The Harmonium is a small, manually-pumped musical instrument using fixed reeds to create the basic sounds. There are two main types of harmonium: a foot-pumped version that resembles a small organ, and a hand-pumped portable version that can fold up for easy transport. The hand-pumped portable version is very popular with Kirtan Jathas along with the Tabla and these form the main type of instruments used by Ragis during the performance of Kirtan.

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The Harmonium was invented in Europe in Paris in 1842 by Alexandre Debain, though there was concurrent development of similar instruments elsewhere. During the mid-19th century missionaries brought hand-pumped harmonium to India, where it quickly became popular due to its portability and its low price. Its popularity has stayed intact to the present day, and the harmonium remains an important musical instrument in many types of Indian music, as well as being commonly found in Indian homes.

In Indian music, the Harmonium is considered to be one of the most versatile instruments. The harmonium is used in classical, semi-classical, and devotional music. It is usually used as an accompanying instrument for vocalists in classical music. However, some musicians have begun playing the harmonium as a solo instrument. One of the largest pioneers of this style is Pandit Tulsidas Borkar of Mumbai. More and more music students are learning in this fashion.

Harmoniums consist of banks of reeds (metal bands which vibrate when air flows over them), a pumping apparatus, stops for drones, and the keyboard. The harmonium functions mostly like an accordion. In order to play the instrument, one must pump air into the instrument and press the desired keys. The sound of the harmonium is unique, and improves over time as the instrument ages.

The number of reed banks is up to the particular person. Some harmoniums use 1 reed, 2 reeds, and 3 reeds. This refers to the number of reed sets there are in the instrument. Classical instrumentalists usually use 1-reed harmonium, while a musician who plays for a qawaali  (Islamic devotional singing) usually uses a 3-reed harmonium.


The tabla is the most popular percussion instrument used in the classical and popular music of the northern regions of South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, northern IndiaPakistan).

The term tabla is an Arabic word which means "drum",The origins of the word tabla come from the arabic word, “tabl,” and this attests to its status as a product resulting from the fusion of musical elements from indigenous Hindu and Central Asian Muslim cultures that began in the late 16th century.


  • The history of this instrument is at times the subject of heated debate. Reliable historical evidence places the invention of this instrument in the 18th century. Another common historical narrative portrays the tabla as being thousands of years old, yet this is mere conjecture, based on slipshod interpretations of iconography.

  • The different traditions of tabla playing go back to the 18th century. The transformation of the tabla from a religious-folk instrument to a more sophisticated instrument of art-music occurred in the late 18th or early 19th centuries, when significant changes took place in the music of North India.

  • In public performances, tabla players were primarily accompanists to vocalists and instrumentalists; however, they developed a sophisticated solo repertoire that they performed in their own musical gatherings

The Pair

  • The two drums of the tabla are called the dayan and bayan, the names came from the words dayn and baya which mean right and left in hindi.

The smaller drum, played with the dominant hand, is called the dayan It is made from a conical piece of wood hollowed out to approximately half of its total depth.

The larger drum, played with the other hand, is called bayan. It is a bowl shape made of metal (or sometimes clay or wood, although not favored for durability). It has a much deeper bass tone.

The Technique

  • The playing technique for both drums involves extensive use of the fingers and palms in various configurations to create a wide variety of different sounds. On the bayan the heel of the hand is also used to apply pressure, or in a sliding motion, so that thepitch is changed during the note. This “modulating” effect on the bass drum and the wide range of sounds possible on the instrument as a whole are the main characteristics that make tabla unique among percussion instruments.

  • Both drum shells are covered with a head (or puri) constructed from goat or cow skin. This skin is bound together with a complex woven braid that also gives the entire assembly enough strength to be tensioned onto the shell. The completed head construction is fixed to the drum shell with a single continuous piece of cow or camel hide strap laced between the braid of the head assembly and another ring (made from the same strap material) placed on the bottom of the drum. The strap is tensioned to achieve the desired pitch of the drum. Additionally, cylindrical wood blocks are inserted between the strap and the shell allowing the tension to be adjusted by their vertical positioning. Fine tuning is achieved by striking vertically on the braided portion of the head using a small hammer.


This instrument is made in the shape of a peacock and the word 'taus' is in fact a Persian word meaning peacock. It has 28-30 strings and the instrument is played with a bow. The taus is very similar to the dilruba in construction and in playing technique. However, the taus has a bigger sound box and therefore produces a much more resonant and mellow sound. It has a sound hole at the ‘tail’ portion of the instrument and stands on bird-feet carved in wood.

Guru Hargobind Sahib created this instrument, which is probably why it is so big, given his own physical size.

Guru Gobind Singh (the tenth Sikh master) played this instrument and welcomed any rabab or taus player into his court. This saaj (instrument) was a favourite with late ragi Bhai Avtar Singh ji.


