Sitar is the most popular stringed instrument of India and has been in
use for about 700 years. It is fashioned from a seasoned gourd and
teakwood and has twenty mental frets with six or seven playing strings
and nineteen sympathetic strings below. It is played with a plectrum
worn on the finger. Sitar has a long and complex heritage; its origin
goes back to the ancient Veena. In the 13th century, Amir Khusru, in
order to make the instrument more flexible, reversed the order of the
strings and made the frets moveable. Ravi Shankar, the great
musician-artist brought changes and a new perspective.
Sarod is another popular stringed instrument. The body is carved from a
single piece of well-seasoned teakwood and the belly covered with goat
skin. There are four main strings, six rhythm and drone strings and
fifteen sympathetic strings, all made of metal. These are played by
striking with a plectrum made of a coconut shell. The Sarod has no
frets. Sarod as been found in carvings of the 1st century in Champa
temple and also in paintings in the Ajanta caves. It also has a
similarity with the Rabab of Afghanistan and Kashmir. The instrument was
modified by Amir Khusru in the 13th century. A definite change was made
by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in shape of the instrument for improving the tonal
The name derives from Sau Rangi meaning 100 colours. Sarangi is played
with a bow and has four main strings and as many as forty resonant
strings. It is generally used to accompany singers but can also be a
Tanpura is a four or five stringed instrument which gives the essential
drone background to all Indian music.
Esraj is played with a bow and has many strings. It is one of the major
instruments of North India.
Santoor is a North Indian instrument originating from Kashmir. It has
more than a hundred strings which run across a hollow rectangular box and
the strings are struck by a pair of slim carved walnut mallets.
Vichitra Veena is a comparatively recent addition to the Veena family.
It is a fretless stringed instrument with four main strings, three drone
and rhythm strings and eleven to thirteen resonating strings. The
strings are plucked by a plectrum on the index or middle finger of the
Violin was introduced to India about 300 years ago and is a very
important string instrument in the South of India. It is played in a
sitting position and is held between the right foot and the left shoulder.
Tabla is the overall term for two drums, which are played as
accompaniment to North Indian music and dance. The musician uses the
base of the palm as well as the fingers to produce great variations in
sounds. The right hand drum is tuned to the tonic dominant or
sub-dominant and the left-hand drum acts as the base.
Pakhawaj is a long bodied wooden drum with both ends covered in skin and
is the most traditional drum of North India. Played horizontally with
the fingers and palms of both hands, the right hand surface is tuned to
the pitch required and the left hand surface provides the base.
Mridangam is similar in appearance to the Pakhawaj but the ends have a
different texture. It is the most used drum in South Indian music.
Dholak is a side drum, cylindrical in shape, bored out of solid wood.
Its pitch is variable and is an essential accompaniment for folk music of
Jal Tarang is essentially a water-xylophone. It is made up of a series
of china bowls of varying sizes and they are filled with varying levels
of water. These are then played with two light sticks.
Pung is a long bodied drum with both ends covered in skin and plays an
important role in Manipuri dancing when it is played by men and women,
either in a sitting position or standing position.
Flute is found in every part of India, carved from bamboo it is made in
every possible size. It is usually played in a vertical position.
Shehnai is a double reeded wind instrument with a widening tube towards
the lower end. There are eight or nine holes, the upper seven for
playing, the lower ones for tuning. The Shehnai is considered auspicious
and is played on all festive occasions in India.
BEEN (Snake Flute)