european musical instruments in India
srini at engin.umich.edu
Fri Mar 28 16:29:08 UTC 1997
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
In an official letter written in 1885, the Maharaja of Travancore
mentions that Brahmins in his kingdom didn't play the flute for
reasons of impurity... his letter was in response to the questions
of the Madras Gayana Samaj members about the music and instruments
then prevalent in Travancore.
This notion may have been regional since the situation in late
19th/20th century Carnatic music is totally at odds with this...
Sarabha Sastri (who is said to have been quite orthodox), his
disciple Palladam Sanjeeva Rao, and later Mali were all Brahmins
from the Tamil area and celebrated flutists.
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