Difference between Hindustani and Carnatic Music

By Sudheer Kumar K|Updated : June 29th, 2021

Topic: UPSC CSE Prelims & Main (History- Art & Culture) 

Music is the art of sound, manifested as a cultural activity. It is a unique way of expressing ideas and feelings through sound.
The styles of music in India are broadly divided into two categories: Hindustani music and Carnatic music. In this blog, we will be discussing the differences between each of these two in brief.

Hindustani Music:

  • It is popular in North India.
  • Hindustani music is thought to have started in the Delhi Sultanate.

Carnatic Music:

  • Purandar Das was the founder of Carnatic music.
  • Later, this musical style was developed by Tyagaraja, ShyamaShastri and Muthuswami Dikshitar.

Hindustani and Carnatic Music differ each other in spirit, theme, composition and instruments. 

Differences between Hindustani Music and Carnatic Music

Area of DifferenceHindustani MusicCarnatic Music
  • Hindustani music has its genesis much before Carnatic music.
  • With the influence of due to Islamic and Persian, it has emerged as a distinct form of music.
  • It incorporated Islamic traditions, Vedic chants, and Persian Musiqu-e-Assil.
  • Carnatic is a purer form of music, which was evolved from ancient Hindu traditions.
  • It was developed and became more popular during the Bhakti movement in the 15th to 16th century.
  • Carnatic music got a major fillip during the 19th to 20th century.
SpiritLiberalHighly conservative without scope for any experimentation.
ThemeSecularHighly devotional
  • Ragam, Thanam and Pallavi and Anu Pallavi. It is free from rigid norms.
  • Raga based
  • Stresses upon pure notes
  • Raga essays (alapanas) are elaborated from note-to-note in Hindustani 
  • Ragam, Thanam, Pallavi, Anu Pallavi must follow each other.
  • Kriti-based
  • Gamaka-based Ragas
  • Raga essays (alapanas) are elaborated from phrase-to-phrase
Core of the Music Swaras (Pitch)Rhythm (laya)

Several sub-styles exists:

Drupad, Qawwai, Thumri, Khyal, Thappa Tirana, etc.

Only one prescribed style
  • Dolak, Shehnai, Sitar  are connected with Hindutani
  • Sarangi is the key accompaniment 
  • Mrudangam, Nadaswaram, Ghatam (Pot) and Violin.
  • Violin is the key accompaniment 
The concept of Upapakkavadyam does not exist exist

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