Dhrupada: An Odyssey through the Universe
Dhrupada is a style of Indian music which is a stuti (homage, reverence) to Lord Shiva. Usually it is a vocal rendition or through pakhavage or mridangam. It’s the dance of Shiva, the voice of the Creator and the Destroyer. It is based on Nada Yoga and the singer sings not just through his vocal chords but through his entire being. It is as if the sound comes from the stomach or the naval. It is an amazing experience. I have seen singers sweating profusely in the cold of the winter singing under a shamiana taking off their jacket because their body heated up singing the Dhrupada.
The ragas are the same but it is the style of rendition that is unique. The sudden dips in tenor to the non-stop calling out to Narayana takes you places you have never been. It may seem incredulous but yes, it is incredible the way they make this ancient Indian form of music.
It is the sound of the Cosmos. It is passage through Time. It is a voyage through the Universe – passing the stars, passing the suns. How else can you describe the music that has at its core just one word – Narayana – calling out to Lord Shiva?
It is the complete being of the singer that goes into the incessant rhythmic chant of Narayana that makes it the sound of the Universe. It is like an Odyssey through the Universe. The simplicity of the chant is captivating and the intricacy of the music with patters and sudden dips in sound that makes you go in a trance and into the space and beyond. You begin to understand yourself better – you can relate with Nature just a bit more. That chant and the myriad notes and tenors give you an awareness that is indescribable. It’s an existential experience. To some it might appear as cacophonous noise, but to others it is peace Divine.
Dhrupad rendition to me seems to be the sound of the Creator. It is how the Universe began. This is beyond any scientific explanation. But then Science cannot go beyond a point. There are things that you can only experience, and can’t explain. Dhrupad is the art form that explains a lot without explaining anything. The music itself is an explanation if one is ready to understand. It is Shiva and his dance that is the Natraja. The beats of the Mridangam or the Pakhavajja that make you imagine the Lord and his grace over us all. You bow down in humility. You are at one with the Creator. You are in bliss.
There is a reason why Dhrupada form is like an Odyssey through the Universe. The philosophy of Dvaita and Advaita are at the core of this. Dvaita is the Lord and you while Advaita is Lord within you. When the Lord is within, you have the universe inside of you. The human body is a Cosmos by itself. And when you sing the Dhurupada using all your faculties you embody the Universe. And the music that the singer creates is Cosmic in nature. The incessant rhythmic chants of Narayana making you wonder where you are and where you have been.