Type: Aerophones > Flutes > Transverse.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.211.12
Area: Hindustan / North India.
Region: South Asia.
Description: The bansuri [in Hindi: बांसुरी: Bansuri; alternate names include; basi, banci, basuri, bamsuri, bansri and basuri basi] it is discussed as an important musical instrument in the Natya Shastra [~200 BCE to 200 CE] other Vedic texts of Hinduism, or as venu in post-Vedic texts. The name bansuri is not found in the ancient texts. The bansuri is mentioned in the texts under alternate names. These names include as nadi, tunava in the Rigveda [1500–1200 BCE].
The flute is also mentioned in various Upanishads and Yoga texts. The flute [Venu or Vamsa] is mentioned in many Hindu texts on music and singing, as complementary to the human sound and Veena [vaani-veena-venu]. A flute player in these medieval texts is called vamsika.
Etymology: The word bansuri [in Hindi: बांसुरी] originates in the bans [बाँस] bamboo + sur [सुर] melody. A phonetically similar name for this instrument found in early medieval texts is the Sanskrit word “vaṃśi”. A phonetically similar name for the same instrument, in early medieval texts, the Sanskrit word vaṃśi which is derived from root [in Sanskrit: वंश vaṃśa] meaning bamboo.
Regional names include, bāṃsurĩ, bānsrī, bā̃surī bā̃sī, banci, vanci, vansi, murali, murli, nadi, parwa. Elon, Kulal, kulalu, kukhl, in Malayalam; ಲಿಂಗ್ಬುಫೆನಿಯಂ lingbufeniam; in Tamil: புல்லாங்குழல்p pullankuzhal; pillana grovi, pulangoil, vasdanda, sipung and venuvu.
Origin Legends: These legends sometimes use alternate names for this wind instrument, such as the murali. However, the instrument is also common among other traditions such as Shaivism. 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.
Iconography: The bansuri like transverse or side blown flutes are depicted in ancient Hindu, Jain and Buddhist paintings and reliefs. The bansuri is commonly present in the iconography of the Hindu god Krishna. it is intimately linked to the love story of Krishna and Radha. The bansuri is revered as Lord Krishna’s divine instrument and is often associated with Krishna’s Rasa lila dance.
Citations: Bibliography: Kalātattvakośa: Primal elements-Mahābhūta edited by Bettina Bäumer, Kapila Vatsyaya ; Suneera Kasliwal 2004 Classical musical instruments. Rupa. pp. 85–86. ISBN 978-81-291-0425-0 ; G. Dournon; M. Helffer 1984 “Bansuri”. In Stanley Sadie [ed.]. The New Grove dictionary of musical instruments, Volume 1. Macmillan Press. ISBN 978-0-943818-05-4 ; Ellen Koskoff 2008 The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: The Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia. Routledge. p. 980. ISBN 978-0-415-99404-0 ; Websites: