Instrumental music has universal
appeal, the richness and soothing tones can be appreciated without language
and regional barriers. The history of Indian musical instruments
can be gathered from various sources such as Literature (folk, general,
music), Visual representations (paintings, sculptures, reliefs, models).
Most of the Indian musical instruments remain still in use.
Almost every Indian God is associated
with a musical instrument. Brahma's consort Saraswathi is seen playing
the veena. Vishnu holds the conch, Siva the damaru. Krishna
- an incarnation of Lord Vishnu is supposed to have mesmerised all the
gopikas by playing his flute (Venu Gaanam). Sage Narada carries the tambura,
Nandi - Lord Siva's disciple plays the Mathalam. Musicological texts
ascribe the mahati ( a twenty-one stringed veena) to sage Narada.
In the Ramayana and Mahabaratha,
there are several mention of use of musical instruments. When Rama
performed the Aswamedha Yaga, several skilled musicians were said to have
performed. Ramayana refers to veena, dundhubi, mridangam, bheri,
ghata, panava, pataha, dindima. When the priests performed puja,
their wives were supposed to have played the veena. The conch had
been used during wartime to signify the beginning and end of the day, to
alert the army about intruders. Drums were used to convey messages
not only during wartime, but also during peace.
There are many musical instruments
to be found among the sculptures existing in various temples, cave temples
and Buddhist stupas in all parts of India. The therapeutic use of
musical instruments had been understood from early days.
The instruments are mostly made using
wood, leather, skin, clay. The making of the musical instruments
requires great skill and practice in the manufacturing process, combined
with some basic knowledge of music and acoustical principles.
The Indian musical instruments are
classified into four major categories:
Sushira vadya, Avanaddha vadya and Ghana vadya.
- String instruments (Chordophonous)
This is further classified based
on the mode of playing:
- by friction
with a bow like the violin, sarangi,
dilruba, esraj, etc
is one of the earliest known bowed instrument)
plucking the string like the veena, rudra
veena, gotuvadyam, sitar, sarod, guitar, mandolin, harp, (tambura,
ektar -drone instruments) etc.
- by striking
with a hammer or a pair of sticks like gettuvadyam,
vadya - Wind instruments
comprises hollow instruments where wind is the producer of sound. These
can be further classified by mode of playing:
those where wind is supplied by some mechanical means,
commonly bellows - e.g. organ, harmonium
where the wind is supplied by the breath of the performer,
which can be further classified as mouth blown and nose blown.
* those where
wind is blown through the mouth pieces in the instrument - e.g. clarinet,
oboe, nadaswaram, shanai
* those where
wind is blown through the orifices in the wall of instrument - e.g. flute
vadya - Membrane covered (Membranophonous)
comprises all percussion instruments. These can be further classified
by mode of playing:
played by hand - e.g. mridangam
played using sticks
played partly by hand and partly by stick
- e.g. tavil
struck - e.g. damaru
where one side is struck and the other side stroked
- e.g. perumal madu drum
- Solid percussion instruments
instruments made out of metal, wood, stone or clay but those that are solid
like the ghatam, kartal, gongs, cymbals, etc.