The main aim of the Sangeet Natak Akademi is the preservation and promotion of performing arts in India. In furtherance of its objectives, the Akademi, together with its manifold activities maintains a museum and gallery of musical instruments. It showcases the rich heritage and legacy of performing arts as well as musical instruments from different regions of the country. While on the one hand it provides research material to scholars and specialists it has been useful for documentation work, for students of all levels, and to those members of the general public who are interested in performing arts and music.
The collection comprises over 2000 objects relating to the performing arts. These include musical instruments, masks, puppets and headgears.
Gallery of Musical Instruments- “Asavari”
The Gallery of Musical Instruments was inaugurated by the distinguished violinist, Yehudi Menuhin on 13 February 1964. Methodical collection began in 1968 with the Akademi organizing an exhibition of about 400 folk and tribal musical instruments in Delhi. Acquisitions have been made regularly since then, and the holdings supplemented by gifts from musicians and visiting troupes.
There are about 600 musical instruments, out of which 250 are on permanent display representing instruments from different streams of music. The instruments have been classified as:
Wind instruments (aero phonic) including Bansuri and Nagaswaram;
String instruments (chordophonic) including Dilruba and Veena;
Percussion instruments (membrano phonic) including Tabla, Mridangam and (idio phonic) Bortal, and Ghatam.
Among the rare instruments are the Kachwa Sitar of North India and Gettu Vadyam of Tamil Nadu.
The gallery has also a variety of masks from all over India. These include Chhau masks of Jharkhand, Zari masks of Uttar Pradesh and Krishnattam masks from Kerala.
The large collection of puppets in the museum include the Kathputli ( string puppets) of Rajasthan, Benir Putul ( glove puppets ) of West Bengal, Kalasutri Bahulya ( string puppets) of Maharashtra, Tolu Bomalatta ( shadow puppets) of Andhra Pradesh and many more.
A number of exhibitions of musical instruments, masks and puppets from the Akademi’s collection have been held in India and other countries. Some of the notable exhibitions of musical instruments abroad were in Hong Kong (1979), Rome (1987), and Moscow (1987). A two-day seminar on folk instruments was organized in 1968 on the occasion of the exhibition of musical instruments in Delhi. An exhibition on the theme of ‘Changing Perspectives in Music’ was presented on the occasion of the India International Music Festival in February-March 1993.
The Gallery provides information on musical instruments and other objects in its collection to researchers and other specialist visitors. Facilities for photography and films are also provided.
*Masks and Puppets are a part of the reserve collection and can only be seen on prior intimation to the Akademi.