100 Greatest Indian Classical Musicians

Updated on July 11, 2018
Ansel Pereira profile image

I have been an online writer for over two years. I am passionate about books, philosophy, music, and the music industry.

Explore the 100 best classical Indian musicians!
Explore the 100 best classical Indian musicians! | Source

Indian classical music is associated with two major traditions, Hindustani, which is a classical music tradition in North India, and Carnatic, a classical music expression of South India. While Hindustani music explores various aspects of a raga through improvisation, Carnatic music emphasizes short, complex compositions based on rhythmic improvisations with talas (time cycles). Both Hindustani classical music and Carnatic classical music are hugely popular in different parts of India and the world. The foundational elements in Indian classical music are raga and tala. Below you will find 100 of the best classical Indian musicians, as well as learn which style of classical music they are masters in.

Greatest Indian Classical Musicians #1-30

1-10
11-20
21-30
1. Ravi Shankar (Sitar- Hindustani Classical)
11. Allaudin Khan (Sarod- Hindustani Classical)
21. M. Balamuralikrishna (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
2. Alla Rakha (Tabla- Hindustan Classical)
12. Bismillah Khan (Shehnai- Hindustani Classical)
22. Vilayat Khan (Sitar- Hindustani Classical)
3. L. Subramaniam (Violin- Carnatic Music)
13. T.R. Mahalingam (Flute- Carnatic Music)
23. Sheik Chinna Moulana (Nadhaswaram- Carnatic Music)
4. Zakir Hussain (Tabla- Hindustani Classical)
14. Shivkumar Sharma (Santoor- Hindustani Classical)
24. Kishori Amonkar (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
5. Maharajapuram Santhanam (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
15. Lalgudi Jayraman (Violin- Carnatic Music)
25. Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu (Violin- Carnatic Music)
6. Inayat Hussain Khan (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
16. Annapurna Devi (Surbahar- Hindustani Classical)
26. Amjad Ali Khan (Sarod- Hindustani Classical)
7. Palghat Mani Iyer (Mridangam- Carnatic Music)
17. Bhimsen Joshi (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
27. Imdad Khan- (Sitar/Surbahar- Hindustani Classical)
8. Hariprasad Chaurasia (Flute- Hindustani Classical)
18. Amir Khan (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
28. U. Srinivas (Mandolin- Carnatic Music)
9. M.S. Subbulakshmi (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
19. N. Ravikiran (Chitravina- Carnatic Music)
29. Nikhil Banerjee (Sitar- Hindustani Classical)
10. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
20. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (Mohan-veena- Hindustani Classical)
30. Anokhelal Mishra (Tabla- Hindustani Classical)

Love is not an emotion. It is your very existence.

— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Compositions in Classical Indian Music

The melodic structure that forms the fabric of a composition is referred to as raga, while tala is the time cycle that provides a creative framework for rhythmic improvisation. Indian classical music is known to be one of the most complex forms of music in improvisational musical traditions. The free form expression in Hindustani classical music often draws comparisons with varied elements of jazz, while the use of fixed compositions in Carnatic classical music often compared with Western classical. Improvisation techniques in Indian classical music have ancient roots. One of the techniques commonly used in Hindustani classical is Alap, the opening section exploring tonal combinations, followed by Jor which explores speed and tempo and Jhala, referring to complex combinations of fast paced conclusions similar to a fishnet of strokes while keeping beat patterns.

Greatest Indian Classical Musicians #31-60

31-40
41-50
51-60
31. Zia Mohiuddin Dagar (Rudra Vina- Hindustani Classical)
41. R. Prasanna (Guitar- Carnatic Music)
51. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
32. Bombay Jayashree (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
42. Kadri Gopalnath (Saxaphone- Carnatic Music)
52. Kumar Gandharva (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
33. Abdul Karim Khan (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
43. D.K. Jayaraman (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
53. Veenai Dhanammal (Vocalist/Sarswati Veena- Carnatic Music)
34. V. Lakshminarayana (Violin- Carnatic Music)
44. S. Sowmya (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
54. M. L. Vasanthakumari (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
35. Jayanthi Kumaresh (Veena- Carnatic Music)
45. Chitti Babu (Veena- Carnatic Music)
55. Sultan Khan (Sarangi- Hindustani Classical)
36. Aruna Sairam (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
46. Girija Devi (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
56. Kishan Maharaj (Tabla- Hindustani Classical)
37. Rashid Khan (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
47. M.S. Gopalakrishnan (Violin- Carnatic music)
57. Ali Akbar Khan (Sarod- Hindustani Classical)
38. Asad Ali Khan (Radra Veena- Hindustani Classical)
48. Kumar Bose (Tabla- Hindustani Classical)
58. D.K. Pattammal (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
39. Ram Narayan (Sarangi- Hindustani Classical)
49. Guruvayur Dorai (Mridangam- Carnatic Music)
59. Begum Akhtar (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
40. Gangubai Hangal (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
50. Imrat Khan (Sitar/Surbahar- Hindustani Classical)
60. Mallikarjun Mansur (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)

Today is a gift from God—that is why it is called the present.

— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

What Makes These Musicians so Talented?

Indian classical musicians are known for they rigorous practice schedule referred to as Riyaz. The roots of Indian classical music can be traced in the ancient Natyashastra and Vedic literature associated with Hinduism. Sangita-Ratnakara, an ancient Sanskrit text in the 13th century authored by Indian musicologist Sarangadeva is regarded as the definitive text of Indian classical music in both Hindustani music and Carnatic music. Indian classical music has evolved in accordance with numerous regional styles and folk traditions. While the majority of Indian classical musicians stick to their roots, over the years a number of modern-day musicians and composers have incorporated elements of Indian classical in popular music genres.

Greatest Indian Classical Musicians #61-100

61-75
75-89
89-100
61. Jasraj- (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
75. Haridwaramangalam A. K. Palanivel (Thavil- Carnatic Music)
89. M.D. Ramanathan (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
62. N.Ravikiran (Vocalist/Stringed Instruments- Carnatic Music)
76. Mysore Vasudevachar (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
90. Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
63. T.M. Krishna (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
77. Ajoy Chakrabarty (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
91. Shubha Mudgal (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
64. K.V. Narayanaswamy (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
78. Rajani- Gayatri Sisters (Vocals/Violin- Carnatic Music)
92. T. N. Seshagopalan (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
65. Chembai (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
79. Samta Prasad (Tabla- Hindustani Classical)
93. Vijay Siva (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
66. Mavelikkara Velukutty Nair (Mridangam- Carnatic Music)
80. Nithyasree Mahadevan (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
94. Sanjay Subrahmanyan (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
67. Pannalal Ghosh (Flute- Hindustani Classical)
81. Vedavalli (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
95. T. Brinda (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
68. Shahid Parvez (Sitar- Hindustani Classical)
82. Sundaram Balchander (Veena- Carnatic Music)
96. Neyveli Santhanagopalan (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
69. T.N. Krishnan (Violin- Carnatic Music)
83. Madurai Mani Iyer (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
97. Kaushiki Chakraborty (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
70. Musiri Subramania Iyer (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
84. S. Ramanathan (Vocalist/Veena- Carnatic Music)
98. G. N. Balasubramaniam (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
71. L. Shankar (Violin- Carnatic Music)
85. Faiyaz Khan (Vocalist- Hindustani Classical)
99. P. Unnikrishnan (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
72. N. Ramani (Flute- Carnatic Music)
86. S. Somasundaram (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
100. Yogesh Samsi (Tabla- Hindustani Classical)
73. Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)
87. Muthiah Bhagavatar (Vocalist/Composer- Carnatic Music)
74. Rahul Sharma (Santoor- Hindustani Classical)
88. Sikkil Gurucharan (Vocalist- Carnatic Music)

The difference between motivation and inspiration: Motivation is external and short lived. Inspiration is internal and lifelong.

— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Indian Classical Hindustani Music

Hindustani classical is largely prevalent in North India. Improvisation is of prime importance in Hindustani music. With each gharana (teaching school/teaching house) developing it’s unique distinctive technique, varied interpretations stem to form a diverse method and technique. Hindustani classical musicians in India are known for their creative improvisational skills. The four major forms of Hindustani music are Dhrupad, Tarana, Khayal, and Thumri which is semi-classical form of expression. Dhrupad is an ancient form of musical expression whereas Khayal is a modern form of Hindustani classical that has evolved from Dhrupad. Thumri has evolved through the years from Khayal.

Dhrupad typically consists of four stanzas of musical expression called Sthayi, Sanchari, Antara and Abhoga. The Sthayi is melody that uses low octave notes and the middle octave’s first tetrachord. Sanchari is the developmental music structure which builds using parts of Antara and Sthayi which have already been played, using melodic soundscapes that built around three octave notes. The Abhoga is associated with rhythmic variations and diminished notes of the concluding section bringing back the listener to the focal point or starting point of Sthayi. At times a fifth stanza called Bhoga associated with Bhakti (emotional devotion to a God or Goddess) maybe included by performers.

A number of traditional musical instruments and ethnic musical instruments are used in Indian classical music. While different musical instruments are used in Hindustani classical music and Carnatic music, instruments are also used interchangeably in accordance with composition. The table below lists different types of musical instruments used in each tradition.

