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Sound Of The Lost: Extinct Musical Instruments Of India

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Can you imagine a world without pianos and guitars? Few can, and fewer still would want to actually live in such a place. But history has shown that musical devices don’t last forever. Regrettably, when instruments fall out of favor and finally disappear, musicians aren’t always careful to leave instructions on how to build or play them. Here are fourteen Indian instruments that have almost lost to the wheel of time.

Mayuri

mayuri
Mayuri is a peacock-shaped, bowed instrument that was popular in the Indian courts of the 19th century. Movable, arched metal frets. Wood body carved and decorated to represent a peacock, including an actual peacock bill and feathers. The mayuri, or peacock, is a symbol of India; it is associated with Saraswati, the goddess of music; and, is also a symbol of courtship. Sixteen frets, four melody strings, and fifteen sympathetic strings.

Nagfani

nagfani
Nagfani is made of brass tube with a serpent stylized head. It is commonly associated with the Sadhus or holy men because of the power harnessed by invoking the serpent which coil around the neck of Siva, Hindu god. Its name literally means “snake hood.” The beautiful instrument which was found around Gujarat and Rajasthan is now in the verge of extinction.

Veena

rudra veena
rudra-veena
saraswati veena
saraswati-veena

The veena is a plucked stringed instrument originating in ancient India,used mainly in classical music. The name is used for several instruments belonging to different families, mainly the Rudra veena and the Saraswati veena. Vainika (the one who plays veena) hardly finds any difficulty in playing this expensive musical instrument. The design of this instrument changed over the years.

Morchang

morchang
A morchang or morsing is a wind percussion instrument, mainly used in Rajasthan, in the Carnatic music of south India and in Sindhi (Pakistan). It is a nice and tiny rhythmic musical instrument made of wrought iron. The instrument consists of a metal ring and metal tongue on the middle. It has a special capacity to make many patterns of rhythm and sounds when played using the mouth and left hand.

Yazh

yaaz
The ancient popular instrument Yazh disappeared from India long ago. This stringed instrument which resembles a bow was considered to be the sweetest of instruments. It is described in some of the ancient literature works. The instrument is played with both the hands by tuning the strings to a particular scale. It was also called as “Vil Yazh.”

Pena

pena
Pena is ancient musical instrument of Manipur. It’s made of a slender Bamboo rod attached to a dry coconut shell which is made in the shape of a drum. A string made of horse tail is fastened from end of bamboo road over drum and is played with a rod. It is believed that Pena is the source and origin of all the tunes of various folk songs prevalent in Manipur.

Murali

murali
The murali is a transverse flute made of bamboo. It is used in a variety of musical genres and is often associated with the Hindu Lord Krishna.

Sarangi

sarangi
A sarangi is a bowed stringed instrument with a skin-covered resonator . The typical sarangi is made by hand, usually from a single block of tun wood about 66 to 69 centimeters long. The three playing strings are made of goat gut, and the sympathetic strings of brass and/or steel. However, the design of sarangi varies from region to region. For example, the Nepalese sarangi is generally much smaller than its Indian counterpart, and not all sarangi have sympathetic strings.

Sarod

sarod
The sarod is a plucked stringed instrument with a skin-covered resonator and sympathetic strings. Like the sitar, it is primarily used in Hindustani music and is accompanied by the tabla.

Surbahar

surbahar
Surbahar sometimes known as bass sitar, is a plucked string instrument used in the classical music of North India. It is closely related to the sitar, but has a lower tone. Depending on the instrument’s size, it is usually pitched two to five whole steps below the standard sitar, but as Indian classical music has no concept of absolute pitch, this may vary.

Bulbul Tarang

bulbul-tarang
Bulbul tarang, also known as ‘Banjo’ is a string instrument from Indian and Pakistani Punjab which evolved from the Japanese taishōgoto, which likely arrived in South Asia in the 1930s. Sometimes the keys of this instrument are same as piano keyboard but mostly they are resembled to keys of a typewriter.

Esraj

esraj
esraj
dilruba
dilruba

The esraj, also called as Dilruba is a string instrument found in two forms throughout the north, central, and east regions of the Indian subcontinent. It is a young instrument by Indian terms, being only about 200 years old. The dilruba is found in the north, where it is used in religious music and light classical songs in the urban areas. Its name is translated as “robber of the heart.” The esraj is found in the east and central areas, particularly Bengal and it is used in a somewhat wider variety of musical styles than is the dilruba.

Mridangam

mridangam
Mridangam is a percussion instrument from India of ancient origin. It is the primary rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble. The structure of the mridangam instrument is quite interesting as it has weighty annular membrane around the right side of it along with a number of pieces of straw which are placed thoroughly between the annular membrane and the main membrane. Moreover, on the right hand side a permanent application (aoru or karani) is placed. The other side (that is left side) is a mixture of flour and water to supply an appropriate quality tone but it is necessary that this application should be taken out after each performance.

Saranda

saranda
The Saranda is a unique instrument that was born amongst the Sikhs. At the young age of 13, Guru Arjan Dev designed and created this amazing instrument. Not only did he create it, he used it to sing “Dhurr Ki Bani,” the sacred Hymns of the Creator. Saranda is a bowed instrument with three main gut strings and around 30 sympathetic strings. As you can see in the picture, it has a big, hollow sound box, which creates a unique, soul-pleasing sound.

Abhisikta Ganguly
Abhisikta Ganguly
I am an ordinary girl with extraordinary dreams which I live with to fulfill. People find me to be an upbeat, self-motivated team player. I will work until my idols become my rivals. I love adventures and love to explore the unknown from the very known thing. Besides, I love singing, writing and reading stories, listen to music and watching cartoons and movies.

3 thoughts on “Sound Of The Lost: Extinct Musical Instruments Of India

  1. Subject is interesting, but more research work is expected and much more care should be taken before marking an item as extinct. As for example – Rudra Veena, Surbahar, Sarod, Esraj, Sarangi, Murli and Mridangam are not at all extinct. They are very much in vogue. Ustad Amjad Ali and his sons are exponents of Sarod and they are performing regularly. Classical vocal music is unimaginable without Sarangi. Still today, Esraj is cosidered as the ideal intrument that goes with Rabindra Sangeet.. Rendition of Surbahar, Esraj and Midangam are attached with the story – how can they be branded as extinct ??

    1. you missed the ‘almost’ word in the introduction..the use of these instruments are comparatively lesser than piano, guitar etc. so I added them.

  2. Well, we agree to disagree. At least Sarod, Sarangi, Esraj, Mridangam and Banjo are widely used even today. In case of “almost”, as you remarked – Instruments like Hawaiian guitar, Pipe Organ, Jaltaranga (with a set of ceramic or metal bowls tuned with water), Yorkshire Bagpipe, Gue, and Didgeridoo – deserve to be mentioned.

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