavvali-s, Qoul, Qulbānā-s, and other Sufi songs to carry the message of Islām. Pdt. Tānsen’s conversion could have been spread after his demise. His daughter and son-in-law were later converted resulting in a large population of rāga singers having Muslim names. Otherwise they would be denied Royal patronage. The Islāmic rulers could affect mere cosmetic changes, just enough to promote Islām. But the core of this intangible heritage, described, written, and explained in Sanskrit could not be disturbed. Hence, we are today at least able to point this out as Gazwā-e-Hindustāni music – the conquest of Bhāratīya sangīt.


[1] The complex narratives of ‘Ghazwā-e-Hind’.

[2] Roy.S. Misappropriation of North Indian Art Music. Indic Varta.17.03.2021.

[3] World Heritage Ecyclopedia.ān



[6] Roy.S. Is Khayāl a Dhrupad Form?.The Organiser Weekly. March 24, 2021.

Center for Indic Studies is now on Telegram. For regular updates on Indic Varta, Indic Talks and Indic Courses at CIS, please subscribe to our telegram channel !