This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Charbak Dipta. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Limitation of The Lyrics of Hindustani Classical Bandishes

More from Charbak Dipta

In the context of Hindustani classical khyal, Bandish, (etymologically, which is in Bandhan i.e. tied) is a fixed melodic composition around which the singer/musician improvises with vistaar,sargam,taan and so on and present a complete kheyal of his/her choice of temporal extension. North Indian classical music, as it is a Raga based system, all bandishes are composed in particular Ragas and are complete with Swara, Pada and TaalaBandishes can be of three types — Vilamvit (composed in slow tempo),Madhyalaya (of medium tempo) and Drut (Fast tempo). There can be maximum four stanzas in classical bandishes– Sthayee/Asthayee,Antara, Sanchari and Abhog. In khyalmusic generally it is limited to the first two.

The romantic and religious themes-

Now, coming to the lyrics of the Bandishes of Khyal (literally means Imagination),a comparatively a new genre in Hindustani music, which used to be sung in royal courts, darbars.

The lyrics are mostly based on the love-stories of Radha Krishna or others or on some religious theme. Some composers insert their names in the lyrics (e.g.- Sadarangand Adarang) in a way to keep copyright of the bandishessomehow.Not only in pure classical, but in semi-classical compositions too, (Thumri,Dadra,Chaiti,Bhajan etc) the lyrics mostly switches between love stories (predominantly of Radha Krishna) and religious themes (Hinduism and Islam). Here too, composers like Meerabai or Haridas Swami inserted their names in the lyrics.

The limitation-

Take for example a bandish, composed in Raga Bihag in Teen Taala which goes like- ‘Pyari Pyari Ankhiyaan Raadhe Ki mana’, a description of Radha Krishna leela. Another bandish in Raga Malkauns, goes like- ‘Mandara Dekhe DareSudama’,which again revolves around the friendship between Lord Krishna and Sudama. The lyricists of these bandishes never went beyond these fixed subjects. The importance of lyrics is so ignored in India that an entire genre of Indian classical music ,namely Tarana has lyrics without any meaning. It’s lyrics goes with meaningless words like -‘Tana Dere Na Ta Dare Dani Dhum Tana Dere Na’.

It is norm to sing the traditional bandishes, and even when a composer ventures to write a new bandish today, he/she seldom goes beyond these fixed themes, sometimes in fear of breaking the tradition as Hindustani classical music is known to be conservative. In new bandishes , we do not see reflections of today’s issues. There are no bandish lyrics ,say for example, on topics like the current India-Pakistan turmoil, on the Internet, on the Amazon rainforest or on smart phones! There are bandish lyrics on Akbar or Radha Krishna, yet we do not have lyrics on the current ruling government or online dating respectively. A few attempts has been done here and there but they sound so comical, they have not been accepted in mainstream khyal gayaki. The discussion of it, or doing it practically ,sounds funny and bizarre but this is a deep rooted limitation of Indian classical music.

Not only modern issues, we are reluctant to incorporate non-Indian issues in our bandishes. Thus we do not have bandishes on the Trump government or the IS attacks or any other international themes.

Popular music in the west is far advanced in this case. Lyrics of popular genres like Rock,Pop and even Folk sometimes, have changed with time and embraced modern issues. Popular music, at times, has become the arms of protest, social revolution and at the same time it did not ignored eternal love or religious themes either. Hindustani classical music lagged far behind in this case.

Personal interests of the singer-

The lyrics are based on Hindu or Islamic themes but never on Christianity or any other religion. For example the famous bandish in Raga Bhairavi goes like- ‘Bhawani Dayani Mahavakyavani’ and another in Raga Bihag is- ‘Chinta Na Kara Re,Bechinta rahu mana mein Allah Karam Kar…’ .

If a singer is an atheist, he/she is forced to sing Allah or Bhavani (a Hindu goddess) every time he want to sing a raga. Again, if one has nothing to do with Radha Krishna , is sick of ‘Koyelia’ or –‘Piya ki nazariya’,(the words that repeatedly comes in classical bandishes without fail), he is compelled to sing exactly these things.

Problem of translation-

Most bandishes is composed in North Indian languages that are spread across Delhi,Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Rajasthan. Some experimented by composing bandishes in other Indian languages like Bengali and Oriya. But there is a huge language barrier. We do not have Bandishes in English and other foreign languages. It sounds hilarious if we convert any bandish into English.It may be argued that it is so pure and original, Bandishes cannot be translated as it has its deep root in Indian culture. But it cannot be accepted. We have rock and pop songs in Indian languages everywhere but we fail when it comes to cater our Bandishes to west in their languages.Even western classical opera songs sounds suitable in Indian languages. In that case we can argue it is the merit of the language that is able to absorb the western melody. On the other hand Indian classical music is poor and not flexible in this case.


Sometimes these complaints comes afloat that after ruling India for so many centuries the Britishers have learned nothing from us. They generalise all Indian dishes to curry, cannot pronounce Indian names and alters Kolkata to Calcutta, Bardhaman to Burdwan. In return we have learned and accepted and used their culture into ours. Unlike Indians, who play western instruments like guitar and piano successfully and vastly in their music, the westerners seldom plays sitar and sarod in their songs. It is their failure. But when it comes to translation of Bandishes into French or German, we Indians cut a sorry figure.The only way out of this problem is the re-invention of the bandish lyrics.

Illustration by Charbak Dipta

You must be to comment.

More from Charbak Dipta

Similar Posts

By Aditya Agnihotri

By Vinayana Khurana

By Robin

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below