instrument types

In Natya Shastra, Sage Bharat Muni has given the classification of instruments.

  1. Stringed instruments (Tat Vadya)

  2. Wind instruments (Sushir Vadya)

  3. Percussion instruments - membranophone instruments (Avanaddha Vadya)

  4. Idiophone instruments (Ghana Vadya)


Stringed instruments

Includes instruments with strings. Divided in two types

  • Tat instruments

    • Produce a note by striking the strings with certain objects. 

    • Veena, Sitar, Sarod, Santoor, etc

  • Vitat instruments

    • Played with the help of a bow

    • Sound created by the friction of the bow upon the strings

    • Sarangi, Violin, Dilruba, Tar-Shehnai, etc


Wind instruments

  • Produce a sound by blowing air

  • Includes Shehnai, Clarinet, Harmonium

    • For harmonium, the air pressure created by the plate creates the sound


Percussion instruments

Instruments made out of wood, mud, metal, or stone and have a face comprised of animal hide. In ancient times, an instrument called Bhoomi-Dundubhi existed, with a large hole dug in the ground and an animal hide which was struck with wooden sticks. 

When Sage Swati noticed the trickling of water upon a group of small and large lotuses in a body of water, he used the inspiration to create instruments such as Mridang, Dundhubi, Aalingya, Urdhwak, and Ankik. 

  • Old instruments mentioned in texts: Tripushkar, Mridang, Damru, etc

  • Modern age instruments: Pakhawaaj, Tabla, Dholki, Dholak, Dhol, Daf, etc


Idiophone instruments

Instruments played by metals striking against each other. 

  • Examples: Tal, Ghunghroo, Jhanjh, etc

  • Tal is used in devotional songs (Bhajans)



  • Stringed and wind instruments can play multiple musical notes / swars

  • Idiophonic instruments and percussion instruments such as tabla do not produce multiple musical notes. The tabla is tuned to a single musical note (such as C or C sharp). Both these types of instruments indicate the laya and taal, which can be beneficial for the main artist for stability. 

Exotic Instrument
Traditional Indian Drums
Image by Saksham Gangwar