Considered as one of the oldest Indian classical musical instruments, Bansuri is a special type of flute, made from a straight and flawless piece of bamboo. It is basically a cylindrical bamboo tube, with holes placed at uniform distance and is closed at one end. The notes are created and altered in the Bansuri, by regulating the flow of air blown through the mouth as well as by placing the fingers in the allotted holes at different points of time. The Bansuri was essentially a traditional instrument for cow herders and shepherds, but it was later introduced as a mainstream classical Indian musical instrument, by the likes of Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia.
Definition of Bansuri
The word Bansuri is derived from two Indian words i.e. baans= bamboo and sur= musical notes. The bamboo used for making Bansuri is specially found in the northeastern and southern regions of India, which has a specific thickness and distance between the nodes, unlike that used in Japan for making Shakuhachi.
History of Bansuri
The origins of Bansuri, as a musical instrument, may be traced back to primitive times. It is believed that, once when wind was blowing through a termite eaten bamboo, a sweet sound emanated from the piece of bamboo. A man, with some degree of intellect, understood the mechanism and started blowing air into the piece of bamboo. Thus, the Bansuri was discovered in this manner.
Another major example of the usage of Bansuri is that of Lord Krishna. It is believed that the beautiful melodies originating from his Bansuri made lost cattle find their way and also attracted beautiful damsels of his village.
Mechanics and Techniques
The raw material found in nature, has numerous parameter variations i.e. bore geometry, bore size, density of the bamboo, texture of the bore etc. Thus, there is no certain standard mass producing technique developed yet. Each and every Bansuri has to be minutely examined and fine tuned, for extracting the optimum output. However, a number of research works are under progress to develop a theory that enables to understand the factors affecting the balance and harmonic variations of the instrument and thereby improve the output.
Parts of Bansuri
Different parts of Bansuri are listed as follows:
o Dandi- The body of a Bansuri.
o MukhaRandhra- It is the blowing hole or the embouchure of a Bansuri. The professional level Bansuris are of the transverse varieties.
o SwarRandhra- The holes where the fingers are placed to extract the required notes.
o GarbhaRandhra- The open end of a Bansuri and it is very essential to keep it un-occluded all the time.
o Rassi- The body of a Bansuri is tightly bound with a twine, because its bamboo body tends to crack very easily.
How to play a Bansuri?
The most important and toughest part of playing a Bansuri is to create the sounds on it. Extracting the perfect sound out of Bansuri requires lot of consistent efforts on the part of a player.
First, the mouth is placed on the open end of the Bansuri in such a way that the upper half of the lower lip touches the base of the opening. The air is blown into the Bansuri in such a way, that half of the blown air enters the Bansuri and the other half blows over it. The fingers are also placed in such a manner that they do not entirely cover it. Thereafter, renditions and notes are generated by alternating between the openings.
Famous Bansuri Players
The most famous and popular Bansuri players are listed as follows:
o Pannalal Ghosh
o PanditHari Prasad Chaurasia
o Deepak Ram
o Keshav L. Ginde
o K. S. Rajesh
o Kailash Sharma
o Flute Raman
o David Philipson
o Mujtaba Hussain
Sri Krishna and Bansuri
In the Indian tradition, all the major Gods and Goddesses have always been associated with musical instruments such as Lord Shiva with his Damaru and Goddess Saraswati with her Veena. However, the relationship between Lord Krishna and his flute is something special. As per legend, he was always engaged in playing his Bansuri, and therefore ignored the Gopis in and around him. Jealous of Krishna’s Bansuri, the Gopis used to hide his Bansuri, so that he could have a glimpse of them. Later, when he was asked by Radha, about his attachment to Bansuri, he answered that by playing Bansuri, he tried to call out the name of Radha and also supervise and assemble his Rasa Bhaktas. The renditions and notes emanating from his Bansuri always cast a magical spell on the people in and around him. It is also believed that the sound of a flute stirred the Anahat Chakra or the unstirred sound in our causal bodies.
Connecting Sri Krishan with OM
As per the Gopala–topani Upanishad, the understanding of Om is non-different from the understanding of Radha-Krishna. A Bansuri is believed to be the oldest possible musical instrument known to mankind. Hence, the syllables and notes that emanate from a Bansuri is believed to be the closest representation of the mystic syllable of OM. Srila JivaGoswami said, “Om is a combination of letters, A, U, M. The letter ‘A’ refers to Krishna. The Letter ‘U’ refers to Radha and the letter ‘M’ refers to the individual soul”.
Radhe-Krishna and Bansuri
The Bansuri of Lord Krishna always evokes the name of his beloved Radharani. Lord Krishna’s playing of his Bansuri is like a clarion call for all the Gopis, who assemble for the Rasa Leela. The influence of the sound created from a Bansuri is believed to spread over the transcendental and the mundane.