Percussion Instruments of Indian Classical Music: History, Origin and Facts

Mridangam 

The Mridangam is perhaps the most highly developed and the most ancient of all percussion instruments. It is commonly used in the south as an accompaniment to the vocal and the instrumental performances. It literally means body of clay. The southern Mridangam is a cylindrical hollowed out block of wood Skin covers the opening ends and is fastened the leather hoops held taut by interlaced leather braces.

A wide variety of tones are obtained from different parts of the instrument. For instance, the head can be struck with a full hand or with the fingers, which are clamped or released. The types of strokes are distinguished by an elaborate percussion terms. The alternation of sounds between two heads of the Mridangam further enhances the tones.


Ghatam

Ghatam, on the ancient percussion instruments, often head in Carnatic Music concerts, is a mud pot carefully kneaded and uniformly fired. The mouth of the Ghatam is open and is played with two hands, writs, fingers and nails.

The mouth is pressed against the stomach so that when strokes are, the air inside is set in vibration and gives a deep tone. The player can elicit various volumes and tonal colors by giving the fingers strokes at the neck, center and bottom of outer surface.

Tabla

A pair of drums called the tabla accompanies most Indian classical performances. According to ancient Hindu legends, Shiva (the god of music and dance) invented the drums. One story says that in the deep crevasses of the Himalayan glaciers, one often hears the Thud of heavy ice boulders falling down. These noises are believed to be from Shiva's drum.

The right-hand drum is called the Tabla and the left-hand drum, which is lower in pitch, is called the Bayan. The combined name for these drums is Tabla-Bayan. The tabla drum can be tuned by adjusting the tension of the head skin by moving the corks on the side of the drum’s body.

The drums are made by a stretched layer of skin on the top, with a round black circle in the middle, made from a past of iron filings and rice powder -the thicker the powder the lower the pitch of the drum. The tabla can make more than two sounds. The player can produce varied sounds by striking the head in different places with his fingers or with the palm of the hand. These sounds are taught through a drum language called Tabla Bols.


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Which String Instruments are used in Indian Classical Music: History, Origin and Facts about them


Sitar

The invention of the Sitar is commonly credited to Amir Khusrau, a courier of Allauddin Khilji in the 13th Century. The name Sitar was derived from Persian ‘Sehtar’ meaning ‘three strings’ which the instrument originally had. But the modern Sitar has seven strings fastened to the pegs on neck and the sides. Sixteen to twenty-two frets are secured to the finger board by pieces of gut.


There are also 11 to 12 sympathetic strings below the frets, running parallel to the main strings. The instrument is played by means of a wire plectrum worn on the forefinger of the right hand. It was instrumental in introducing western audiences to Indian Classical Music.


Sarod

Although the origin of the Sarod is not known, it is supposed to have descended from the rabab of the Middle East. Some believe that this stringed instrument might have originated from the Greco-Buddhist area of Gandhar (modern Afghanistan).

The modern Sarod is made of wood with one end being rounded and covered with parchment. There are six main metallic strings fastened to pegs at the neck of the instrument. It is played with a plectrum held in the right hand while the fingers of the left hand are used to play the notes. It is fretless instrument with sympathetic strings. Sarod has secured an important place in Hindustani Classical Music for its deep and rich tone and a distinctive sound.

Sarangi

Sarangi is another stringed instrument mainly popular as a folk instrument and probably made it’s first appearance in the late 17th Century.


The ability to play all types of  gamakas gave it prominent place in Hindustani Classical Music.  It is made of hallowing out a single block of wood and covered by parchment and has four strings.  Four tuning pegs are fixed to the hollow head and a bridge is placed on the hide-covered belly in the middle. The place places the instrument on the lap and plays it with a horse hair bow in the right hand and fingers and nails of the left hand. The tone of the Sarangi is very near to the human vocal chord.

Santoor

Santoor, which originated from the Vedic Vana Veena, is characteristic of the Kashmir Valley and is neither seen nor played anywhere else. The Vana Veena also had strings and was played with sticks. The modern Santoor is made of a trapezoid wooden box.

There are thirty bridges and a set of four strings of metal, tuned to the same note, is stretched over each pair of the bridges. It is played with a pair of flat wooden pieces curved at the striking ends. Today, Santoor is played with all Indian ragas and is very popular with film musicians.

Jaatis of Ragas - Difference between Thaats and Jaati of Raga



A Raga is nothing but a selection or a combination of specific Swaras from the Saptak.

Later the musicologist Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande classified Ragas in 10 specific Thaats (For more information see: Thaats)

There are certain Ragas in which all the Seven Sounds (Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni) are used and such Ragas are called “Complete Ragas”.

There are certain other Ragas in which only Six or Five swaras are used.

The sounds (Swaras) which are not used are called Varjit Swara or Prohibited Sound.

Such Ragas with Six Sounds are called Sharav Raga.

There are certain Ragas in which only five Sounds are used. Such a Raga is called Auruv Raga.

All in all, the Ragas can be classified in Jaatis (Castes) based on the Number of Swaras whereas Thaats are a classification technique based on the Type of the Swaras.

There are mainly Nine castes (Jaati) of Ragas as explained below:

Complete Raga 

The Ragas where all the seven Swaras are used in Aroh and Avaroh is “Complete Raga”.
Example:

Aroh 

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa

Avaroh

Sa Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Re Sa.

