Bansuri, also known as flute, is an ancient musical instrument of India. It is a woodwind instrument without any reed. The melodious sound is produced with the flow of air across the small openings on the flute. Flute is made of a single hollow shaft of bamboo. Traditionally this musical instrument is linked with cowherds, especially as the divine instrument of Lord Krishna. Several Buddhist paintings of ancient times have also depicted this instrument. A flute covers three octaves and comes in various sizes and designs.
Another musical instrument of ancient India is Nagaswaram. Commonly used in Indian classical music, Nagaswaram is prevalent in south Indian culture. The instrument is famous for its auspiciousness and is thus played in temples and wedding since ancient past. Nagaswaram is generally played in pairs and is played along with thavils, a kind of drum. It covers two and a half octaves and has seven finger holes to control the melodies produced by it. The sound of the instrument is quite intense and loud and therefore is usually played in outdoor concerts.
The renowned musical instruments of Indian classical music also include Veena. It is a plucked stringed instrument which has undergone several transformations over time. The instrument finds its mention in Rig Vedas. Ancient Veena had a close resemblance arched harp until Gupta period. A depiction of the playing of Veena in ancient time can be found in the gold coins of Samudragupta. The body of the instrument is made of teak wood whereas its bridges are made of ebony, camel bone or deer horn. Often synthetic material is also used.
The origin of Gottuvadhyam can be traced back to many centuries. It has been mentioned as seven string fretless instrument in Bharata's Natya Shastra. The instrument is prominent in Carnatic Music and has gone through various phases of development. It is an important part of North-south Indian jugalbandis. The melody is produced by the instrument with the aid of six main strings whereas twelve sympathetic strings are also present below the main strings, running parallel.
Several musical instruments originated in south India in ancient past among which Thavil is an important one. Primarily used by the temple folk to accompany Carnatic music along with Nagaswaram. It finds a significant place in ceremonies and traditional festivals. The instrument is made by cylindrical jackfruit wood which is covered by a stretch of animal skin on two sides.
Mridangam is another instrument having ancient origin. This percussion instrument accompanies Carnatic music with beautiful rhythms. Mrindangam has been depicted as the instrument of several deities in ancient paintings and sculptures. Mythology says that, during Lord Shiva's tandava dance, his vehicle Nandi played this instrument to produce a divine rhythm that resonated across the heavens. Mrindangam has evolved greatly in the course of time in terms of design. Different types of wood had been used in its manufacture to improve its rhythm and durability.
Ghatam is also an ancient musical instrument used extensively in Carnatic music. It is in fact enlisted among the oldest percussion instrument of south India. It is basically a clay pot having a narrow mouth. The size of Ghatam changes with the pitch. Manamadurai is a place near Madurai of Tamil Nadu which is considered as the centre of Ghatam manufacture.
Beautiful melodies and rhythms are produced by the Musical Instruments of Ancient India. Although numerous modern instruments have developed over time, the instruments of ancient times still hold a significant place in the world of Indian music. These musical instruments are the testaments of the glorious history of India and greatly enrich the cultural heritage of the country.
(Last Updated on : 30-07-2013)
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