Musical Instruments Used in Hindustani Classical Music

Instrument
Definition
Bansuri
A bansuri is a side blown flute found in many parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, and a musical instrument that is common in the North Indian or Hindustani classical music.
Sitar
The sitar is a plucked stringed instrument used in Hindustani classical music. The instrument flourished under the Mughals and it is named after a Persian instrument called the setar.
Sarod
The sarod is a stringed instrument, used mainly in Hindustani music. Along with the sitar, it is among the most popular and prominent instruments.
Violin
The violin, also known informally as a fiddle, is a wooden string instrument in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden body. It is the smallest and highest-pitched instrument in the family in regular use.
Tabla
The tabla is a membranophone percussion instrument originating from the Indian subcontinent, consisting of a pair of drums, used in traditional, classical, popular and folk music.
Surbahar
Surbahar, sometimes known as bass sitar, is a plucked string instrument used in the Hindustani classical music of North India. It is closely related to the sitar, but has a lower tone.
Veena
The veena, comprises a family of chordophone instruments of the Indian subcontinent. Ancient musical instruments evolved into many variations, such as lutes, zithers and arched harps.
Tanpura
The tanpura is a long-necked plucked string instrument found in various forms in Indian music. It does not play melody but rather supports and sustains the melody of another instrument or singer by providing a continuous harmonic bourdon or drone.
Santoor
The santoor is an Indo-Persian trapezoid-shaped hammered dulcimer or string musical instrument generally made of walnut, usually with seventy-two strings.
Pakhavaj
The pakhawaj or mridang is an Indian barrel-shaped, two-headed drum, a variant and descendant of the older mridang.
Shehnai
The shehnai is a musical instrument, common in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is made out of wood, with a double reed at one end and a metal or wooden flared bell at the other end.
Esraj
Esraj is an Indian stringed instrument found in two forms throughout the Indian subcontinent. It is a relatively young instrument, being only about 300 years old.
Sarangi
The sārangī is a bowed, short-necked string instrument from India as well as Nepal and Pakistan which is used in Hindustani classical music.
Source

Indian Classical Carnatic Music

Carnatic music is exceedingly popular in South India. Carnatic music is more complexly structured than Hindustani classical. The rhythmically intensive musical expression in structural parts is similar to musical expressions in Western classical music. The dynamics of ragas in Carnatic music are elaborative. While tempos in ragas are significantly faster, they are shorter than their equivalents associated with Hindustani music. The musical structure in Carnatic music starts with Varnam, which is a warm-up for musicians followed by devotion and blessings. Then follows a series of exchanges or interchanges between unmetered melody referred to as Ragams and Thaalams (ornamentation) intermixed with kirthis (hymns). Following this is the pallavi (theme) from the raga. Carnatic pieces may consist of notated lyrical poems with embellishments in accordance with the performer’s ideologies.

Musical Instruments Used in Cranatic Classical Music

Instrument
Definition
Veena
The veena, comprises a family of chordophone instruments of the Indian subcontinent. Ancient musical instruments evolved into many variations, such as lutes, zithers and arched harps.
Mridangam
The Mridangam is a percussion instrument from India of ancient origin. It is the primary rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble, and in Dhrupad, where it is known as Pakhawaj.
Ghatam
The Ghatam is a percussion instrument used in the Carnatic music of South India. A variant played in Punjab and known as gharha as is a part of Punjabi folk traditions. Its analogue in Rajasthan is known as the madga and pani mataqa.
Harmonium
The pump organ, reed organ, harmonium, or melodeon is a type of free-reed organ that generates sound as air flows past a vibrating piece of thin metal in a frame. The piece of metal is called a reed.
Venu
The venu is one of the ancient transverse flutes of Indian classical music. It is an aerophone typically made from bamboo, that is a side blown wind instrument. It continues to be in use in the South Indian Carnatic music tradition.
Thavil
The thavil or tavil is a barrel shaped percussion instrument from Tamilnadu. It is used in temple, folk and Carnatic music, often accompanying the nadaswaram.
Violin
The violin, also known informally as a fiddle, is a wooden string instrument in the violin family.
Gottuvadyam
The chitravina is a 20 or 21-string fretless lute in Carnatic music.
Morsing
A morsing is an instrument similar to the Jew's harp, mainly used in Rajasthan, in the Carnatic music of South India, and in Sindh.
Nadaswaram
The nadhaswaram, nagaswaram, or nathaswaram is a double reed wind instrument from Tamilnadu.
Saraswati
An Indian plucked string instrument. It is named after the Hindu goddess Saraswati.
Veena
The veena, comprises a family of chordophone instruments of the Indian subcontinent.
Udukkai
The udukkai or uduku is a membranophone instrument used in folk music and prayers in Tamil Nadu and it is originated in Tamil Nadu as well.
Maddale
The Maddale is a percussion instrument from Karnataka, India. It is the primary rhythmic accompaniment in a Yakshagana ensemble along with Chande.

Which is the most complex form of music?

See results

What is your favorite Musical instrument in Indian Classical?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Ansel Pereira

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, spinditty.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://spinditty.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)