There was a time when Hindustani music saw an exchange of ideas between vocalists and instrumentalists, as is evident from shared techniques, forms and melodic and rhythmic movements. In fact, such exchanges were also experienced with dance and poetry, among other disciplines. Naturally, therefore, the classic definition of “sangeet” is not limited to music alone, but includes vocal and instrumental music as well as dance. Unfortunately, the exact processes involved in many such shared practices were not recorded for posterity, with the result that we now see them as distinct elements in one or the other discipline.

Taarparan, a section in the aalaap or the introductory movement of an instrumental recital that follows the dhrupad format of raag elaboration, is the result of a similar artistic exchange. It occurs towards the end of the aalaap and changes the course of the unaccompanied aalaap by inviting the pakhawaj player to have a musical conversation. This dialogue is quite different from the one that takes place in the case of a melodic composition that is set to a rhythmic canvas of a particular taal or time-cycle. In the case of the taarparan, the dialogue is open-ended and challenges the main instrumentalist and the pakhawaj player by testing their skills at anticipating each other’s ideas.

Recordings of taarparan are not easily accessible, but they suggest that the basic structure follows a 4/4 pattern or a cycle of four pulses that simulates a taal cycle. The taarparan seems flexible and is focused on the inspiration drawn by the instrumentalist from pakhawaj bols or vocabulary. Ashok Da. Ranade in his book entitled Music Contexts: A Concise Dictionary of Hindustani Music also mentions taarparan as a separate genre in instrumental music that borrows heavily from pakhawaj compositions.

Here are two tracks that include a taarparan section towards the end of the aalaap.

The first track features rudra veena exponent Mohammad Dabir Khan, an illustrious scion of the Senia lineage and direct descendant of Mia Tansen, one of the Navratnas in Akbar’s court. He plays an aalaap in Shuddha Sarang, a raag prescribed for the afternoon. The taarparan section starts at 19.47”.


Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar plays an aalaap in the raag Jhinjhoti. The taarparan section starts at 31.18”. It ends with Ravi Shankar playing percussive right-hand strokes that simulate a short composition originally composed for pakhawaj and tabla. The composition is also played simultaneously on the pakhawaj by Durga Lal, the charismatic Kathak dancer of the Jaipur gharana also known as a pakhawaj player.