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TitleThe music and musical instruments of southern India
TagsHarmony Elements Of Music Pop Culture Classical Music
File Size12.1 MB
Total Pages256
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Devadata. \\'e ;ilso find it under the name of Goshringa, both in the
Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

The horn (s'ringa) is also said to be of Divine origin, and it is mentioned in
the earHest writings. But the flute (murali) is still held to be peculiarly sacred,

for this flute was the companion of the god Krishna in all his wanderings, and in
Indian mythology this flute is looked upon with much the same veneration that
the lyre was by the Greeks, and by Brahmins it is still used occasionally and
blown by the nostrils. In all sculptures and pictures the god Krishna is repre-

sented as standing cross-legged plaving the flute.

Reed instruments, although doubtless of a very remote origin, appear to have
been invented at a later period than instruments of the flute species, and their use

is, as has been stated, confined to either low caste Hindus or Mahomedans. For
the Indian reed instruments are mostlv harsh and wild, far too powerful and shrill to
be used in concert with the delicate vina or sweet tamburi, and so their use is
chiefly confined to out-of-door performances, where their sound is better heard
and where they become fit adjuncts to the Nakkera Khaneh or band already

Instruments with double reeds appear to have been originall}- brought from

India, and the double reed is found in the primitive oboes used there as well as in
Persia, Arabia, and Egypt. There seems to be no trace of the single beating veed
ever having been known in India, but the single //'ft' reed is found in the bagpipe
of the countrv. Indeed, the bagpipe would itself seem to have an Eastern origin,

and although its use in Southern India and the Deccan is chiefly confined to a
drone-bass, yet in the Punjab and Afghanistan pipes are sometimes found containing

both drone and chanter. And I have heard them played with a dexterity that
would do credit to a Highland piper.

The pungi, now used almost entirely by snake charmers, is said to have once
been blown by the nostrils and called " Nasajantra."

The jew's-harp (murchang) is mentioned in most of the Sanskrit works
upon musical instruments, and its use is common all over India.

The use of the gong and bell are universal, and need no particular description.
The gong —called sometimes Tala, but more generally Ghari —is found in almost
all Hindu temples, and is used both in the daily ritual and also to note the hours
of the day. It is usually about a foot in diameter and J-inch in thickness ; it is

made of bell metal, and sounded by a wooden mallet. Indeed, the tone more
nearly resembles that of a bell, and has certainly nothing in common with the
Chinese gong. In Southern India a light instrument of this kind called Jagatay

or Semakalam is found, which is sounded bv a curved bone striker. The small

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bell —called Ghante —is used in every Hindu temple, and is familiar to everyone.
Bells of anv size are not known in India, but the antiquity of the bell in India has
been proved bevond doubt ; specimens of curious old bells have been discovered

in cromlechs and cairns in different parts of India.*^ And among the Todas, the
aborigines of the Niliri Hills, the bell is still an object of especial veneration."

The little ankle bells used by Nautch dancers are called Gllnguru or
Gajelu, and are tied in strings round the ankles. They produce " a faint clashing
sound as the feet move in steps, which mingles not unmusically with the dance
music or songs which accompany the dance ; and they not only serve to mark
the time, but to keep the dancer or singer in perfect accord with the musicians.

These bells are the svmbols of their profession with all dancers and singers,

and to some extent are held sacred. No dancer ties them on his or her ankles
before performance without touching his or her forehead and eyes with them, and

saving a short prayer or invocation to a patron saint or divinity —Hindu or
Mahomedan. Nor is it possible, after a female singer or dancer has once been
invested with them —a ceremonv which is very solemnlv periormed and attended
with much cost^to abandon the professional life so adopted. He, or she, lias
tied on the bells, is even a proverb to signify that the person alluded to has

devoted himself or herself to a purpose from which it is impossible to recede.

Strings of these small bells are also used for horses and tied round the

fetlocks of prancing chargers, with gay tinsel ribbons or pieces of cloth ; also

round the necks of lap dogs ; and some of a large size round the necks of
favourite plough or cart bullocks. The latter are identical with sleigh bells.
No post runner in India travels without a string of them tied on the end of
his pole on which is slung the leather bag he carries, and on a still night
their clashing sound, besides being heard at a great distance, serves to scare

away wild beasts and to cheer the runner on his lonely path.""
And here it may be well to mention two instruments sometimes met with in

Southern India —viz., the cup-harmonica and the Gatha.
The Jalatharangini'-' is a harmonicon of cups of porcelain or earthenware

tuned to the particular scale required by means of pouring in more or less water.
It is played with two thin sticks, covered with felt or tipped with cork ; and
in company with other instruments the contrast of tone that its use effects is not
unpleasing. The Septasvarab, called also Septaghantika, or Indian Glockenspiel,

«" Bells of the Church." H. T. EUacombe. Exeter, 1872.
' " A Phrenologist amongst the Todas." Colonel Marshall. London, 1S73.
' " Proceedings of the Royal Irish ."Academy." Vol. IX., Part i.
' This instrument is said to be mentioned in a Sanskrit work—the name of u liicli the author has bccu

imable to ascertain —believed to have been written about a.d. 700.
2 D

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Day, Charles Russell, 1660-



The music and musical
I ±nst.rumeri-te of sout-hern


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