JAL TARANG

Jal tarang is a set of china bowls that are filled with water. Each bowl is struck with a light wooden mallet to cause it to ring. Jal tarang is not very common and is normally found in the accompaniment of kathak dancers.


The Jaltarang one of the most rarely heard instruments today. It is one of the oldest instrument in the world. It consists of china bowls filled with water and struck by means of two cane sticks. Earlier, since china clay bowls werent' available, artists used to play this instrument with metal bowls. Each bowl can be tuned to the desired frequency by varying the quantity of water in it. These bowls are placed in a semi - circle arrangement around the player and played. Anicent texts mentioned instruments similar to this. Indian, Greek and Byzantian texts described such an instruments. The Jalatarang has a pleasant characteristic tone. The player can produce on it, classical indian ragas and light melodies as well.

Almost all Indian musical instruments can be traced to some form of ancient veena-s. Jal Tarang is one of the recent additions to Indian musical instruments. Not mentioned prior to Sangeet Parijaat and the Krishna-cult poets1, it has international links with Gongs and Gamelan of Burma, Java, Sumatra being played in a similar fashion. On the Borobudur stupa musical cups are depicted. Music is played on such cups in Buddhist temples of Japan and in Kabuki theater. The essence of Jal-tarang remains Indian as hindustani notes emanate through bowls from China played upon with Japanese bamboo sticks.

Inspired by Jaltarang, glass music became popular in sixteenth century Europe using glasses in place of cups. A curious variant of the Jaltarang is found in Jaisalmer district. A single metal plate -- called thali or tasli -- used for accompaniment by varying strokes to produce different tones and rhythms, is filled with water and is called Jaltaal. Although in prevalence for over five centuries now, the instrument drew quite a few enthusiasts in the first half of twentieth century. All India Radio incorporated a position of staff artiste in Jal-Tarang. The instrument was extensively used in film music and orchestral compositions. However, due to its design and delicate build coupled with lack of ease in playing more complex Raga-s, very few artistes adopted it as their main instrument for classical performances.


The famous film director O.P. Nayyar narrated the sad decline of this instrument in a television interview. Visiting one of the musicians of his troupe who used to play jal-tarang, Nayyar inquired whether his sons had been inducted into playing this instrument. The musician replied that with synthesizers and other electronic gadgetry, there is no demand in the industry for such instruments. No one in his family tried to play jal-tarang and the China bowls are taken out whenever soup is to be served. Music had always been integrated in the daily routine -- the morning prayers, chants for specific tasks, songs of seasons and celebrations. First the concept of 'personal' in art robbed it of its natural evolution then technology bulldozed the seriousness associated with study of art. Only when we consult a reference book do we learn about India's rich heritage of musical instruments.

Jal-tarang finds its first mention in Sangeet Parijaat. This medieval musical treatise categorizes this instrument under Ghan-Vadya (Idiophonic instruments in which sound is produced by striking a surface, also called concussion idiophones.) SangeetSaar considered one with 22 cups to be complete Jal Tarang and one with 15 cups to be of mediocre status. Cups, of varying sizes were made of either bronze or porcelain. Today only china bowls are preferred by artistes, numbering around sixteen in normal use. Cups for Mandra Swar (notes of lower octave)are large while those for Taar Swar (notes of higher octaves) are smaller in size. Water is poured into the cups and the pitch is changed by adjusting the volume of water in the cup. The number of cups depends on the melody being played. The bowls mostly are arranged in a half-circle in front of the player who can reach them all easily. The player softly hits the cups with a wooden stick on the border to get the sound. Its not easy to tune the instrument and needs some skill. During playing fine nuances can be reached if the performer is accomplished. SangeetSaar mentions that if the player can rotate the water through a quick lithe touch of the stick, nuances and finer variations of the note can be achieved.

The rapid globalization and change in the pace of routine life has forced many of the finer aspects of culture out of popular custom and practice. Instruments like Dilruba, Israj, Sur-bahar, Vichitra veena and even Sarangi find few takers. It was with a desire to preserve the traditional and ancient arts that Ministry of Culture came up with a scheme to train young enthusiasts under masters of these traditional arts.

2 comments:

john said...

thanks for sharing good information about the indian art this is very detail about it.

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vinod said...

Thanks for sharing the nice article...

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