Indian Instruments



For detailed explanation please read "Understanding Indian Classical Music" by Gaurang L. Doshi. 

There are differences amongst scholars as far as the roots of the modern day Sarod are considered. While prototypes of this instrument are very ancient in this country, though the present version might incorporate local, as well as West Asian characteristics. Some scholars believe that it is from the Veena family of instruments, most believe that the Sarod may have evolved from the central Asian rabab. 

The body not entirely of wood as in the sitar. The lower part is covered with goat skin (white colored thin leather) but the upper section (the fingerboard) has a plate of shining steel, and no frets. Unlike in the sitar, the bridge is thin and rests on the membrane. Today's sarod (Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan Saheb style) has total of 25 strings comprising of 4 main strings, 2 chikaris, 4 substrings , and 15 tarab or taraf (sypathetic) strings for producing resonant sound. All of these except the four main strings are tuned according to the raag. The sarod player, holds between his fingers a plectrum (java) of coconut shell. 

Today's sarod is not the original version of sarod which was played around 100 years ago. Artists from Ustaad Allaudin Khan Saheb's gharana specifically Resp. Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan saheb has contributed a lot in this continuous process of refinement. Artists from the Ustaad Hafiz Ali Khan Saheb's gharana (specifically ustaad Amjad Ali Khan Saheb and his two sons) have also contributed in popularizing this rare and difficult instrument




For detailed explanation please read "Understanding Indian Classical Music" by Gaurang L. Doshi. 

There are different theories about the origin of the Sitar. Some feel that the Sitar, was probably imported from Central and Western Asia. I am mostly with the opinion that the Sitar has evolved from Saptatantri Veena (Seven stringed veena) which was called sattar and eventually became Sitar. It seems during the Mughal times, major modifications happened and today’s concert sitar has gone through the gradual changes during 17th and 18th century. 

Today, there are two major types of Sitars available. 

Maihar gharana style which has two gourds, and all 5 top strings; often referred to as Pandit Ravishankar style,  

Ustaad Vilayat Khan Saheb style 5 out of 5 top strings; which has just one gourd. 

At the lower end is a gourd resonator attached to a neck, and a long fingerboard or dandi. The gourd is covered with a flat plank, in the middle of which is the typically wide bridge. The bridge is often made from bone, or deer antler, wood, and experiments are being done for bridge made up of man-made materials.  The dandi has a number of curved brass or steel frets which are tied fast enough to the fingerboard, not to be moved during playing but moveable, otherwise, by effort. This is an advantage the Sitar has, as the frets can be adjusted to suit the scale of the raag. e.g. the shudhh rishabh fret can be moved upwards in the place of komal rishabh in raags like shree, bhairavi, bairagi bhairav, puriya dhanashree etc. . There are five or four metal strings for playing the raag, in addition are two (chikari) which are struck for getting a reference to Sa and enhancing the beauty as well as to play the jhala. Chikaris are tuned in Shadaj. Besides these are about eleven to thirteen auxiliary ones which pass under the principal strings. They are called the tarab / taraf and tuned to the raag being played and vibrate sympathetically, following the principle of resonance emphasizing the notes of the raag. 

Renowned artists include Pt. Ravi Shankar, Us. Vilayat Khan, Budhhaditya Mukharjee, Smt Manjuben Mehta, Us. Shahid Parvez, Us. Shujaat Husain etc..



For detailed explanation please read "Understanding Indian Classical Music" by Gaurang L. Doshi. 

The most well known "pot like" drum is, the Tabla.This is typically North Indian and now popular throughout the world. Actually, there are two bowl-drums comprising the instrument- the right one dayan (Tabla proper) and the left bayan. The dayan is made of wood. It is taller than the bayan & made of metal. Both are set in front of the sitting player and played with the palms and fingers.

Multiple layers of leather, loading of the leather and plaits holding the skin. The hide face which is struck is not a single piece as in the western side-drum or kettle drum. It consists of a circular piece which is pasted to a annular leather ring. Thus in the Tabla and the dagga, there are two pieces of leather. Over the skin face is applied a mixture of iron or manganese filings, rice or wheat flour and glue: again of thin layers. This loading which looks black is called syahi(ink). 

The Pakhavaj used in Hindustani music is similar to Karnatak mridangam; The difference between tabla and mridangam is mridangam is one part and seems that tabla has originated from mridangam. It can be imagined that the mridangam is cut into two for forming the tabla. All these techniques of attaching and loading the hide make the sound more musical, & accurately tunable. In the Tabla, tuning can be done either by striking up/down a small wooden cylinder for gross changes, or beating on the plait. The dagga, however, has no tuning blocks; indeed its pitch cannot be adjusted as finely as the Tabla at all ! It should be remembered that the tabla and the mridangam are generally not used as main instruments in concerts, but only as accompany instruments. 

Some major artists who have set new standards for tabla are Pandit Kishan Maharaj, Ustaad Zakir Hussain, Shri Nandan Mehta, Shri Anando Chakraborty, Shri Kumar Bose, Professor Sudhirkumar Saxena, Shri Devendra Daveetc.. 

Types of Instruments


For detailed explanation please read "Understanding Indian Classical Music" by Gaurang L. Doshi. 

The FIRST AND MOST interesting fact about the instruments of this country is that the extremely primitive, to the highly sophisticated ones are found near to each other. 

Instruments (vadya) are considered to be of four types-

1. tat vadya (stringed instruments),
2. sushir vadya (wind),
3. avanaddh vadya (drums) and
4. ghan vadya (bells,plates,rods etc.) 

Among the tat vadya are the Veena, Sitar, Sarod, Tamboora, santoor, swaramandal etc. (plucked), the Sarangi, the Dilruba (bowed);
The wind instruments are the Flutes, Shehnai, Naferi, Harmonium and the Nagasvaram(Indian obes);
The drums comprise the Tabla, the Pakhwaj,the Mridang and so on;
Bells, rods, etc., are common, though not generally used in concert music.