Hindustani classical music is considered to be one of the highest forms of art and rightfully so. The complexities of its rhythm and compositions are beyond layman’s understanding and oh so pleasing to ears. Although the credit to it lies with the artist, but it lies a little with the musical instruments as well.
In continuation of our series on museums in Delhi, we visited the Gallery of Musical Instruments in Mandi House. In the Gallery of Musical Instruments in Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, lie hundreds of instruments which hold a crucial place in not just Hindustani Classical music, but also the folk music of India. The gallery is also known as ‘Asavari’, which means ‘spirit of the heavens’ and features a collection of scrupulously collected musical instruments.
Inaugurated by violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1964, the gallery now holds a collection of about 600 instruments with 200 being on permanent display. The collection represents the four-fold classification followed in India since ancient times, namely tantu vadya (chordophones), sushir vadya (aerophones), ghana vadya (idiophones) and avanaddha vadya (membranophones).
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Out of the huge collection, some instruments are particularly interesting and are of great value to Hindustani Classical Music. Dhani Sarangi, a native instrument of Rajasthan is a bowed instrument scooped out of a single piece of wood. It has skin covered trapezoid belly, rectangular finger board and a square peg box. Four main gut strings are tied to round big pegs whereas seventeen sympathetic steel strings tied to conical pegs on left wall of the main body. It is played with a horse hair bow and is used by ‘Jogi’ community of Rajasthan.
Dilruba, another string instrument is fretted and bowed with a parched resonator and a flat finger board. It is also played with a horse hair bow and is used as a solo as well as an accompanying instrument in Northern Classical Music. It is also popularly known as an accompanying instrument to Gurubani.
Kundalam, a percussion instrument that finds its roots in Tamil Nadu, is a pair of drums with shell made of brass covered with parchment. It is played by two curved sticks while being slung from the waist. They are used in ‘Poyakkal Diraiattam’, a type of dummy horse dance for rhythmic accompaniment.
Saitar comes from Jammu and Kashmir is a fretted, plucked variety of lute with an elongated body, a long finger board, a rectangular oeg box and a pear shaped hollow resonator all made of wood. It has seven gut frets fitted on the long narrow finger board with seven steel strings. It is ususally used in fold, traditional and devotional music of Kashmir like Sufiana Qalam and others.
Surnai has its roots in Himachal Pradesh and is a wooden tube having straight bore and funnel shaped bell. With seven finger holes and one thumb hole, it has a metal nozzle with double beating reed. It is used in auspicious, social and religious ceremonies.
Apart from these, there are several other instruments for you to witness and come a little closer to the Indian music when you visit the museum. Take a look-