Hindustani Music and Carnatic Music - An Overview of Differences

During the medieval period, Indian classical music was generally based on two traditions, the Carnatic music prevalent in South India and the Hindustani classical music in North India. This article gives a brief introduction of Hindustani and Carnatic Music and then goes on to cover the important differences between Hindustani and Carnatic Music and then culminates with their similarities.

Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music – Download PDF Here

Aspirants would find this article very helpful while preparing for the IAS Exam.

Aspirants should begin their preparation by solving UPSC Previous Year Question Papers now!!

To complement your preparation for the upcoming exam, check the following links:

Hindustani and Carnatic Music – Introduction

  1. Indian Music is part of Art and culture which have a rich legacy.
  2. Before the 13th Century, there was only one classical music in India.
  3. Post 13th Century Classical Music has been separated into two different styles. In North India, Persian and Mughal influence began creating its place very intensely with Amir Khusro.
  4. Tansen and his contemporary musicians mostly performed in Dhrupad sort and later Khayal singing was promoted by Sadarang and Adarang.
  5. On the other hand, Carnatic Music was evolved mainly by Shyama Shastri, Tyagraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar, and Saint Purandardas.
  6. Currently, most of the classical training revolves around Kritis composed by these great saint musicians.
  7. The history of Indian music can be derived from Natya Shastra, written by Bharatha Muni, a Musicologist. The Natyashastra deals with the basic theory of Music, dance and drama called “Natya Shastra’. Under this, there were 22 notes in an octave. The idea of ‘Sruti’ was presented to permit individuals to select a suitable reference ‘root’ pitch based on the musicians’ ease. A set of ‘Rasas’ and ‘Bhavas’ or expressions were recognized.

Classical Music

Hindustani and Carnatic music systems developed from a common ancestor.

Carnatic Music originated in the Bhakti movement, while Hindustani music originated during the Vedic period. Therefore both have a great link with religion. Both the music developed with Sanskrit language scripts in itself and through Vedic traditions.

The main vocal forms of Hindustani music are Dhrupad, Khayal, Tarana, Thumri, Dadra, and Gazals. The Carnatic music embraces much creativity comprise of Alpana, Niraval, Kalpnaswaram and Ragam Thana Pallavi.

Characteristics of Hindustani Music

  1. Emphasis on the moral construction of the song (Nadi and Samvadi swars).
  2. The singer recites the clap at a fast pace, which is known as ‘Joda’. Taal is not accompanied afterwards.
  3. Full swars are considered to be complete, after which the distorted swars are introduced.
  4. The thaat of pure swars is called ‘Tilawal’.
  5. There is range and flexibility in the swars.
  6. Time limits are followed. There are different ragas for morning and evening.
  7. Taals are normal.
  8. Ragas are based on gender differentiation.
  9. There is no ratio in Hindustani music while switching the ragas.

Characteristics of Carnatic Music –

  1. The intensity of sound can be controlled in this style.
  2. Use of helical (Kundali) swaras is evident.
  3. Free and typical style of raga.
  4. The singer recites the ‘aalap’ and ‘taanam’.
  5. The distorted swars are named according to the shrutis. They are started afterwards.
  6. The purity of swars are based on less shrutis, meaning high purity.
  7. The thaat of pure swars is called `mukhari’.
  8. The time durations are well-defined in the Carnatic music. Madhya is twice of ‘Vilamba’ and the ‘Dhruta’ is twice of Madhya.

Check out the following links related to Art and Culture to cover up the comprehensive syllabus for the upcoming UPSC Civil Service exam-

Hindustani Classical Music Tata Vadya; Musical Instruments of India List of Indian Dance Forms – Classical, Folk Dances of India
Topic of the Day – Musical Instruments – Ghana Vadya Musical Instruments – Avanaddha Vadya 8 Classical Dances of India
Manipuri Dance – Themes, Features, Costumes & Music Odissi – Odisha’s Dance | Indian Classical Dance Bharatanatyam: Classical Indian Dances
Traditional Theatre Forms in India Difference Between Classical And Folk Dance in India Kathak – Indian Classical Dance
Mohiniyattam: UPSC Notes for Art & Culture Sattriya – Indian Dance Form (15th Century AD)  Kathakali – World Famous Dance Form from Kerala
Kuchipudi – Classical Dance Form of Andhra Pradesh Features & Styles Of BharataNatyam Tribal Paintings of India; Warli Painting, Gond Art,
Madhubani Paintings for UPSC Mysore Paintings Mural Painting Tradition – After Ajanta

Classical Music – 2 Categories

  1. Hindustani Music is practised in Northern Parts of India
  2. Carnatic Music is practised in the Southern Parts of India

Difference between Carnatic and Hindustani Music

The below tables gives the areas of difference between Carnatic and Hindustani Music.

Difference Between Carnatic and Hindustani Music

Carnatic Hindustani
72 ragas 6 major ragas
Veena, Mridangam and Mandolin Tabla, Sarangi, Sitar and Santoor
Indigenous Afghan Persian and Arab
Only one particular prescribed style of singing Several sub-styles
Freedom to improvise Scope to do variations and improvise
Both have equal importance More importance to vocal music

Aspirants can find more Difference Between Articles, by visiting the linked page

Similarities between Carnatic and Hindustani Music

  1. Both the Carnatic and Hindustani styles give principal prominence to the melody.
  2. Both has one leading swara or Vadi swar in every Raga
  3. Both use Sampoorna Scale (with all 7 notes) to describe Janak Thaat or Raga to make Janya Raga.
  4. Both use a Tanpura or Drone with one or two notes to signify Pitch and base in Raga version.

Multiple Choice Question (MCQ)

Consider the Following Statements

  1. Veena, Mridangam and Mandolin are musical instruments of Hindustani Music.
  2. Tabla, Sarangi, Sitar and Santoor are musical instruments of Carnatic Music. 
  3. Carnatic Music gives more importance to Vocal than Instruments.
  4. Hindustani Music gives more importance to Instruments than Vocal.

Which of the following statements is true?

A) None of the statements is true.

B) All the 4 statements are True.

C) Only 1, 2 and 3 are true.

D) Only 1, 3 and 4 are true.

Answer: A

The above details would help candidates prepare for UPSC 2023.

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