The esraj (also called israj or dilruba) is a string instrument found in two forms throughout the north, central, and east regions of India. 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. The esraj is found in the east and central areas, particularly Bengal, as well as Bangladesh. It is used in a somewhat wider variety of musical styles than is the dilruba.

The structure of both instruments is very similar, both having a medium sized sitar-like neck with 20 heavy metal frets. This neck holds on a long wooden rack of 12-15 sympathetic strings while the dilruba has more sympathetic strings and a differently shaped body than the esraj. They both have four main strings which are bowed. All strings are metal. The soundboard is a stretched piece of goatskin similar to what is found on a sarangi. Sometimes the instrument has a gourd affixed to the top for balance.

The instrument can be rested between the knees while the player kneels, or more commonly rested on the knee of the player while sitting, with the neck leaning on the left shoulder. It is played with a bow, using the other hand to press the strings between the frets. The player may slide the note up or down to achieve the portamento, or sustained vibrations, characteristic of Indian music.


The sarangi is a bowed string instrument of India, Nepal and Pakistan. It is the most important bowed string instrument of India's Hindustani classical music tradition. Of all Indian instruments, it is said to get closest to the sound of the human voice – able to imitate vocal ornaments such as gamakas (shakes) and meend (sliding movements).

Sarangi in Sikhi

Guru Hargobind Sahib ji not only invented the Taus, but also incorporated the Sarangi into Sikh music. It was predominantly used in dhadi vara, however it is also used in Gurmat Sangeet. The two of these genres differ vastly, therefore they each have adapted Sarangis for their use, e.g dhadi vara uses a folk Sarangi, whereas Gurmat Sangeetuses a classical Sarangi.


Carved from a single block of wood, the sarangi has a box-like shape, usually around two feet long and around half a foot wide. The lower resonance chamber is hollowed out and covered with parchment and a decorated strip of leather at the waist which supports the elephant-shaped bridge. The bridge in turn supports the huge pressure of approximately 40 strings.

Three of the strings – the comparatively thick, tight and short ones – are bowed with a heavy horsehair bow and "stopped" not with the finger-tips but with the nails, cuticles and surrounding flesh (talcum powder is applied to the fingers as a lubricant). The remaining strings are resonance strings or tarabs (see: sympathetic strings), numbering up to around 35, divided into 4 different "choirs". On the lowest level are a diatonic row of 9 tarabs and a chromatic row of 15 tarabs, each encompassing a full octave plus 1–3 extra notes above or below. Between these lower tarabs and the main playing strings lie two more sets of longer tarabs, which pass over a small flat ivory bridge at the top of the instrument. These are tuned to the important tones (svaras) of the raga. A properly tuned sarangi will hum and buzz like a bee-hive, with tones played on any of the main strings eliciting echo-like resonances.


Tanpura or Tamboora is a drone instrument. It resembles a sitar except it has no frets. This is one of the oldest and popular Saaj(musical instruments) used for accompaniment of vocal music. The word "tanpura" (tanpoora) is common in the north, but in south India it is called "tambura", "thamboora", "thambura", or "tamboora". The tanpura is known for its very rich sound. 

There are three main styles; the Miraj style, the Tanjore style and the small instrumental version sometimes called tamburi. The Miraj style is the typical north Indian tanpura (tambura). This is the favourite of Sikh and Hindustani musicians. It typically is between 3 to 5 feet in length. It is characterized by a pear shaped, well rounded tabali (resonator face) and non-tapering neck. It usually has a resonator made of a gourd, but rarely one may find resonators made of wood. Being a stringed instrument, it is remarkable both for giving support to the notes of vocal music and as a drone.

There are four strings in the tanpura. The first to the left is of steel. Sometimes in a tanpura is used for accompanying a male voice, the first string is of brass or bronze. This string is called oancham because it gives out the note of P. This is tuned to the P of the madhya saptak when accompanied by a harmonium. 

In the raga in which P is forbidden (as for instance in Malkaus raga), this string is tuned to M shudh. In the first place, the two middle strings of steel should be tuned to S of the male singer. The fourth string is of brass or bronze. It is tuned to S of the mandar saptak. (In the case of a female voice the S is set to fourth of fifth black reed of the harmonium). Some tanpurashave five to six strings. 

The normal tuning is P S S S. If there is no P in a raga, then tune M S S S. In case of the fifth string, the tuning will be as such: If there is N in the raga, then P N S S S : if there is no N in the raga, then P S S S S: if there is no P in raga then M S S S S. In case of a 6th string, the tuning will be as follows: If there is NI in a raga, then P N S S S S: if there is no N in a raga, then P S S S S S; if there is P in a raga, then M S S S S S.

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