Khayal is a form of vocal music in Hindustani music, adopted from medieval Persian music and based on Dhrupad music. Khayal, literally meaning "thought" or "imagination" in Hindi/Urdu originally from Arabic, Khyal, is special as it is based on improvising and expressing emotion. A Khayal is a 2 to 8 lined lyric set to tune. The lyric is of an emotional account possibly from poetic observation. Khayals are also more popularly depicting emotional significance between two lovers, a situation evoking intense feeling, or situations of ethological significance in Hinduism and Islam.
Th importance of the Khayal's content is for the singer to depict, through music in the set raga, the emotional significance of the Khayal. The singer improvises and finds inspiration within the raga to depict the Khayal.
The origination of Khayal is controversial, yet it is accepted that this style was based on Dhrupad gayaki and influenced by Persian music. Many argue that Amir Khusrau created the style in the late 16th century. This form was popularized by Mughal Emperor Mohammad Shah, through his court musicians. Some well-known composers of this period were Sadarang, Adarang, and Manrang.
"Kaisku Marwa Jaayal Hamaraa More darawa nayan ghar kan warahe, Mohammad Shah ke Sadarangile, Prem Piya la Chapate Apne, Huntara Tana Mana Waarune" - Mohammad Shah
Later performers include D. V. Paluskar, Satyakinkar Bandyopadhyay, Gyan Gosain, Amir Khan, Faiyaz Khan, Vinayak Rao Patwardhan, Pt. Shankar Rao Vyas, Narayanrao Vyas, Nazakat Ali and Salamat Ali Khan, Eknath Sarolkar, Kashinath Pant Marathe, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Smt. Kesarbai Kerkar, Mogubai Kurdikar, Krishnarao Shankar Pandit, Balabhau Umdekar Kundalguru, Gajananrao Joshi, S.N.Ratanjankar, Ram Marathe, Ratnakar Pai, Kumar Gandharva, Jitendra Abhisheki, A. Kanan, Basavaraj Rajaguru and Mallikarjun Mansur.
Some of the present day vocalists are Manas Chakraborty, Rashid Khan, Pandit Jasraj, Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal, Yeshwantbua Joshi, Balasahab Poochwale, Girija Devi, Kishori Amonkar,Satyasheel Deshpande, Ustad Iqbal Ahmad Khan, Ishwarchandra Karkare, Rajshekhar Mansur, Ulhas Kashalkar, Shubhada Paradkar, Arun Bhaduri, Malini Rajurkar, Purnima Sen, Ajoy Chakrabarty,Prabakar Karekar, Alka Deo Marulkar, Sanjeev Abhyankar, Shruti Sadolikar, Ashwini Bhide, Padma Talwalkar, Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar, Chandrashekar Swami, Venkatesh Kumar, Mashkoor Ali Khan,Subhra Guha, Sulekha Bhat, Parameshwar Hegde, Indrani Choudhury, Ganapathi Bhatt, Madhav Gudi, Bhawani Angiras, Smt. Shashwati Mandal Paul, Dr.Tapasi Ghosh, Nagaraj Rao Havaldar,Somanath Mardoor, Panchakshariswamy Mattigatti, Shivanand Patil, Raghunandan Panshikar, Manjiri Asanare-Kelkar, Srivani Jade and Sanjeev Chimmalgi.