Sculpture and music have played a very prominent part in the development of the cultural heritage of India. Sculptural illustrations may be treated as visual documents of the different periods to which they belong. They portray contemporary life and thereby act as good guides and reliable informants. A survey of the Indian sculpture found mainly in our temples, bring to our notice many factors relating to music. 

  • The relics of Nagarjunakonda, Amaravati, Sanchi and the Ajanta caves have a number of panels filled with the carvings of musicians and musical instruments. Musical instruments of three types - stringed ones like harp and Vina; percussive like the different types of drums; wind instruments like flute, conch, horn and time-keeping instruments like castanets, cymbals and small gongs are found in large numbers.

  • A niche in the Kailasanatha temple has a carved stringed instrument whose resonator resembles that of Vina with a fan shaped structure at the other end. It has no frets. Another peculiar instrument depicted in the caves of Aurangabad has 22 frets.
  • Many more such carvings with respect to music are found in the temples of Tanjavur, Chidambaram, Srirangam, Suchindram, Madurai, Trivandrum, Aihole, Ellora, Halebid, Belur etc. Some of them even produce sounds that exactly match the sounds of the actual instruments!

The items of sculpture are reference records and enlighten us on the type of instruments that were in popular use at that particular period of cultural development. They also indicate the instruments used in solo performances, orchestra, dance, folk music, temple orchestra, etc. Besides, they disclose certain facts about the classification of instruments based on the profession and region. It is an amazing fact that the carvings of certain instruments found in one temple have been found in another temple, irrespective of the location.

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