The Rajastan Binkar Gharana of Jaipur and Alwar is amongst the most ancient and venerated Binkar gharanas of India. The tradition, as the legend goes, started with the figure Naik Baiju Rajput (Bakshu) who belonged to the Chowhan clan and worshipped Godess Bhavani. This Rudra Bin player belonged to the period of Allaudin Khilji. Around the 14th century his descendants and kinsmen had to leave lower Rajasthan and migrate to Golcunda in the Deccan. Their sojourn in the South was blessed with the patronage’ of local rulers and their art of Bin and Dhrupad assimilated some features of Carnatic instrumental styles as well. Around the late 17th and early 1 8th century, they returned to Rajasthan and spread to Jaipur, Udaipur and Alwar. In the second half of 18th century one Shahji Saheb emerged as a prolific Binkar. He had two sons Rajab Ali Binkar and Khairat Ali Dhrupadia. Rajab Ali had no issue while Khairat Ali had two sons Musaraf Khan and Qutab Ali and a daughter Rehmat bibi. Rajab Ali adopted Musaraf Khan and his son. Rajib Ali trained up Amiruddin Khan (nephew) and Musaraf Khan and these two Binkars trained up Ghulam All Binkar, son of Qutab Ali. Musaraf Khan trained up his son Sadiq Ali whose son Asad Ali is now perhaps the lone traditional Binkar in India. On the other side, Amiruddin Khan trained up his son Jamalludin Khan and the latter groomed up his son Abid Husain in both Rudra Bin and Dhrupad. Another star Binkar trained up by Jamalludin Khan was Abbas Ali, his cousin, who was a prodigy and died in his twenties when he was known as a wonder Rudra Bin player. Jamalludin Khan also trained up the great Vichitra Bin player Abdul Aziz Khan of Patiala.
Rajab Ali was a highly respected and venerated musician of his time. He was a contemporary of Seni Sitaria Rahim Sen and senior to the latter’s son Amrit Sen, the legendary sitar player. The latter were direct descendants of Rajras Khan and Masitkhan of the lineage of Bilas Khan, Son of Tansen. The Binkars and Seni Sitar players had settled in Jaipur. Rahim sen and Amrit Sen were very intimate with Rajab Ali Which result in musical exchanges between the two gharans. The Senia sitar players received guidance in the art of Rudra Bin Alap and laykari and the Sitar players of the Binkar gharana were initiated into the techniques of Sitar and inbibed many bandishes of Senia sitar players. It is here that an integration of Khandari Bani of Rudra Bin and the Gouria Bani of Dhrupad took Place. The Senia sitar Players were fairly distant from the dynasty of Tansen’s son-in-law Naubat Khan (Misri Singh Chouhan) Binkar and there was also rivalry between the two dynasties. The rich Alap style of Senia sitar players bore the stamp of the Rajasthani Binkar gharana Ied by Rajab All. At a later period there were musical exchanges between Musaraf Khan Binkar of Jaipur and Bahadur Sen of Senia dynasty who was a great Sur Srinagar player of Jaipur and then of Rampur The Jaipur Binkar gharana after its interaction with the Jaipur Senja Sitar gharana helped to enrich the baaz of Sitar taking it to a high level of excellence as it developed the full Rag Alap technique and Sophisticated gatkari The Sitar bandishes of the two gharanas, as a result, had great resemblance and similarity of structure.
Apart from Rajab All, the Jaipur Binkar gharana produced great masters particularly Jamalludin Khan and the Prodigy Abbas Khan, Who died prematurely in his mid twenties. A few Words on their prowess as Binkars may not be out of place. Jamalludin was a highly venerated and prolific Binkar. His Playing used to bring tears to the eyes of listeners.
Since the fifties, Binkars became more or less extinct. They were tied up with princely courts. Since independence, the Rudra Bin players had not found the way from aristocracy to democracy, from the palaces to Concert halls. The Binkars also lacked in preparedness to get adopted to the electronics technology. In Sitar, this Binkar gharana produced great Sitar players like Shamsuddin Khan, Haider Baksh, Kallan Khan. Of these, Shamsuddin Khan was a distinguished player of Sur Bahar also and he was the epitome of the famous “Do Hath Ka Baj” of Jaipur and very artistic use of the mizraf. If there is any other gharana where this type of integrated play of both hand has been achieved and excellence reached, it is the Etawah gharana led by Ustad Imdad Khan and his very illustrious descendents. Shamshuddin Khan, lmdad Khan and Senia Sitar player Barkatullah Khan were contemporaries. Shamshuddjn Khan Was the first Indian Ustad to have visited Europe (Rome Paris and London) in 1894 with a large Sitar resembling the Sur Bahar.
The Jaipur Sitar instruments, leaving aside Sur Bahars were middle sized with seven strings with Kharaj Pancham strings and Chikari. Fairly thick strings were used and tuned at fairly high pitch. The old Posture of Sitting was the left foot folded and the right foot folded upwards. Later the jodasan Posture was in vogue. The stroke pattern, except at fairly fast tempo, used the bols Da Ra Da, Da Ra Da, Da Ra which was the basis of the “Do Hath Ka Baaz” in which the left hand and right hand were well integrated. The stroke play would clearly indicate the weight of the tanas or gamaks. These bols were scientifically conceived in the sense that the finger bones and the bones and muscles of the right hand would not get tired easily - Something like the dynamo of a car continuously using and recharging the battery. The use of the usual Da Ra Da Ra bols all along is indicative of lack of real talim.
Regarding Talas, the talas mainly preferred were Teen Tal (konwn as king of talas for Sitar), Japtal and Ektal. As regards Ragas the important or basic ragas were preferred and efforts were made to show excellence in these ragas. Many Achop Ragas were known but were taught as part of Talim(training) to show how they grew out of or were related to the major ragas. The ragas specialized in were Lalit, Mia Ki Todi, Desi, Asavari, varieties of Sarang, Bhimpalasi, Multani, Puria, Kedara, Yaman, Jaijaiwanti, Darbari, Malkosh, Bageshri, Miyaki Malhar, Goud Malhar and many others.
Rag Alap as prelude to bandish was always important. Earlier when listeners were musicians or connoisseurs, detailed Rag Alap was followed by bandishes. Gradually, however, Rag Alap was limited to showing the basic movements followed by bandishes to meet changing tastes and constraints of time. There was no practice of Alap in one Raga and bandishes being played in other ragas. The Ustads were so well trained that they could play full scale Alap and thereafter bandishes in one raga itself without sounding repetitive or monotonous.
There is one important aspect of the Jaipur Binkar and Sitar Gharana. This relates to the strong vocal base of the Gharana and the systematic talim given in Raga Alap and Bandishes on the voice, without which, excellence in Sitar or in musical imagination in general was not possible. As in Gayaki bandishes, Sitar bandishes also followed various patterns.