(Last Updated on : 27-04-2015)
Origin of Harmonium mainly dates back to the western culture. The first harmonium was invented in Paris in the year 1840 by Alexandre Debain. These instruments generally weigh less than the similarly sized pianos. An added pull of the harmonium in tropical regions is that, unlike the piano, this instrument holds its tune regardless of humidity and heat. Reed organs which are folded up into container the size of a very large suitcase or small sized trucks were made for missionaries, travelling evangelists, and road musicians. These harmoniums actually had a short sized keyboard and very few stops, but they were more than sufficient for keeping singers more-or-less on pitch.
Indian music is mainly based on melody, rather than harmony that has also made two handed playing unnecessary and Indian musicians are also used to sitting cross legged on the ground to play, rather than on chair. So the sub-structure of the harmonium is removed and also the bellows moved to the back side of the instrument where they are basically operated with one hand while the other hand plays the keyboard. Dwarkanath Ghose of Calcutta (now Kolkata
) personalized the imported harmony flute and urbanized the hand held harmonium that has subsequently become a vital part of the Indian musical scenario today.
A well-liked and well accepted function and usage of harmoniums is by followers of a range of Hindu and Sikh faiths, who use it in the devotional singing of prayers, called bhajan or kirtan dance
. There will be at least one harmonium in any Mandir (Hindu temple) or Gurdwara (Sikh temple) around the world. The harmonium is also commonly accompanied by the tabla
as well as a dholak. To Sikhs, the harmonium is known as the vaja or baja. It is also referred to as a "Peti", a loose reference to a "box", in some parts of North India and Maharashtra
The harmonium plays an integral part in Qawwali
music. Almost all Qawwals use the harmonium as their sole musical accompaniment.