Complete Sharav Raga

The Raga in which Seven Sounds are used in Aroh and Six Sounds are used in Avaroh, is called “Complete Sharav Raga”.
Example:

Aroh

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni SA

Avaroh 

SA Ni Dha Pa Ma. Ga Sa

Complete Aurava Raga 

The Raga in which there are Seven Sounds in Aroh and five Sounds in Avaroh is called a “Complete Aurava Raga”
Example:

Aroh

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni SA

Avaroh

SA Ni Pa Ma Re Sa

Sharava Complete Raga

The Raga in which there are Six sounds in Aroh and Seven Sounds in Avaroh is called “Sharava Complete Raga” e.g.

Aroh

Sa Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni SA

Avaroh

SA Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Re. Sa

Sharava-Shrava Raga

The Raga in which there are Six sounds in Aroh and Six sounds in Avaroh is called “Sharava-Shrava Raga”

Aroh

Sa Re Ga Ma Dha Ni SA

Avaroh

SA Ni Dha Ma Ga Sa

Sharava Aurava Raga

The Raga in which there are Six Sounds in Aroh and Five Sounds in Avaroh is called “Sharava Aurava Raga”

Aroh

Sa Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni SA

Avaroh

SA Dha Pa Ma Re Sa.

Aruva-Complete Raga

The Raga in which there are five sounds in Aroh and seven sounds in Avaroh is called “Aruva-Complete Raga”

Aroh

Sa Re Ma Pa Dha SA

Avaroh

SA Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Re Sa

Aruva- Sharav Raga

The Raga in which five sounds are used in Aroh and Six sounds are used in Avaroh is called “Aruva- Sharav Raga”

Aroh

Sa Re Ma Pa Dha SA

Avaroh

SA Ni Dha Pa Ma Re Sa

Aruva-Auruva Raga

The Raga in which five sounds are used in Aroh and Five sounds are used in Avaroh too is called “Aruva-Auruva Raga” e.g.

Aroh

Sa Re Ga Pa Dha SA

Avaroh

Sa Dha Pa Ga Re Sa

Raga Asavari /Asaavari with Notes and Saragam

Learn Raga Asavari with Aroh, Avaroh and Bandhish

Introduction 

Raga Asavari was originated at Asavari Ghaat. For this reason Raga Asavari is also called Ashray raga from Asavari Ghaat. In this raga the swaras Ga Dha and Ni are used as komal swara.
In the Aroh the swaras Ga and Ni both are prohibited and hence only 5 swaras are used.

Aroh and Avaroh

In Avaroh all 7 swaras are used. Because of 5 swaras in Aroh and 7 Swaras in Avaroh, the Jaati of this Raga is Audhav Sampoorna.

Jaati (Audhav Sampoorna)

Taal: Teen Taal

The Vaadi Swara is Dha and Samwadi Swara in of this Raga is Ga.

Prahar: 

The Raga is supposed to be sung during 2nd Prahar. (See Prahara 2)

Aroh

Sa Re Ma Pa Dha Sa,

Avaroh

Sa Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Re Sa

Pakad

Re Ma Pa, Ni Dha Pa

Example of Swar Malika

Sthayi

Re Ma Pa Ni Dha Dha Pa Pa,
Ma Pa Dha Pa Ga Re Sa,
Re Ma Pa Ni Dha Dha Pa Pa,
Ma Pa Dha Pa Ga Re Sa,
Re Sa Dha Pa Ma Pa Dha Sa,
Re Ma Pa Dha Ga Re Sa,
Re Sa Dha Pa Ma Pa Dha Sa,
Re Ma Pa Dha Ga Re Sa,
Re Ma Pa Ni Dha Dha Pa Pa,
Ma Pa Dha Pa Ga Re Sa,
Re Ma Pa Ni Dha.

Antara: 

Ma Pa Dha Sa Re Sa
Dha Sa Ga Re Sa Dha Pa
Ma Pa Dha Sa Re Sa
Dha Sa Ga Re Sa Dha Pa
Pa Ga Re Sa Re Sa Dha Pa
Ma Pa Dha Pa Ga Re Sa
Pa Ga Re Sa Re Sa Dha Pa
Ma Pa Dha Pa Ga Re Sa
Re Ma Pa Ni Dha Dha Pa Pa
Ma Pa Dha Pa Ga Re Sa,
Re Ma Pa Ni Dha

Example of Bandish of Raga Asavari:  

Sthayi

Madhur Madhur Sab Vani Bolo – 2
Kano Mein Sab Rasa Ko Gholo -2
Madhur Madhur Sab, Vani Bolo
Madhur Madhur..

Antara: 

Meethi Bani Ki Ganga Mein -2
Sathi Nij Shabadon Ko Gholo,
Madhur Madhur Sab, Vani Bolo
Madhur Madhur..

Another example of Bandish

Aroh

Sa Re Ma Pa Dha(komal) SA

Avaroh

SA Ni(komal) Dha(komal) Pa Ma Pa Dha(komal) Ma Pa Ga(komal) Re Sa

Asaawari Ragini Madhur - 2,
Mrudul sur Ga Dha Ni
Chadhat Ga Ni varaj (Antaraa)
That soha shrungar karun ras
Dha Ga Vadi Samvadi kaha asa
Gunijan Gavat Dwitiya
Praha Din Sughar