India has a vast collection of music forms, the major ones being the Hindustani music of the North and the Carnatic music of the South. And similar to the music forms, our country also has a vast range of musical instruments in different categories like stringed, wind, drums, bells, etc. Let us take a look at eight very ancient ones in the list.

1. Kanjira:


Also known as Khanjari, this is an instrument which has the skin of iguana stretched on a circular frame made of wood. The frame has slots with bells or jingles in the form of small metal disks. The instrument is used by holding in the left hand while the fingers of the right hand beat onto the stretched skin. The pitch variation is brought out by wetting out the stretched skin.

2. Kemancheh:16372-ca379530d1134f929441b86105e0b29f

A bow instrument quite popular in the world, this instrument has its origins in India and has gone through many a modification in different parts of the world over the years. There are people who state that Kemancheh is the ancestor or the predecessor to many famous musical instruments like sarangi, Chinese erhu and the rabab.

3. Mridangam:mridangam1_gross

A drum instrument which is barrel shaped and used mainly in the southern parts of the sub continent. The instrument finds its inspirational source to the famous Pakhavaj. It is predominantly used in accompaniment with the Carnatic music and is also known as the Khol in the states of Orissa and Bengal.

4. Rabab:shootoutdoor

The instrument is a string type where the resonator is covered with a skin, which can be either plucked or bowed according to the tradition of the performance. The rabab appears in various forms in parts of North Africa, Central, eastern and southern Asia. Similar to the adaptation of Sitar which originated from Vina and Setar, Rabab is the originator for the modern day’s sarod. Yet, it has not lost its shine and is still used by many a musician in the country.

5. Sahnai (Shenai):Shehnai

Similar to the nagasvaram, which is used in South, this instrument plays a crucial role in all the North Indian functions, especially matrimony. Either bamboo or wood is made use in the construction with metal flaring at the end to constitute a speaker like contraption. It’s a double reed instrument with seven equidistant holes to vary the pitch.


Unlike Mrdangam, Tabla is a combination of two barrel type drums played by the same musician. A pitch variation is achieved by application of siyahi on the skins of the tabla. The larger drum is known as the bayan while the smaller known is the dahini.

7. Tambura:Tanpura-Male

A string instrument accompanied with a gourd or wooden resonator, it provides a drone pitch and is generally used along with other instruments or for vocal renditions. A lot of museums have miniature of these artistically designed Tamburas in their collection.

8. Sarod:Sarode_KLS__80296.1426634981.1280.1280

Compared to the above list, this is a younger instrument in terms of its years of existence. It is a string instrument and is used predominantly in Hindustani music where it is accompanied by Tabla.