Music and Mythology

In ancient Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata musical instruments are frequently mentioned. It is to the veena’s music that Lava and Kusha sing the Ramayana during the ashvamedha in Valmiki’s Ramayana. Ravana chants his saman to the music of the veena. As Lakshmana enters the inner apartments of Sugriva, he hears singing and the ravishing strains of the music of the veena and other stringed instruments.

The ladies apartments in the palace of Ravana are also full of musical associations. Some of the musical instruments which Hanuman sees there are the madduka [a percussion instrument like the mridanga], the patha [similar to the khanjira], the flute, the vipanchi, the mridanga, the panava [ another variety of mridanga], the dindima [a sort of tabala] and the adambara [a kettle-drum]. A woman musician lies across her veena, an image which Valmiki compares poetically to a cluster of lotuses about a boat in a stream.

In the Mahabharata, Krishna uses a conch called panchajanya on the battle field. Arjuna’s conch is called devadatta. Krishna is constantly associated with the venu[flute] whose music charmed the gopis of Brindavan.

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