Carnatic Music vs. Hindustani Music: What's the difference?

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Difference between Carnatic Music and Hindustani Music

Music clearly represents the culture of any country. Aside from the common types of music which are played today by international and local bands, there are different types of music wherein it sings to the history and the very soul of a particular region. In India, there are two kinds of music which up to now is part of her colorful history and tradition – Hindustani classical music and Carnatic music. These two music types come from different regions in India and to know more about these two types of music, let us compare them with each other.

Carnatic Music
Hindustani Music


The Hindustani classical music originated from Northern India, and is a representation of the North Indian approach of the classical music of India. This type of classical music came all the way from 12th century and has evolved up to the present time in Northern India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh and has become one of two elements of the classical music of India along with the Carnatic music. Carnatic music is a music system which is usually associated with India’s southern subcontinent part, which comprises the four contemporary Indian states namely Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. Together with the Hindustani classical music, they form the main sub-genres of the classical music of India which came from the ancient traditions of Hindu. Carnatic music emphasizes on music that is being sung (vocal). Even if the compositions are played with certain instruments, they are still performed by singing.


There are 3 main vocal forms and styles which are associated with the Hindustani classical music. These are the Tarana, Khayal and Dhrupad. Aside from these three, there are also other types which include Bhajan, Ghazal, Dadra, Thumri, Ashtapadis, Tap-Khayal, Tappa, Kajari, Chaiti, Trivat, and Dhamar. Majority of these types are light classical or semi-classical music because most of the time, they do not follow the thorough regulations and rules of the classical music. On the other hand, in comparison to the music that Northern India plays – the Hindustani music, Carnatic music is learned and taught through compositions which programs a lot of complex musical details and also provides the scope for ad libs. Almost all renditions of Carnatic musical compositions are unique and different because it symbolizes the elements of the vision of the composer, including the interpretation of the musician.


The principles of the Hindustani classical music are based on the rhythmic patterns which are known as Taal. On the other hand, the foundations of the melody are known as ragas. One likely categorization of ragas is that it is into “parent scales” or “melodic modes” called Thaats. Carnatic music on the other hand is based on the vocal music principle.


  • Hindustani music comes from Northern India.
  • Carnatic music comes from the sub-continent of Southern India.
  • Hindustani music was influenced by the Persians.
  • Carnatic music focuses on vocal compositions.
  • Hindustani music has rhythmic patterns and is founded on the ragas.

Which Indian music do you like best?
  • Carnatic Music
  • Hindustani Music

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