Indian Musical Instruments S-V

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This is by no means a fully comprehensive list, but Indian music would include many of the items on the list below;-

Further lists on our A-H and J-R lists.



A stringed Indian and Nepali folk musical instrument similar to lutes or fiddles. It is played with a bow and has between three and thirty strings depending on the region.

The bottom part of the front of its hollow wooden soundbox is covered with animal skin. It is played while sitting on the ground in a vertical orientation.



A conch shell of ritual and religious importance in Hinduism and Buddhism. It is the shell of a large predatory sea snail, Turbinella pyrum, found in the Indian Ocean.

It is still used as a trumpet in Hindu ritual, and in the past was used as a war trumpet.

The shankha is displayed in Hindu art in association with Vishnu. As a symbol of water, it is associated with female fertility and serpents (Nāgas). The shankha is the state emblem of the Indian state of Kerala and was also the national emblems of the Indian princely state of Travancore, and the Kingdom of Cochin.

Shruti box

Shruti box.png

Also called; sruti box or surpeti.

It is an instrument that traditionally works on a system of bellows. It is similar to a harmonium and is used to provide a drone in a practice session or concert of Indian classical music. It is used as an accompaniment to other instruments and notably the flute.

The shruti box is also used in classical singing. In classical singing the shruti box is used to help tune the voice. The use of the shruti box has widened with the cross-cultural influences of World Music and new-age music to provide a drone for many other instruments as well as vocalists.

Adjustable buttons allow tuning. Nowadays, electronic shruti boxes are commonly used, which are called shruti petti in Tamil and Telugu and sur peti in Hindi.

Recent versions also allow for changes to be made in the tempo, and the notes such as Madhyamam, Nishadam to be played in place of the usual three notes.



A plucked stringed instrument used in Hindustani classical music. The instrument is believed to have been derived from the veena, an ancient Indian instrument, which was modified by a Mughal court musician to conform with the tastes of his Mughal patrons and named after a Persian instrument called the setar (meaning three strings).

The sitar flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries and arrived at its present form in 18th-century India. It derives its distinctive timbre and resonance from sympathetic strings, bridge design, a long hollow neck and a gourd-shaped resonance chamber. In appearance, the sitar is similar to the tanpura, except that it has frets.

Used widely throughout the Indian subcontinent, the sitar became popularly known in the wider world through the works of Ravi Shankar, beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the 1960s, a short-lived trend arose for the use of the sitar in Western popular music, with the instrument appearing on tracks by bands such as The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, and others. This is believed to have created a genre that became known as Raga Rock.

Sitar Mizrab

Sitar Mizrab.jpg

Also spelled; mezrāb, zakhmeh, and zakhma.

It is a plectrum which is used for several Iranian and Indian string instruments.

For sitar, a mezrab is worn on the finger of a sitar player. It is a plectrum made by hand from a continuous strand of iron used to strike the strings of the sitar. Although it is generally worn on the index finger, a second mezrab is sometimes worn on the middle or little finger. The mezrab fits tightly on the end of the finger so that it does not move while playing, intended to be projected roughly 1/4 inch from the end of the finger.



Other spellings; sursringar, surshringar, and Sringara, (Pleasure in Sanskrit), is a musical instrument from India having many similarities with the sarod. It is larger than the sarod and produces a deeper sound.


It precedes the sarod chronologically. In Dhrupad style it was used as a solo instrument in the 19th and 20th centuries.

It is regarded as a further development of the Dhrupad-Rabab that has more or less disappeared today. Its neck has a metal fingerboard and the steel and bronze strings are played with a metal pick, while the bridge is made of a flat horn. It has two resonant boxes; the main box is made from a cut gourd, on which a wooden cover is attached.



A membranophone percussion instrument originating from the Indian subcontinent, consisting of a pair of drums, used in traditional, classical, popular and folk music. It has been a particularly important instrument in Hindustani classical music since the 18th century, and remains in use in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

The name tabla likely comes from tabl, the Persian and Arabic word for drum.

However, the ultimate origin of the musical instrument is contested by scholars, some tracing it to West Asia, others tracing it to the evolution of indigenous musical instruments of the Indian subcontinent



Other spellings; tambura, tanpuri.

It is a long-necked plucked string instrument found in various forms in Indian music; it does not play melody but rather supports and sustains the melody of another instrument or singer by providing a continuous harmonic bourdon or drone.

A tanpura is not played in rhythm with the soloist or percussionist: as the precise timing of plucking a cycle of four strings in a continuous loop is a determinant factor in the resultant sound, it is played unchangingly during the complete performance.

The repeated cycle of plucking all strings creates the sonic canvas on which the melody of the raga is drawn. The combined sound of all strings, each string a fundamental tone with its own spectrum of overtones, is a rich and vibrant, dynamic-yet-static tone-conglomerate, due to interactive harmonic resonances that will support and blend with the external tones sung or played by the soloist.

The name of the instrument derives from Persian, where it designates a group of long necked lutes. Hindustani musicians favour the term 'tanpura' whereas Carnatic musicians say 'tambura'; 'tanpuri' is a smaller variant used for accompanying instrumental soloists.



The tumbi or toombi or tūmbī is a traditional North Indian musical instrument from Punjab. The high pitched, single string plucking instrument is associated with folk music of Punjab and presently very popular in Western Bhangra music.

It was popularized in the modern era by the Punjabi folksinger Lal Chand Yamla Jatt (1914-1991). In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s most of the Punjabi singers used the tumbi, such as Kuldeep Manak, Mohammed Sadiq, Didar Sandhu, Amar Singh Chamkila and Kartar Ramla.

Tumbi in Western music

Get Ur Freak On, in 2001, a hit single by Missy Elliott produced by Timbaland, saw the introduction of the distinct tumbi sound into the popular mainstream music scene.

Mundian Ton Bach Ke Rahin (Beware of Boys) from Panjabi MC, a huge hit in the UK charts, is perhaps the most widely known example of the use of tumbi in popular Western music.

20 Inch by Master P (featuring Jamaican Reggae artist Cutty Ranks and Rap artist Kobra Khan) included tumbi played by Toronto, Ontario, Canadian native Shawn Ramta (grandson of the famous Punjabi folk singer, Hazara Singh Ramta).



Also spelled; uduku is a membranophone instrument used in folk music and prayers in Tamil Nadu, (where it is originated from). Its shape is similar to other Indian hourglass drums, having a small snare stretched over one side. The udakku is played with the hand and the pitch may be altered by squeezing the lacing in the middle.

The damru in the hands of Lord Shiva is also referred to as udukkai.



Also spelled; vina, beena or bina.

It is a multistringed chordophone of the Indian subcontinent. An ancient musical instrument that evolved into many variations, such as lutes, zithers and arched harps.

The many regional designs have different names such as the Rudra veena, the Saraswati veena, the Mohan veena and others.

Indian Musical Instruments A-H

Indian Musical Instruments J-R