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15 Jun 2009
The Changing Form of Thumri

By Mrs. Neelam Kothari Patel

Mrs. Neelam Kothari Patel is a Houston-based musician-scholar who has recently been awarded a PhD in Music by SNDT University, Mumbai. She is the daughter of late Mr. Prasenjit and Mrs. Pushpaben Kothari.

The article is a Synopsis of her Thesis.

The Changing Form of Thumri: With Special Reference to the Changes in Style of Presentation Since Mid 19th Century, documents the various changes, this beautiful genre of Hindustani Classical Music, has gone through over the period of decades.

The subject has been contemplated upon in two different methods, Historical and Analytical.

First few chapters are dedicated to the detailed study of the basic characteristics of this singing style. Through analysis, basic structure of Thumri as a Genre comes to the fore, and through which, one gets to know the necessary elements and components of this genre, which, essentially give this style a definite form.

These characteristics are Nrityageetprakar, Shringara Rasapradhanya, Striyochit Ganavidha, Upashastriya Vidha, Kaishikivrittiyukta Vidha, Bhavapradhangana shaili. Each of the characteristic is defined intricately in the chapter named after each of the characteristics.
Nrityageet is a compound word, a combination of two words, Nritya and Geet. Nritya or dance is defined well here with the help of old scriptures. Geet is the song which is being sung. Nrityageet is a song which is particularly used to accompany the dance. Thumri especially falls under this category as, it had and still has strong association with dance.

A very eminent of Nine Rasa, Shringar, was eventually included in the presentation of natya, at one point of time. The inclusion of women and also of music, dance as well as musical instruments during the natyaprayog initiated and established the fourth of the Vrittis which was called Kaishiki. The application of Kaishiki Vritti during the Natyaprayog, helps creating the Shringar Rasa. A detailed study of Kaishiki Vritti and ShringarRasa is necessary as the love songs of thumri, ultimately create shringar rasa. And the study of thumri’s singing style as well as the instruments used along with that and also the very eminent nritya aspect in thumri associate this genre with Kaishiki Vritti. Thus, we come across an interconnection within these two prominent aspects as well as their connection with Thumri.

The subjects of the songs in thumri are about the various aspects of love. All the songs have a woman’s perspective. The woman oriented theme makes it more appropriate if these songs are sung by the women exponent, which makes it rightly a Striyochit GanaVidha. Bhavapradarshan or the emotional display of the theme through singing is a very significant characteristic of this genre. Compared to other genres like Dhrupad or  Khayal, this genre is less particular about the clarity of raga or intricacies of tala. Instead, the essence of thumri singing lies in the exponent’s ability to bring out the Bhavapaksha to the fore through singing. Thumri’s less stringent approach towards the rules and regulations of classical music, and the presence of some very eminent traits of folk music, make it a semi classical genre.

The above chapters illuminate the form of thumri.

The history of thumri is about exploring its possible presence in the past. The time period of two thousand years is a perimeter within which, a sincere effort has been made to look for the presence of a genre with remarkable similarities with today’s thumri, in the various treatises, scriptures, sculptures etc. This leads to the chapter about Lasyanga. Some very prominent similarities between current form of thumri as a genre and of Lasyanga-s as depicted in Natyashastra as well as in some other treatises like Bhavprakashan and Dasarupak are recorded in the chapter called Lasyanga. This unfolds the thumri’s possible ancient form.

The shastra of thumri includes three subsequent chapters Pada, Raga and Tala. This is an analytical study of present day thumri, its literature, its raga paksha, bhavapaksha and tala paksha. Pada evaluates thumri’s identity as Dhun raga. One comes across certain specialties of raga as well as Dhun simultaneously imbibed in thumri. Some thoughts about Rasanishpatti in thumri through various embellishments are also given in this chapter. The chapter Tala evaluates the word itself and along with that, the basics of tala e.g. avartan, matra, laya. Some of talas which are played for thumri gayaki are listed in the chapter. Also, the importance of laya as one of the causes in Bhavanishpatti has been contemplated upon. Thumri’s special feature, Laggi has been mentioned.

In the next chapter, both the anga-s of thumri gayaki, Purab and Punjab, have been elaborated upon. The historical background, developments, language and music of both the streams of Purab Anga thumri, Lucknowi and Banarasi, as well as of Punjab Anga, are explored in this chapter. The next chapter, Bolbaant and Bolbanav is about the due importance given to different components like, raga, pada, tala while singing.  Bolbaant puts stress on tala patterns and the permutation-combination of matras, also, it plays with laya, whereas, Bolbanav emphasizes more on the emotional aspect of the text. The singer would use the Bol or the text of the song in a way that the  emotive value of the presentation would be more profound. Bolbant contains the element of chamtkriti. Bolbanav touches the inner senses of the listener.

Kaku and Stobhakshar are very much the specialties of thumri.  The display of emotions could be achieved easily and would be more profound if the exponent uses Kaku. Here, in this chapter, kaku has been probed in the back ground of Natyashastra as Muni Bharat has given Kaku some very valuable thoughts in his discussion about the Vachik Abhinaya. Stobhakshar is a word which is not present in the original text of the song. Originally, they were being used quite extensively during the samagan. In thumri gayan, some words are used to fill up certain gaps. Those could be the gaps in total matra, or the void in the continuity of emotion building through the words. With the use of certain words, this continuity in Bhava is achieved. The history of stobhakshar and how they help thumri in becoming a bhavapradhan shaili is elaborated in this chapter.

Ashtanayikabheda hold a very significant aspect as far as the text of the thumri song as well as its musical treatment by the exponent is concerned. Majority of the thumri songs fall in one, or the other category of the Ashtanayikabheda. Therefore, it is appropriate to see each one in the perspective of the other, to understand it better and better understanding of the art form helps the performer give certain integrity to the art form while performing.  A few thoughts have been given to Padam and Javali from the Karnataki sangit, as both the genres hold a remarkable resemblance to thumri.

Changing Form of Thumri, effectively analyze the Basic Structure of this genre, establishing all the characteristics which eventually forms the Definition. It also documents the genre’s journey through the past, and the  changes, occurred at many junctures, due to political, social and religious forces.

Mrs. Neelam Kothari Patel can be contacted at neemdipa@gmail.com.


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