Dhrupad is the most ancient style of Hindustani classical music that has survived until today in its original form. The Dhrupad tradition is a major tradition of Indian culture. The nature of Dhrupad music is spiritual. Seeking not to entertain, but to induce feelings of peace and contemplation in the listener. The word Dhrupad is derived from DHRUVA the steadfast evening star that moves through our galaxy and PADA meaning poetry. It is a form of devotional music that traces its origin to the ancient text of Sam Veda. The SAM VEDA was chanted with the help of melody and rhythm called Samgana. Gradually this developed into other vocal style called 'Chhanda' and 'Prabandha' with introduction of verse and meter. The fusion of these two elements led to the emergence of Dhrupad.
By the eleventh century Dhrupad music had crystallised into a perfect form which has retained its original structure and purity through to the present day. One significant characteristic of Dhrupad is the emphasis on maintaining purity of the Ragas and the Swaras. According to some accounts, Dhrupad was sung in the temples, the singer facing the deity. From this early chanting, Dhrupad evolved into a sophisticated classical form of music.
The language of Dhrupad changed from Sanskrit Brij Bhasha some time between the 12th and the 16th century. About six centuries ago, Dhrupad came to be patronised by the royal courts and its complex rendering became intended for highly sophisticated royal audiences. Some were written in praise of the emperors; others described the music itself. However the pristine nature of Dhrupad survived and even today we hear this majestic form of music performed like it was more that 500 years ago in the royal courts of the emperors and kings of India.
In the conception of Indian classical music, Dhrupad has been an important point of departure. Normally, Dhrupad is known only by its literary meaning from the words Dhruva and Pada. Conceptually, however, it has a different meaning: it refers to and emphasizes the circulatory construction of our music. Dhruva means unmoving. It implies the return of the Swara (tonal), Kala (time) and Shabda (textual) trajectories to a fixed point.
All music existent today has attained this stature of construction because of Dhrupad. Perhaps this is the reason Dhrupad is considered the soul of Indian music. In the old compositions, they contain an indication to repeat the initial text phrases.
The word ‘Dhruva’ is as old as the Natya Shastra itself in which we find a separate chapter on Dhruva-Geeta. In the Natya Shastra, Bharata Muni describes Dhruvas as the songs which are referential in their structure. Dhruva means a pole, a standpoint, a locus of reference, primarily The other meaning is that it has certain fixed rules for execution.