Musada Gayan: Resonating Melodies of Chamba, Himachal Pradesh

Musada Gayan

Musada Gayan, deeply entrenched in the cultural fabric of Chamba, Himachal Pradesh, stands as a testament to the rich heritage of the Gaddi community. This traditional folk singing style serves as a vibrant narrative, weaving tales of history, traditions, and daily life.Rooted in tradition, this musical art form is characterized by the harmonious collaboration of male artists known as 'Ghurai' and female artists known as 'Ghurain.' Let's delve into the vibrant world of Musada Gayan and explore its unique characteristics.

The Colorful Tapestry of Musadha Singing

In the heart of Chamba, Musadha singing resonates with diverse folk melodies, often narrating religious tales such as Krishna's birth or Ram's vanvaas. The oral transmission of these sagas, including Rameen (Ramayana), Pandaveen (Mahabharata), Shaveen (Shiva Purana), adds a rich layer to the cultural heritage. The storyteller, in his own dialect, narrates historical narratives, creating a bridge between generations.

The Artistry of Musadha Singing

Dual Instrument Mastery: Musada folk artists stand out as the world's first folk musicians who sing while playing two instruments simultaneously.

Ghurai and Ghurain: The male artist, Ghurai, plays musada, ghungroo, ruvana, and khanjari, while the female artist, Ghurain, sings and plays kensi or cymbals alongside.


The male Musada Gayan singer typically sings and plays the musada, which is a type of string instrument, as well as the ruvana, khanjari, and ghungroo. Meanwhile, the female counterpart sings and plays the kensi or cymbals alongside.

The ruvana is made up of chir or khumani and was originally strung with goat intestines, but is now made with nylon. Legend has it that Lord Krishna created the instrument and gave it to Sudama, who played it. During puja, it is customary to tie sacred threads or dori to the end of the ruvana and offer prayers while the musician plays. This is believed to be a wish made to Lord Satya Narayana. 

In addition to the ruvana, which is a string instrument, the musada gayan also plays the khanjari, a small dafli-like instrument, and ghungroo, which is tied to the left wrist. The khanjari is made of walnut wood. 

The songs performed by the musada gayan are mainly about nature, with an emphasis on rivers and mountains, as well as the different seasons and the lives of people.

The Cultural Tapestry of Gaddi Community

Rich Culture: Musada Gayan is an integral part of the Gaddi community's rich cultural heritage, with compositions often inspired by their history as shepherds in the Himalayan pastures.

People of this community are known for creating their compositions while taking care of their animals. They are ardent followers of Lord Shiva, and their devotion can be heard in their music. The community boasts a vibrant culture, with colorful outfits for both men and women and cultural festivals such as Basua or Baisakhi, Minjar Mela, and more.

Evolution and Challenges

The traditional art of Musada Gayan faces challenges as modernization leads to a fading transition. The younger generation, despite better educational facilities, is less inclined to inherit this ancestral art form.

“Paramparik geeton ko paramparik veshbhusha ke sath hi gaya jata hai”

Traditional Attire: Chamba Chaugoshi

The traditional dress of the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh is called "Chamba Chaugoshi". It is embroidered with colorful threads. 

Dress for Men

Men from the Gaddi tribe wear a long woollen coat called "Chola" that goes below the knees. They use a black cord made of sheep's wool called "Dora" to tighten the Chola around their waist. The Dora cord can be up to 60 meters long. They also wear woven woollen pyjamas called "Suthan" to cover their legs. Men cover their heads with a cap called "topi," which has a peak-like projection and flaps around the margin. The peak of the cap represents the Mountain Kailash peak. The flaps of the cap are used to cover the ears during cold weather, and the front side of the cap is adorned with dried flowers, a tuft of feathers, or a string of beads. They wear leather shoes called "Mocharu."

Dress for Women

On the other hand, the female costume comprises Luanchari, Dora, and a long dupatta with a frill called Ghundu. Luanchari is like a frock with contrasting colors and adorned with many frills and pippins. Gaddi women are very particular about their jewelry, and most of their jewelry is made of silver with a beautiful colored pattern on it. This jewelry is usually heavy, and it makes the dresses more attractive with this traditional jewelry.

Here are some traditional jewelry items and their descriptions:

  • Chiri: This is a forehead ornament similar to a mang tika. It weighs around 140-150 gm. 
  • Clips: These are hair clips used to hold hair in place. 
  • Jhumkas: These are earrings that dangle from the earlobe. 
  • Pari: This is a type of anklet known as payal. 
  • Chanderhar: This is a long necklace that weighs around 300-600 gm. 
  • Chack: This is a conical ornament worn at the back of the head and is considered a symbol of a married woman. 
  • Singi: This is a small necklace that fits closely around the neck. 
  • Gojru: These are bracelets worn on the hands.

Contemporary Challenges and Conservation Efforts

Nowadays, Western music and culture have become more popular than folk music. People are less interested in learning about and listening to folk music. However, it should be noted that folk musicians used to play an important role in society. In the past, there was no television, radio, or internet, and many people were illiterate. As a result, folk musicians played a crucial role in spreading religious messages. In Himachal Pradesh, where people have been religious for a long time, folk musicians used to learn chapters from religious texts such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Shiva Purana. They would then tell or sing these chapters to the masses during musada gayan, which is similar to a jagrata. After each chapter, the musician would explain it to the people. However, due to the advent of television and increasing literacy rates, people no longer rely on musicians for religious sermons. Additionally, with the rise of Westernization, people are more interested in Western music and disco, which has led to a decline in the popularity of folk music. Another issue is that some people like to mix folk and Western music, which is frowned upon by some elders in the community.

Recognising the need to preserve this cultural heritage, the National Youth Development Center, under the guidance of the Himachal Pradesh Language, Art, and Culture Department, has taken up the responsibility of safeguarding Musada Gayan. The government has implemented initiatives such as organising events like Himmahotsav , the Winter Carnival  and many more at the regional and national levels, not only to promote but also to actively preserve this integral aspect of Himachali culture. Musada Gayan is performed during these cultural events, serving as a living testament to the rich tradition and heritage of Himachal Pradesh.


Musada Gayan remains a living testament to the vibrant cultural heritage of Himachal Pradesh. While modernization poses challenges, concerted efforts to promote and preserve this unique folk art ensure that the melodies of Chamba continue to echo through the hills and valleys, connecting generations and preserving a piece of cultural history.


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