Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music – Carnatic vs Hindustani

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 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, it is important to understand 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
Origin 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 in Southern India.

Dominant Centres 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.
Instruments Major Hindustani music instruments include Sitar, Sarangi, Sarod, Tabla, Shehnai, Tambura, etc. Prominent musical instruments of Carnatic Music are Flute, Ghatam, Violin, Veena, Tamboori, Mridangam, Kanjira, etc.
Compositions 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 Varnam, 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
Content Another difference between Hindustani and Carnatic Music is that Hindustani music places greater importance on instrumental music. Themes can be devotional, romantic, etc. In Carnatic music, vocals play a crucial role, and the theme is almost entirely devotional.
Famous Practitioners Bismillah Khan, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Tansen, Zakir Hussain, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shivkumar Sharma, etc. M. Balamuralikrishna, M. S. Subbulakshmi, Aruna Sairam, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Sudha Raghunathan, U Srinivas, etc.

Hindustani and Carnatic Music

Hindustani and Carnatic music are quite different in their styles. The differences 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, although there is room for improvisation here also depending on various factors.
  • 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 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 Karnataka Sangeetham. The historical foundations for the current iteration of Carnatic music date back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries 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/her 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.
  • Alapana, Niraval, Kalpanaswaram, and Ragam Thana Pallavi are just a few experimental styles that Carnatic music embraces.


Key Difference Between Hindustani and Carnatic Music

Although both forms of music have a single origin, the Hindustani style of music separated from the Carnatic style in the 12th – 13th century owing to the Islamic invasions and influences that occurred in the Indian subcontinent. Carnatic music doesn’t show any Arabian or Persian influences.

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