Akhdai (akhrai) a kind of folk song which evolved at Shantipur in nadia in the 18th century. It is believed to have developed in the akhdas of the Vaishnavas. Initially it consisted of two parts: kheud and prabhati. The kheud was a love song in the folk tradition, and the prabhati was about lovers parting in the early morning. At the beginning, the songs were crude and the musical accompaniment was also of low calibre. The popularity of these songs spread to Chunchura and Kolkata. Twice a year singers from Chunchura used to go to Kolkata to perform. These groups were known as baishera (literally, those with twenty-two), as they had twenty-two musical instruments, including cooking pots and pitchers. In due course, the genre underwent some structural changes, with a bhavani, a song addressed to the deities, added at the beginning. Now it contained three parts instead of two. The songs were further refined with obscene words being replaced by more acceptable ones.
The second phase of this genre began towards the end of the 18th century, when Kalui Chandra Sen, court singer of Maharaj Nabakrishna Dev (?-1797), brought in greater variety in its ragas and musical instruments. Instruments such as tanpura, violin, mandira, drum, mochang, cymbal, jaltaranga, vina, flute and sitar were played as accompaniment. The akhdai songs were sung to five tals or beats: pidebandi, dolan, daud, sabdaud and mod. Akhdai songs reached their peak under nidhu gupta, nephew of Kalui Sen. Nidhu Gupta set up an akhda in Kolkata in 1804 to teach akhdai songs. The songs attracted the attention of aristocratic society and their popularity led to the establishment of many akhdas in Kolkata.
The popularity of this genre, however, did not last long, and akhdai songs started declining in the 19th century. The genre almost disappeared shortly afterwards and was followed by a genre known as half-akhdai, somewhat similar to kavigan. These half-akhdai songs were developed in 1832 by Mohan Chand Basu, a disciple of Nidhu Gupta, by adding the answers and counter-answers of kavigan but without the ragas. But the instruments of akhdai songs were retained. [Dulal Bhowmik]