Want to listen to a Sarod recital by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan? That too free? Visit the National Museum on Saturday. The maestro will be performing at the Musical Instruments Gallery there to commemorate the museum’s new look.
India’s leading museum is adopting several innovative approaches to attract visitors to its new revamped avatar of the 17th-century Musical Instruments Gallery and concerts by doyens of Indian classical music of both Hindustani and Carnatic genres are on the agenda.
The museum has a large collection of musical instruments— both folk and classical. India’s first woman Sarod performer, Sharan Rani Bakliwal, donated the larger part of the collection.
In 1980, she gifted 224 instruments and objects of musical inspiration from her personal collection to the National Museum. It was dedicated to the nation by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, on October 30, 1980. In 1982, the maestro gifted 24 more instruments and another 134 in 2002.
Now, two years after her death, her collection is being displayed in all its splendour. While a majority of the Indian musical instruments in this collection are from the 17th-century, there are a few 19th-century Western instruments, too.
The 125 instruments are divided into different categories like string instruments (veena, sitar, santoor), percussion instruments (tabla, dholak) and wind instruments (flute, trumpet) in the museum galleries.
The Sharan Rani Bakliwal collection highlights various types of instruments used in classical Indian music. Some folk, tribal instruments and western instruments that were used in India for decades have also been exhibited. Some instruments belonging to well-known musicians or musicologists were gifted to her and now are on display in the gallery.
On display will be a veena from the collection of Raja Sir Surendra Mohan Tagore (1840-1914) of Calcutta, the instrument of Jodu Bhatt (of Vishnupur) who was the music teacher of Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore’s family, two veenas of Laxmi Prasad Misir of Varanasi (1860-1929), the Pakhawaj (from Rampur) of Pandit Ayodhya Prasad (1891-1977), the ‘Mukha Vina’ (Tamil Nadu) of the late Venu Gopala Reddy, the Gottuvadyam (Tamil Nadu) of the late KS Narayana Iyengar, ghungroos of Pt. Shambhu Maharaj, the doyen of Kathak dance.
Some instruments have been collected from the erstwhile princely states.
There is also a rare Dakshinavarta Sankha (right-sided conch with clockwise spiral).
The Gallery has rare items including Edison’s phonograph with the label ‘patent pending’ (1894 AD), music box (mid 19th century) and a mechanical bird (late 19th century).