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Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande

Background information
Born August 10, 1860(1860-08-10)
Origin India
Died 19 September 1936 (aged 76)
Genres Hindustani classical music,
Mewati Gharana
Occupations Classical Vocalist
Years active 1875 - 1935

Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (August 10, 1860 – September 19, 1936) was an Indian musicologist who wrote the first modern treatise on (North Indian) Hindustani Classical Music, an art which had been propagated earlier for a few centuries mostly through oral traditions. During those earlier times, the art had undergone several changes, rendering the raga grammar documented in scant old texts outdated.[1]

Ragas used to be classified into Raga (male), Ragini (female), and Putra (children). Bhatkhande reclassified them into the currently used Thaat system. He noted that several ragas did not conform to their description in ancient Sanskrit texts. He explained the ragas in an easy-to-understand language and composed several bandishes which explained the grammar of the ragas. He borrowed the idea of lakshan geet from the Carnatic music scholar Venkatamakhin.


Early life

Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande was born in 1860, into a Chittapawan Brahmin family in Walkeshwar, Mumbai. He was educated at Elphinstone College in Mumbai and Deccan College in Pune. He graduated with a degree in Law in 1885 and joined the legal profession in 1887. Later he served a short stint as a lawyer in the High Court in Karachi.

During his college days, Bhatkhande began learning sitar playing from Vallabhdas. He later learned vocal music from Raojiba, a Dhrupad singer. He also trained in other aspects of classical music under Belbagkar, Ali Husain Khan, and Vilayat Hussain Khan. He became a member of Gayan Uttejak Mandali, a musical circle in Mumbai.



Research in music

Bhatkhande traveled throughout India, meeting with ustads and pandits, and researching music. He began the study of ancient texts such as the Natya Shastra and Sangeet Ratnakara.[2]

After the death of his wife and his daughter, Bhatkhande abandoned his legal practice and devoted the rest of his life to systematizing the prevailing forms of Hindustani music and building on that system a coordinated theory and practice of music. During his travels in India, he spent time in Baroda, Gwalior, and Rampur; an unverified claim says he collected some works of Tansen. Ustads like Mohammad Ali Khan, Asgar Ali Khan, and Ahmed Ali Khan of Jaipur gave him more than 300 precious compositions of the Manarang Gharana.

Bhatkhande's first published work, Swar Malika, was a booklet containing detailed descriptions of all prevalent ragas. In 1909, he published Shri Mallakshaya Sangeetam, in Sanskrit, under the pseudonym 'Chatur-pandit'. To make this cultural heritage accessible to common man, he published commentary on his own Sanskrit grantha in Marathi over a span of several years; it was published over four volumes bearing the title: Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati. These volumes form today the standard text on Hindustani music, an indispensable starting point for any student of Hindustani Classical Music. His disciple S N Ratanjankar, Ratanjankar's disciple K G Ginde, Ram Ashrey Jha 'Ramrang' are among the notable scholars who followed in the footsteps of Bhatkhande.

Bhatkhande wrote all of his works under one of the two pseudonyms, Vishnu Sharma and Chaturpandit.


Bhatkhande started schools and colleges in India for systematic teaching of Hindustani music. In 1916, he reorganized the Baroda state music school, and later, with the help of the Maharaja of Gwalior, established the Madhav Music College in Gwalior.

In 1926, Rai Umanath Bali and his nephew Dr. Rai Rajeshwar Bali, then education minister of United Provinces, established Maris College of Music in Lucknow, Bhatkhande preparing the course material. The college is now renamed Bhatkhande College of Hindustani Music. Preparation of that course material was a landmark achievement of Bhatkhande since musical knowledge used to be passed on verbally in earlier times from Gurus and Ustads to their disciples.

Bhatkhande prepared the Hindustani Sangeet Karmik Pustak Malika as a series of textbooks. He also started the tradition of the All India Music Conferences to provide a common platform for discussion between Hindustani and Carnatic classical musicians.


Bhatkhade suffered paralysis and a thigh fracture in 1933. He died in 1936 on Ganesh Chaturthi day.

The Post and Telegraph Department of India paid homage to Bhatkhande by releasing on September 1, 1961 a commemorative stamp containing his portrait.


  1. Shrimallakshya-sangeetam - A treatise, in Sanskrit, on the theory of music in slokas and describing the important ragas. (Lakshya=current)
  2. Lakshan Geet Sangrah in three parts. Compositions descriptive of the Ragas, giving their characteristics in songs composed by Pandit Bhatkhande.
  3. Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati in 4 parts - A commentary on the Lakshya Sangeetam in Marathi. It is a detailed study and discussion of the theory of music and explanation of 150 Ragas of Hindustani music. This important work has been translated into Hindi.
  4. Kramik Pustak Malika - This book was published in six parts. It is a detailed textbook of Hindustani music, describing all the important Ragas, their theory and illustrated with well-known compositions in notations. It contains about 1,200 such compositions.
  5. Swara Malika (in Gujarati characters) Notation of Ragas in swara and tala.
  6. A comparative Study of the Music Systems of the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries (in English).
  7. Historical Survey of the Music of India.
  8. Geet Malika - which was originally published in 23 monthly issues, each containing 25 to 30 classical compositions of Hindustani Sangeet in notation.
  9. Abhinav Raga Manjari - A treatise on the Ragas of Hindustani music, each being described briefly in one sloka in Sanskrit.
  10. Abhinav Tala Manjari - A textbook in Sanskrit on the Talas

Manuscripts edited by Bhatkhade:

  1. Swara Mela Kalanidhi by Ramamatya
  2. Chaturdandi Prakashika by Venkatmakhi
  3. Raga Lakshanam
  4. Raga Tarangini by Lochan
  5. Raga Tatva Vibodh by Shriniwas
  6. Sadraga Chandrodaya by Pundarik Vithal
  7. Raga Manjari by Pundarik Vithal
  8. Raga Mala" by Pundarik Vithal
  9. Nartan Niranaya by Kashinath Shashtri Appa Tulsi
  10. Sangeet Sudhakar by Kashinath Shashtri Appa Tulsi
  11. Sangeet Kalp Drumankur by Kashinath Shashtri Appa Tulsi
  12. Raga Chandrika by Kashinath Shashtri Appa Tulsi
  13. Raga Chandrika Sar (Hindi)

See also


External links



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