Gallery of Musical Instruments, an ode to the history of Indian music
Hindustani classical music is considered one of the highest art forms and rightly so. The complexity of his rhythm and his compositions is beyond the comprehension of the layman and is so pleasing to the ears. Although the credit goes to the artist, but it also goes a bit to the musical instruments.
Continuing our series on Delhi’s museums, we visited the Gallery of Musical Instruments at Mandi House. In the Musical Instrument Gallery of Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, there are hundreds of instruments that occupy a crucial place not only in Hindustani classical music, but also in the folk music of India. The gallery is also known as ‘Asavari’, which means ‘the spirit of the heavens’ and displays a collection of carefully collected musical instruments.
Inaugurated by violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1964, the gallery now houses a collection of around 600 instruments, 200 of which are on permanent display. The collection represents the four-part 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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Among the huge collection, some instruments are particularly interesting and are of great value for Hindustani classical music. Dhani Sarangi, a native instrument of Rajasthan is a bowed instrument carved from a single piece of wood. It has a trapezoidal skin-covered belly, a rectangular fingerboard, and a square peg box. Four main gut strings are attached to large round pegs while seventeen sympathetic steel strings are attached to tapered pegs on the left wall of the main body. It is played with a horsehair bow and is used by the “Jogi” community of Rajasthan.
Dilruba, another stringed instrument is fretted and rubbed with a desiccated resonator and a flat fingerboard. It is also played with a horsehair bow and is used as a solo instrument as well as an accompanying instrument in northern classical music. It is also popularly known as Gurubani’s accompanying instrument.
The Kundalam, a percussion instrument that has its roots in Tamil Nadu, is a pair of parchment-covered brass drums. It is played by two curved sticks while hanging 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 and plucked variety of lute with an elongated body, long fingerboard, rectangular oeg box and hollow pear-shaped resonator, all made of wood. It has seven gut frets mounted on the long narrow fingerboard with seven steel strings. It is generally used in traditional and devotional music of Kashmir like Sufiana Qalam and others.
Surnai has its roots in Himachal Pradesh and is a straight bore, bell-shaped, funnel-shaped wooden tube. With seven finger holes and one thumb hole, it has a metal mouthpiece with a double beat reed. It is used in auspicious, social and religious ceremonies.
Apart from these, there are several other instruments to discover and bring you a little closer to Indian music during your visit to the museum. Looked-