Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music

By K Balaji|Updated : November 30th, 2022

The major Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music is that classical music of Northern India is referred to as Hindustani music, whereas, Carnatic music is associated with Southern India. Hindustani music and Carnatic music are two major traditions of Indian Classical Music.

Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music PDF

The difference between Hindustani and Carnatic music is based on their presentation, composition, instruments, improvisation, etc. Hindustani and Carnatic, the two illustrious branches of Indian classical music, shared a common origin and early development path. In this article, we have provided the detailed difference between Hindustani and Carnatic music.

Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music

Indian Classical Music adds to the rich artistic heritage and culture of India. Carnatic music is unaffected by foreign influences and reflects a more homogenous form of Indian tradition. However, the charm lies in the Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music, accompanied by the essence of melodies, instruments, and rhythm.

Hindustani vs Carnatic Music

Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music

Points of Difference

Hindustani Music

Carnatic Music


Hindustani music is the classical music of the Northern parts of the Indian subcontinent. It is also referred to as Shastriya Sangeet or North Indian Classical Music and originates in the Vedic period.

Carnatic Music is also known as Karnatak music, Karnataka Sangeetha, or spelt as Karnatic. It originated from Southern India, more so from the city of Hyderabad and other Dravidian-speaking regions of India.

Dominant Centers

Chief centres of Hindustani music in the 21st century are Jaipur, Gwalior, Agra, Delhi, Varanasi, Mumbai, and Kolkata.

Today, the principal centres of Carnatic Music are Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Kerala.


Major instruments in Hindustani Music include Sitar, Sarangi, Sarod, Tabla, Shehnai, Tambura, etc.

Prominent musical instruments of Carnatic Music are Flute, Ghatam, Violin, Veena, Tamboori, Mridanga, Harmonium, etc.


The compositions of Hindustani music are less heavy than those of Carnatic music. Some major compositions associated with Hindustani music are Chaiti, Dhrupad, Dadra, Dhamar, Ghazal, Khyal, Tarana, Tappa, Trivet, Kajari, Ashtapadis, Thumri, etc.

Compositions in Carnatic Music are lengthier, more complex, and have great variety, such as Arnam, Javali, Keertana, Kriti, Tillana, Padam, Pallavi, Ragamalika, Swarajati, etc.

Core Elements

The basic elements of Swara, Raga, and Tala are the same as the foundation of both traditions. In addition, there are Alap, Taan, Jor, Jhala, Gat, Alankaar, Bandish.

Sruti, Swara, Raga, Taala


Hindustani music places greater importance on instrumental music.

In Carnatic music, vocals play a crucial role, and the content is more devotional.

Famous Practitioners

Bismillah Khan, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Tansen, Zakir Hussain, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shivkumar Sharma, etc.

Aruna Sairam, M. Balamuralikrishna, M. S. Subbulakshmi, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Sudha Raghunathan, K J Yesudas, etc.

Hindustani and Carnatic Music

Hindustani and Carnatic music are quite different in their styles. The difference between Hindustani and Carnatic music mainly emerge because of the Iranian and Arabian influences prominent in Hindustani music due to the Islamic conquest of the Northern regions of the Indian subcontinent in the 12th and 13th centuries. On the other hand, Carnatic music is unaffected by Islamic influence.

The two schools are also differentiated by the names of compositions they use and their content. Hindustani music exercises more liberty to improvise, whereas Carnatic music restricts improvising its compositions considerably. Hindustani music has several Gharanas, unlike Carnatic music.

Hindustani Music

One of the two primary categories of South Asian classical music, Hindustani music is most prevalent in the northern three-quarters of the subcontinent, where Indo-Aryan languages are spoken.

The foundation of a Hindustani musical performance is a composition that is metered and from which extemporized variants are created. Hindustani classical music is predominantly vocal in nature, and many of the instruments were created and judged on how well they simulated the human voice.

Carnatic Music

One of the two types of Indian classical music is called Carnatic music, sometimes referred to as karaka sangtam. The other type is Hindustani music. The historical foundations for the current iteration of Carnatic music date back to the fifteenth and sixteenth century C.E. There are several ways to study the Indian classical music timeline.

Traditional methods of teaching Carnatic music included the gurukul system, in which the pupil lived with and studied under his guru (master). Today, the majority of students continue their academic careers while meeting with their teachers on a daily or weekly basis to take classes.

Key Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music

The key difference between Hindustani and Carnatic music is given below.

  • Hindustani music has a longer history than Carnatic music. Vedic chants, Islamic customs, and Persian Musiqu-e-Assil style are blended together in it. Carnatic music is comparatively clean and was created during the Bhakti movement in the 15th and 16th centuries. It also saw a growth spurt in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Vocal music is the primary focus of Carnatic music, and the majority of works need singing in the gayaki style. Hindustani music requires vocal-centric ensembles. The singer is accompanied by a variety of instruments.
  • Dhrupad, Khayal, Tarana, Thumri, Dadra, and Gazals are some of the main vocal styles of Hindustani music. Alpana, Niraval, Kalpnaswaram, and Ragam Thana Pallavi are just a few of the experimental styles that Carnatic music embraces.
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FAQs on Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music

  • The difference between Hindustani and Carnatic music is that Carnatic music originated from the ancient Hindu traditions of Southern India, while Hindustani Music evolved from the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent

  • The difference between Hindustani and Carnatic music based on the time of origin is that Hindustani music is believed to have originated in the Vedic period and is older than Carnatic music, which originated in the Bhakti movement (15th-16th Century).

  • Hindustani and Carnatic music are both equally intense and popular. However, compared to Carnatic music artists, practitioners of Hindustani music have traveled abroad more, collaborated, and hosted concerts with Western artists

  • While Carnatic music was born out of the Bhakti movement, Hindustani music was created during the Vedic era. Therefore, both have strong religious associations. Sanskrit language scripts and Vedic traditions both contributed to the evolution of music.

  • The major difference between Hindustani and Carnatic music in terms of content is that Hindustani music is more diverse and has evolved over the years for entertainment, while the content of Carnatic music is more philosophical and devotional and has undergone fewer changes

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