MIGRATIONS (Instruments in Indian Sculpture)

The migration of Indian musical instruments to the countries surrounding India at an early period forms an interesting subject of study. In pre-Buddhist times, India seems to have had commercial and other relations with Egypt, Sumer and other Middle-Eastern regions. Archaeologists have discovered musical instru¬ ments similar to the yazh of the ancient Tamil country in Egypt and Babylon.

By: Diksha Sharma

Posted on: 12/11/2020 View : 185

MIGRATIONS

The migration of Indian musical instruments to the countries surrounding India at an early period forms an interesting subject of study. In pre-Buddhist times, India seems to have had commercial and other relations with Egypt, Sumer and other Middle-Eastern regions. Archaeologists have discovered musical instru¬ ments similar to the yazh of the ancient Tamil country in Egypt and Babylon. Representations of priests playing these harps in the tomb of Ramesus III show instruments which are not only distinguished by the number of their strings but are elaborately decorated, the framework being carved and inlaid with gold, ivory, tortoise shell and mother of pearl. Their construction and beauty are reminiscent of descriptions of the yazh in ancient Tamil works. Representations of an instrument similar to the yazh have been discovered in Babylon and attributed to about 3000 B.C. Actual specimens belonging to this period have been unearthed at Ur. The Sumerian harps were the oldest and most characteri¬ stic. The strings were either plucked by the fingers or struck with a plectrum. The instrument was often accompanied by the ka-gi (flute) in the same way as the ancient Tamil yazh was accompanied by the kuzhal, also a type of flute. Most of the ancient Indian sculptures show the bow-shaped veena along with the flute.

The instrument was originally called pan throughout a wide district of Western Asia in the early days. Pan means ‘sound’ or ‘music’. Curiously enough, the various musical modes in south Indian music are called pans in Tamil and musicians are called panars. In India, this bow-shaped veena has reigned supreme from the beginning. It disappeared after the time of the Guptas but it survives in Burma under the name of saun. The instrument was known in Egypt as the ban (Indian bana, or bin, or veena). It is known as gogia bana among the Gond tribes of Madhya Pradesh. The instrument consists of a stout staff in the shape of an arc, one end of which is fixed to a boat-shaped resonator. About five parallel strings are fastened to the staff, one over the other. Buddhism was a great force in the expansion of Indian culture. The period between the 4th and 7th centuries was, for the music of India, a period of great expansion.

That Indian musical instruments migrated to Central Asia during this period is proved by the existence of Indian instruments in the wall paintings, at Quizil, Yotkan, Tuanhuang and other important Buddhist centres of Central Asia. The mandolin-shaped veena which frequently occurs in the sculptures at Amaravati, Nagarjunakonda and Gandhara seems to have been introduced to Central Asia by the Buddhist missions. This veena became the pipa in China, and was changed into the biwa when it reached Japan in the 8th century. Sculptural representations of musical instruments depicted in Borobudur, Prambanam, Champa and other places confirm that the music of India spread to neighbouring countries in the early centuries. It is well known that the art of Java, the Khmer country and Champa was deeply influenced by the culture and art of 22 India. The illustrations of musical instruments at Borobudur show a remarkable similarity to those found in India. The kachchapi veena attributed to goddess Saraswati still survives in the Philippines where it is known as kadjapi.

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