Earlier, the contact between the Guru and the disciple was even more intimate. The student lived with or near the guru and attended to the needs of the rhythm of his/her household- shopping, cleaning, cooking, and serving whenever called upon. In a ceremony early in the relationship, a thread was tied around the wrist of the student, symbolically binding him or her into a permanent relationship. The student was usually financially dependent on the Guru as well, so the student was not free to come and go at will. The music, of course, was the bond, and assumed a role as language of communication, devotion, and profession. The guru taught the music directly through oral repetition- hear, repeat, practice, repeat, hear again, practice. An entire body of knowledge of Raaga and Taal was accumulated slowly along with the technical abilities which had to be executed with greater and greater refinement and discernment of ear. The student was continually required to prove that he or she was ready for the next step. The Guru's knowledge was a highly guarded treasure and not just given out at the student's request. The years of slowly measured progress and refinement developed attitudes of patience, respect, and humility in the student. This is readily apparent in the music.
The teacher is of a musical family implied by the guru-as-the-father (or mother) and is called a Gharana (from ghar, 'house'). Another word, Khandan (family) is also heard, but it refers more to the bloodlines and inter-marriages of musical families. The Gharana system also includes the inherited musical style of a teacher including the selection of Raagas, and compositions within them, as well as the choices of how to expand the Raaga in performance. The Gharana system was especially powerful in the old days of aristocratic patronage, where geographic centrality in a Gharana was implicit. Many such Gharanas are known by their court names: Gwalior Gharana, Lucknow Gharana, Patiala Gharana, Rampur Gharana, Maihar Gharana and so on. Others are known by the founding personalities or place of origin: Alladiya Khan (a Khayal singer) Gharana, Imdad Khan (a sitar/surbahar player) Gharana, Kirana Gharana (a village) and so on. Though the old sense of the term Gharana is becoming quite scattered in contemporary urban classical music, the idea still plays an important part in a musician's life and music, since the bulk of his training will have come through a single guru. He may acknowledge that a given composition he plays is from another Gharana, but he will still render it within the style he learned, using ornaments and expansions particular to his own training.
The student's attitude, conceptions, and technical prowess is both the product and responsibility of the guru. Thus the Guru-Shishya relationship is not one to be taken lightly as it involves a great commitment from both sides.