Today’s halt in Patnabeats’ series of music schools is the evergreen and one of the most popular traditions called, ‘Darbhanga Gharana’. This Gharana of Bihar is based on the Gauhar Vani tradition of Dhrupad. But yet there are multiple unique features that differentiate its style from other Dhrupad schools. The emphasis on layakari, with an improvisational balance between rhythm as well as melody, splits the Darbhanga presentation into equal proportions between the alaap and bandish. Unique aspects of the Been-ang within the Alaapchari with the Alaap, Jod (slow and fast) and Jhala are also unique characteristics of the Darbhanga Gharana.
The Darbhanga Gharana was started by Pt. Radhakrishna and Pt. Kartaram, learned dhrupad from Bhupat Khan (grandson of Tansen). Legend states that when they visited Darbhanga, the region had suffered famine and severe drought. The brothers offered help and sang Raga Megh, which produced a heavy downpour instantly. Gratefully the Maharaja Madhao Singh granted them several villages and the surrounding land where their family resides until today. Presently, the Mallik Family is the leading representative of the court music tradition of Darbhanga.
One of the flourishing classical music traditions at the turn of the 20th century, the Darbhanga Gharana struggled in the post-independence era and almost vanished in the decades that followed. It is believed to have occurred because of the socio-political situation in Bihar and the financial insecurity during that time were major factors behind the eclipse of the tradition. Notable singers of the Darbhanga Gharana include Ram Chatur Mallick, Vidur Mallick and Siyaram Tiwari.
Other than Darbhanga, Bettiah, Dumraon, Barhiya and Gaya Gharana about which we have talked in detail, Panchgachiya and Baneli were a few other rich and powerful riyasats where classical music was the way of life. Padma Bhushan Sharda Sinha Ji was herself initiated into Indian classical music by an eminent khayal singer of Panchgachiya Gharana, late Pandit Raghu Jha. Darbhanga, Zamindars like the Panchgachiya Estate Raibahadur Laxminarayan Singh, Uma Shankar of Muzaffarpur and Sardar Panda Govind Lal Nakfofa were the well-known patrons of their times in Bihar. In Fact, they themselves were well versed in music-making the riyasats of Bihar royal, irreplaceable and memorable.