Gwalior gharana of Indian classical music is easily the doyen amongst Khayal gharanas. The master figure Gwalior gharana was Ghulam Rasul of Lucknow. Then came Nathan Pirbux who migrated from Lucknow to Gwalior and his illustrious descendents Haddu Khan, Hassu Khan, Nathu Khan, Muhammad Khan, and Rahmat Khan. This gharana showed unparalleled mastery and control over the Todi group of Ragas.
All the Ustads of this gharana were Court singers of Gwalior Durbar. Haddu and Hassu Khan were liberal teachers. They taught Shahdad Khan the great grandfather of Vilayet Khan Sitariya. More importantly this gharana produced a string of very illustrious disciples from Maharashtra led by Balkrishna Bua Ichalkaranjikar, Vasudev Joshi and Baba Dixit. Balkrishna Bua trained the legendary Vishnu Digambar Paluskar who literally carried the flag of Gwalior gharana to Bombay, Pune, and Maharashtra.
Then emerged a band of brilliant singers besides the great trio of Omkarnath Thakur, Vinayakran Patwardhan, and Narayanrao Vyas apart from Paluskar’s son D. V. Paluskar who died young. Nisar Hussain of this gharana trained up another group of disciples namely, Shankar Pandit, Kris narao Pandit, Ramkrishna Bua Vaze and Raja Bhaiya Poonchwale. Even Anant Manohar Joshi, Gajanan Rao Joshi and Bhimsen Joshi were moulded in their formative years by the Gwalior gharana.
Yet another stalwart Inayat Hussain who was Court singer in Nepal brought up the Rampur Sahaswan gayaki with famous singers as Mushtaq Hussain, Fida Hussain and the latter’s son Nisar Hussain Khan.
The basic features of Gwaior gharana were:
- Very powerful throwing of the voice
- Dhrupad based Khayal
- No Alap or aochar but straight presentation of raga through Vilambit and Drut Khayals.
- Straight and Sapat tanas
- Powerful Boltans
- Use of gamakas and Behalawas,
All in all it was a great gayaki, masculine, picturesque, brilliant and very melodious with an awe inspiring repertoire of compositions in many ragas.