Instrumental music has played a prominent role in the evolution and embellishment of music. There are innumerable varieties of musical instruments but only some of these are used for the south Indian classical music. Instrumental music has been held in great esteem over the centuries as some of the instruments are compatible for playing the raga swarupas with the help of gamakas, quarter tones, sruthis and jathis.
Bharata(4thC), in his treatise Natya Sastra, classified the musical instruments in to 4 categories: Stringed instruments, Wind instruments, Skin covered instruments and Ghana Vadyas.
Stringed instruments: In these instruments, the nadham arises through the vibrations of the strings. The instruments Veena, Gottuvadhyam, Sitar, Tambura Mandolin to name a few, create vibration through the fingers. Violin,Sarangi and others produce vibration with the help of bows and in Santur by sticks.
Wind instruments: In these, the nadham arises with the help of the wind. There are 2 types: Air is produced through bellows like Organ and Harmonium and in the second, air is blown through the lungs and/or mouth like the flute and the nadaswaram.
Skin covered instruments: These are used as talavadyaslike mridungam, tavil and kanjira, to name a few. They have faces or heads covered with skin. The nadham is produced either by hands or sticks.
Ghana Vadhyas: These instruments are made of mud, metal or wood. Jalatharangam and ghatam are made of mud, cymbals are made of metal and chipla is made of wood and metal.
Compiled by Anandhi Sundar