Instruments of Indian Classical Music

The musical instruments of India have a captivating beauty of their own. There are four types of instruments, or vadya that are used in Indian music. Tantu or stringed, Susir or wind, Avanada or percussion, and Ghana comprising bells, cymbals and gongs.

The commonly heard and used stringed instruments include the veena, the sitar, the sarangi and the sarod. Veena or the lute was used by Sage Bharata for his musical studies. It has changed considerably since then and has 24 fixed frets on a hollow wooden fingerboard which is attached to two gourds. The veena strings can produce the most delicate nuances and are plucked with either one or two fingers.

Sitar or seh-tar meaning "three-stringed" is said to have been invented by Amir Khusro. A seasoned gourd is used as a resonating chamber in the sitar and the rest of the body is made of teakwood. There are seven main strings and nine sympathetic strings. The main strings are plucked by a plectrum worn on the index finger.

The sarod is smaller than the sitar and has two resonating chambers. There are ten main playing strings and fifteen sympathetic strings. The main strings are plucked with a piece of coconut shell.

The sarangi is a fretless stringed instrument which is played by a bow. The whole body is carved out of a single block of wood and the hollow is covered by parchment. The sarangi can produce a wide variety of sound and its playing technique is somewhat unusual.

Other stringed instruments which are used in India comprise the dilruba, esraj, tanpura, ektara and the mayuri.

Shehnai, a double-reeded flute is the most common susir instrument in India. The bansuri, nadswaram, ninkirns and pongi are other sister instruments of the shehnai.

Common percussion instruments include the tabla, played in north India and mridangam, played in the south. Pakhavaj, dholak, ghatam, kanjira are other percussion instruments. Most of these are made of wood and produce a deep mellow sound.

Manjiras are small brass cymbals generally used in temple prayers. Jhanj, kartal and the jal-tarang which is a water xylophone are other Indian instruments.


by Instruments of Indian Classical Music