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Some Rare Musical Instruments Of India

Guitar, keyboard, violin and Piano are some of the most common musical instruments in the current music scene.  Not long ago, there were a few special musical instruments of India that are now barely visible. Most of them are now stuck up in pages of history.  Reasons are many, but the biggest reason is there is no one who plays them now.  This article is an attempt to know some rare musical instruments of India.


Sursingar is a plucked string instrument.  It is similar to sarod but the sound is deeper. It has been played prominently for dhrupad style music renderings in the last two previous centuries.

Here, a gourd is the resonator and wood is the cover. There are four strings in the instrument made of brass.  Some popular performers on the Sursingar are Radhika Mohan Moitra, Alauddin Khan, Bahadur Sen Khan, Pyar Khan, Jaffar Khan, Basat Khan


Pepa is one amongst the very rare musical instruments of India. It is a reed instrument, a hornpipe used in Assam. Made with a short stem and attached to a horn of buffalo, it is extensively used in Bihu celebrations.  Due to the decrease in the population of buffaloes the cost of this instrument has escalated. This is the reason it is losing its popularity.

Bengali Khamak also called Gubguba

The Bengali Khamak is a plucked string instrument which looks like a small Tabla. It is made of dried gourd with attached gut strings. It works similar to the Ektara. Here, one hand holds the string and the other hand is used for plucking the strings.  This instrument is popular in northeast Indian parts like West Bengal and Odisha for Baul Gaan.


Kuzhal is a temple musical instrument that looks like Shehnai but is smaller in size. It is commonly seen in Kerala temples. It produces a shrill sound.  Kuzhal is soon joining the list of rare musical instruments in recent times.

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The Sambal musical instrument has two distinct drums that differ in size and pitch.  Both are joined together on one side.  This percussion instrument is commonly used for folk music in western parts of India.  It is the traditional drum of the Gondhali people.


Algoze is a double flute joined together or held together while blowing.  Breath control is paramount here as both the flutes have to been blown into with similar intensity.  The usage of this wind instrument is more in Rajasthani and Punjabi folk music. Notable players of this instrument are Ustad Khamisu Khan, Akbar Khamisu Khan, Ustad Misri Khan Jamali and Gurmeet Bawa.


Morchang is a wind percussion instrument. It is popular in Rajasthan and Carnatic south Indian music recitals.  This tiny instrument made of iron and has to be held partly in the mouth and played with the left hand.


Ravanahatha is a Bowstring musical instrument.  In Indian mythology, the demon Ravana is said to have played this instrument to please Lord Shiva.  According to history, it is said to be built by Hela community.

Bowl is made of coconut shell which is covered with goat hide. A bamboo bow is used to pluck the strings that are made of steel and/or horsehair.  The construction includes beautiful bells that tinkle along. Presently this is played only by a very few folk singers in Rajasthan.

Suriya Pirai and Chandra Pirai

Suriya Pirai and Chandra Pirai are musical drums used in Mariamman (Mother Goddess) temples in villages.  Suriya means the sun and Chandra mean the moon; these instruments are shaped exactly in the shape of their names.


Nagfani has a Brass tube in shape of a serpent played by sadhu-sants of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

See Also -   Baul Gaan - from the entertaining passengers


Yazh is a plucked string instrument. It has Gut strings with a boat-shaped base that is covered with skin. It is an older version of Veena and takes the shape of Yali, a mythical creature. It is various mentions in Tamil literary masterpieces like Thirukural and Silapadikaram.

According to a legend, the Sri Lankan town of Jaffna was called Yazhpanam after a blind man who played the instrument and got this land as a gift from the king.


Udukkai is a membranophone that is used during rural festivals in Tamil Nadu.  It is in shape of an hourglass, very similar to Damru played by Lord Shiva in mythology.  Both sides of the instrument are covered with goatskin heads.  There is a lacing of rope in between which helps alter the pitch. This instrument is used for folk music in Tamil Nadu.

Some other rare musical instruments that are sadly missed today are Pakhavaj, Kinnari, Mayuri, Gogana, Samasti Veena, Padayani Thappu, Sarangi and many more.

Some of these rare musical instruments are still existing in private collections and a few can be viewed at the Gallery of Musical Instruments at Rabindra Bhawan, New Delhi.  These include wind instruments like bansuri and nagaswaram, string instruments like tenkaya burra, dilruba and percussion instruments like mridangam, dhol and ghatam and tabla.  A result of 40years collection of instruments from across India and the world, this is a must visit place if you are a music lover.

Featured Photo: Rajasthani Folk Singer Birbal and his son Anil by Koshyk under CC BY 2.0


I am a Freelance content writer with an Educational background in Commerce. Amazed at the Vastness, Variety, Vivacity, Vividness, and Vibrance of an ancient country like India, I wish to explore its numerous qualities through Indiavivid.

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