This gharana was founded by Ustad Allaudin Khan of Maihar in Madhya Pradesh, where he came to live in his later years. Though the gharana is of recent origin, the notable contributions of son Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and son-in law Pt Ravi Shankar have helped established this gharana.
The story goes that all the way from East Bengal came Ustad Allauddin Khan to Ustad Wazir Khan at Rampur, a court musician with the Rampur Maharaja. One of the most gifted musicians, though he perfected himself at playing the sitar, he also excelled in playing the sarod and violin.
Sitar is one of the most well-known Indian instruments. According to some, it has the Middle-Eastern origin, or more precisely, the Persian setar. Its name is derived from ‘seh tar’, three strings. Its development is often attributed to Amir Khusro, who is said to have adapted an existing instrument by reversing the order of strings and placing them in the order in which they are found today, with the main playing string on the outside, that is the performer’s left side and the bass strings closer to the player’s body.
Ustad Allauddin Khan created a style of his own by assimilating features from other prominent musicians. He combined the dhrupad ang alap with the khayal ang gat. “The alap jod pattern of the dhrupad was followed by a khayal style vilambit gat which had vistar passages with tans and gats ending with a jhala,” writes Sandeep Bagchee in Nad Understanding Raga Music. For sarod, he adopted taals like rupak and jhap and played folk dhuns based on raga Bhatiyar, popular in Bengal, a practice followed by both Pt. Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
The Maihar gharana sitar playing is best represented by Pt. Ravi Shankar. The low-pitched laraj and kharaj strings are tuned to mandra and atimandra in the sthayi. While the Senia been style was used by Ustad Allauddin Khan, Pt. Ravi Shankar’s used more of tantrakari ang that uses techniques suited to musical instruments like krintan and zamzama.
Krintan is a fingering technique with a plucking double sound, which is called kartari meetu — the cutting technique used by the Carnatic veena artistes. Zamzama is a combination of two notes in quick alternation produced with a single stroke. The tuning of the sitar in the Maihar gharana covers a vast range and is able to produce very low-pitched notes.
Janardhan Mitta, disciple of Pt. Ravi Shankar, points out that gayaki cannot exist by excluding sampradaikta (tradition).
“Purity of ragas is of utmost importance. While Guruji included Carnatic ragas such as Hamsadhwani, Kiravani and Charukesi in the Hindustani repertoire, he also created ragas that have stood the test of time. The foremost among them being Parameshwari, Gangeshwari, Rangeshwari and Kameshwari and the combination of Rageshwari and Jog resulted in Jogeshwari.”
The year 1967 saw a great sitar explosion. The same year at the festival of India, Pt. Ravi Shankar with George Harrison presented a host of artistes. His was the Sound of the Millennium.
He also gave birth to the idea of jugalbandi. Beatles came to him and he had famous jugalbandis with Ali Akbar Khan, Ashish Khan, Alam Khan etc. Their styles blended well. Ali Akbar Khan, Annapurnaji and Ravi Shankar were a great trio, who studied for seven and a half years under Allauddin Khan Sahib.
Maihar Gharana is now in the deft hands of Pt. Nikhil Banerjee and Anoushka Shankar and there are others like Pandit Uma Shankar, Karthick Kumar, Sharan Rani and Indrani Mukherjee adding to the beauty of this gharana’s style.