Music and Dance in Varanasi

Music is supposed to be the soul of life. By virtue of being the oldest living city, Benaras has its own rich history and treasure of music. According to mythology, when Renu (son of Vishwamitra) and Mahagovind founded Kashi (Varanasi), they also brought with them the Aryan traditions and the Vedic culture. Lord Shiva is the presiding deity of Varanasi and is also considered as the lord of dance and music. According to the Puranic tales the Apsaras, Gandharvas and Kinnars lived in Varanasi and made the musical tradition of Varanasi a rich one.

Going back to history, we find numerous instances and examples of dance, music and drama evolving in Varanasi. Excavations at Varanasi have shown a terracotta figurine, in which two musicians are playing percussion instruments. The literature of ancient and medieval times also point out to a great tradition of music in Kashi or Varanasi. The Bhakti movement in the medieval period also contributed to the development of music in Varanasi. Great saint Chaitanya and Vallabhacharya played an important role in the development and popularity of music in Varanasi. Saints like Surdas, Kabeer, Raidas, Meera and Tulsi also made rich and valuable contributions to the devotional music and their Bhajans are popular to even this day.

Benaras also developed as a great center of Dhrupad style of singing. In the 16th century, Govind Chandra ruled Varanasi and during his regime Dhrupad was the royal music. With the development of Dhrupad, other styles like Dhamar, Hori and Chaturang also grew. The Famous Assarwari, "GhunGhat ke pat Khol" was made famous by the Nirgun singers of Kashi while Meer Rustam (the Nawab of Awadh) patronised Music Festivals like Jhoola, Jhoomar, Kajri, Birha, Dangal, Gulab Bari and music festivals on boats. Over a period of time Tappa form of singing also became popular in Varanasi and its main exponents were Shori Miyan, Gammu Khan and Shade Khan.

Over a period of time, the Maharajas of Kashi or Varanasi also gave patronage to music and that resulted in making Varanasi a great center of music. Here, it's important to note the contribution of Maharaj Prabhu Narayan Singh, who gave patronage to Bahadur Shah's court Musicians like Waris Ali, Akbar Ali, Nisar Khan, Sadiq Ali and great Ashiq Ali Khan. Ali Mohammad and Ali Bux, the sons of Basat Khan, were considered the "jewels" of Kashi Darbar. Thus, a galaxy of great musicians made Banaras a great center of music. Varanasi saw the development of Banarasi Thumri, Dadra, Chaiti, Hori, Bhairavi, Kajri, Tarana, Ghato and much more. Besides these major streams, lesser-known forms like Tirwat, Sadra, Khamsa, Lavni, Chaturang, Sargam, Ragmala, Kirtan, Qauwali, Kathagayan, Bhajan and Ramayan also developed at Varanasi.

Varanasi is also associated with many great instrumentalists. Sehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan is famous worldwide while Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar has earned wide acclaim throughout the world. Other instrumentalists who have left their mark are Madan Mohan, Bhola Nath, Pathak, Mannuji, Amarnath Mishra, Brindwan Das, Ramdeo and Subodh Babu.

From their home city of Benares, an ancient spiritual centre of traditional music and Hindu culture, “The Mishras” are bringing classical North Indian Ragas and meditative music to the world audience, gifting the audience with a fabulous performance and a spiritual experience. Join this father (Pandit Shivnath Mishra ) and son (Deobrat Mishra) duet of two of the world’s finest Sitar Artist and Prashant Mishra on  Tabla grandson of Pandit Shivnath Mishra as they inspire one another to new levels of loving interplay.

Incorporation of this style with the “Jugalbandi” presentation, in which there are two solo artists sharing the stage, has created a unique synthesis of classical and folk that appeals to audiences everywhere. But this is not just Jugalbandi, this is a duet between a Guru and his Shishya (disciple) and, in this case, between father and son. Seeing this special interaction on stage is no doubt an unforgettable and mesmerizing experience.

Varanasi holy land originated the Sehnai Maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan and Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar whose popularity is wide spread through the whole world. Music is not an individual concept Varanasi is the home of Indian traditional dance that has the inimitable style of performing arts like folk art. Ravi Shankar Mishra legendary name in performing arts has taken the dance education from dance guru of Banaras Gharana late Smt Alkhnanda Devi globally famous folk dancer. After completing his Dance Education he performed at the big platform in many cities of India Bombay, Delhi, Kolkata, Jaipur, Madras, Trivandurm and Lucknow etc and also in abroad U.K, France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and Morocco. His cousin Mata Prasad Mishra was one of the famous representatives of Banaras's Dance Style.

Varanasi has given many Dancers and Artist to Indian Cinema and Radio, Pandey Mahraj is one of them. Today there are so many government owned and private organization are running to promote the Varanasi traditional dance and some are. The Indian council of cultural relation (ICCR) a government owned Indian art organization whose regional office is in Varanasi. Navrang is the Indian Classical musical society and kala prakash is the institute of performing arts. There are so many great musical soul devotion and dedications have made the Varanasi as the epic centre of music and dance.