Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music – Carnatic vs Hindustani

By Balaji

Updated on: February 17th, 2023

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 Carnatic and Hindustani 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 in detail the 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.

Carnatic vs Hindustani

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 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 Hindustani music instruments 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


Another difference between Hindustani and Carnatic Music is that 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 the 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 metered composition from which extemporized variants are created.
  • Hindustani classical music is predominantly vocal in nature, and many instruments were created and judged on how well they simulated the human voice.
  • Vedic chants, Islamic customs, and Persian Musiqu-e-Assil style are blended together.
  • Hindustani music requires vocal-centric ensembles. A variety of instruments accompanies the singer.
  • Dhrupad, Khayal, Tarana, Thumri, Dadra, and Gazals are some of the main vocal styles of Hindustani music.

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, most students continue their academic careers while meeting with their teachers daily or weekly to take classes.
  • It also saw a growth spurt in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Vocal music is the primary focus of Carnatic music, and most works need singing in the Gayaki style.
  • Alpana, Niraval, Kalpnaswaram, and Ragam Thana Pallavi are just a few experimental styles that Carnatic music embraces.


Key Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music

The key difference between Hindustani and Carnatic music is that Hindustani music has a longer history than Carnatic music. Carnatic music is comparatively clean and was created during the Bhakti movement in the 15th and 16th centuries.

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