european musical instruments in India

J.Napier J.Napier at unsw.EDU.AU
Thu Apr 3 00:31:27 UTC 1997

On Thu, 27 Mar 1997 05:01:10 GMT,
  Vidyasankar Sundaresan writes:

For example, saliva is polluting, which is why many Indians
>prefer to wet the gum on an envelope with water, rather than using their
>tongues. But this ritual impurity associated with saliva does not stop
>Indians from playing the bamboo flute or the shehnai or the nadaswaram.
>Saliva necessarily touches these instruments in the act of playing. And
>the flute is Krishna's instrument, while most festivals are incomplete
>without shehnais or nadaswarams. No justification is offered. The
>nadaswaram is quite openly described in Tamil as "echchal (saliva) 
>vAdyam (instrument)", although it is also considered an auspicious

This raises an interesting point. Many attribute a prejudice in North India 
against the sarangi (as distinct from a prejudice against sarangi players) 
to the 'polluting' gut strings. Given that gut strings were standard for 
the violin in the nineteenth century, did this cause a problem in South 
India? Did Indian violinists quickly adopt metal wires for stings?

This relates to an earlier unanswered post about the introduction of metal 
stings, and the production of wire in general in India. The 
Sangitaratnakara refers to wound strings of silk, and eleventh century 
sculptures sometimes clearly show that stirngs were made of a wound 
substance (silk or even grass, as suggested by earlier, non-musicological 

john napier
University of New South Wales
Sydney Australia

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