Type: Aerophones > Flutes > Transverse >
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.221.12
Region: South Asia.
Description: The bansuri [in Hindi बाँसुरी: bansuri ; in Gujarati; બાની Baanhi, Baashi, Bansi, Basari, In Nepalese: मुरली Muralī] is a side blown flute originate from the Indian Subcontinent. It is an aerophone produce from bamboo, and it is used in Hindustani Classical Music. In the rigveda and other Vedic texts of Hinduism. Its importance and operation is discussed in the Sanskrit tex Nyatra Shastra.
Etymology: The word bansuri originates from the words [bans बाँस bamboo] and [sur सुर melody]. A phonetically similar name for the same instrument, in early medieval texts, is the Sanskrit word vaṃśi which is derived from root [in Sanskrit: वंश vaṃśa] meaning bamboo. A flute player in these medieval texts is called vamsika.
The early medieval Indian texts also refer to it as vaṃśi, while in medieval Indonesian Hindu and Buddhist arts, as well as temple carvings in Java and Bali dated to be from pre-10th century period, this transverse flute has been called wangsi or bangsi.
Regional Names: for the bansuri are wide ranging and diverse as they are found through out the South Asian subcontinent. Alternative names or the bansuri in Hindi include बंसी bansi ; murli, nadi, nar, pawa, vasdanda and sipung. In Nepali: मुरली Muralī or alternative बाँसुरी Bām̐surī in Gujarati; બાની Baanhi ; In Marathi the bansuri is called बनसुरी Banasuri ; In Nepali the word murali can mean not only flute or fife, but also a reed instrument.
The same word murali is also found in Rajasthan. In Tamil the bansuri is called குலால் kulāl, further names for the bansuri in Tamil include குழாய் Kuḻāy translates in English as “tube” or குக்ல் kukl or லிங்கபூபணியாம் Liṅkapūpaṇiyām or புல்லாங்குழல் Pullāṅkuḻal ; in Telugu; పుల్లంకుజల్ pullankujal ; పిల్లనాగ్రోవి pillana grovi ; in Kannada ಪುಲಂಗೊಯಿಲ್ pulangoil.
Origins: A bansuri-like flute is depicted in ancient Buddhist, Hindu and Jain temple paintings and reliefs, and is common in the iconography of the Hindu god Krishna. It is intimately linked to the love story of Krishna and Radha. Ancient regional innovations, such as those in the Himalayan foothills of India, developed more complex designs.
Such as the alghoza which is a “twin bansuri” in different keys constructed as a single instrument, allowing the musician to play more complex music. In central and south India, a similar innovation is called nagoza or mattiyaan jodi, and Buddhist stupa reliefs in central India, from about the 1st century BCE, depict the single and twinned flute designs.
The bansuri is revered as Lord Krishna’s divine instrument and is often associated with Krishna’s Rasa lila dance. These legends sometimes use alternate names for this wind instrument, such as the murali that is played in Rajasthan. However, the instrument is also common among other traditions such as Shaivism.
Construction: A bansuri is traditionally made from a single hollow shaft of bamboo with six or seven finger holes. Some modern designs come in ivory, fiberglass and various metals. The six hole instrument covers two and a half octaves of music. The bansuri is typically between 30 cm [12 in] and 75 cm [30 in] in length, and the thickness of a human thumb One end is closed. Holes are carved into the flute after a heated rod is pierced into the bamboo.
This is repeated for each of the seven finger holes including the thumb hole on the bottom. There are no mechanical keys, present on the bansuri. Bansuri are made available in a wide range of lengths depending on pitch of instrument. The tone and texture of the bansuri are created by the musicians breathing and fingering skills.
Citations: Bibliography: Nettl, Bruno; Ruth M. Stone; James Porter; Timothy Rice 1998 ~ The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: South Asia : the Indian subcontinent, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-8240-4946-1 ; Websites: