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Musical instrument of the tanpura type
Place of Origin: India, probably Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh State
Date: approx. 1800-1900
Object Name: Instrument
Materials: Wood with ivory inlay and painted decoration
Dimensions: H. 36 3/4 in × W. 9 1/4 in × D. 6 3/4 in, H. 93.3 cm × W. 23.5 cm × D. 17.1 cm
Credit Line: Gift of Daniel L. and Merel P. Glaubiger
Department: South Asian Art
Collection: Musical Instruments
Object Number: 2015.68
On Display: No

More Information

Exhibition History: "The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017
Additional Label:

After the trial by fire Rama, Sita, and their companions return to the capital in glory and Rama undergoes the royal consecration inaugurating his long and peaceful reign. The front of the sound chamber of this instrument is painted with Rama enthroned on one side, attended by Hanuman, and Sita, attended by Vibhishana, on the other. The back is painted with a famous scene of Krishna dancing with young cowherder women. On either side of the circle of dancers stand the deities Shiva and Brahma.

Exactly why these unrelated scenes and figures are shown together on a musical instrument is not known. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was common for characters of Hindu mythology to be depicted on luxurious utilitarian objects ranging from teapots to stationery boxes.

Musical instruments of this type provided a drone accompaniment rather than playing a melody.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)


Exhibition History: "The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017
Expanded Label:

After the trial by fire Rama, Sita, and their companions return to the capital in glory and Rama undergoes the royal consecration inaugurating his long and peaceful reign. The front of the sound chamber of this instrument is painted with Rama enthroned on one side, attended by Hanuman, and Sita, attended by Vibhishana, on the other. The back is painted with a famous scene of Krishna dancing with young cowherder women. On either side of the circle of dancers stand the deities Shiva and Brahma.

Exactly why these unrelated scenes and figures are shown together on a musical instrument is not known. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was common for characters of Hindu mythology to be depicted on luxurious utilitarian objects ranging from teapots to stationery boxes.

Musical instruments of this type provided a drone accompaniment rather than playing a melody.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)