Over the past fifty-odd years, Sangeet Natak Akademi has acquired a large number of musical instruments, masks, puppets, headgears and other artefacts of archival interest. Its gallery of musical instruments was inaugurated by violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1964. A major exhibition of about four hundred instruments was mounted in 1968. Since that time, a number of exhibitions of musical instruments, masks and puppets from the collection have been held in India and other countries, including Italy (Rome), Russia (Moscow), Greece (Athens), Egypt (Alexandria), Spain, South Korea, etc. With about two thousand musical instruments, masks, puppets and headgears, Sangeet Natak Akademi’s collection is perhaps the largest of its kind in India.
The permanent galleries of musical instruments and masks display a wide range of artefacts from different regions of the country, representing varied traditions of performing arts. Though not exhaustive, the instruments on display represent the four-fold classification followed in India since ancient times, namely, tata vadya (chordophones), sushira vadya (aerophones), ghana vadya (idiophones), and avanaddha vadya (membranophones). The two new galleries of masks, displaying about a hundred objects are a recent addition to the existing facilities.
In its effort to preserve and promote the art of instrumentmaking, the Akademi has honoured eminent instrumentsmakers with its Awards in recent years. Training programmes in instrument-making under master craftsmen have also been undertaken in Rajasthan, and in Kolkata, to encourage young artisans to continue to work in their hereditary occupations. We hope our refurbished galleries and their exhibits will help in disseminating information about the development of music and other traditions of performing arts of India and generate fresh interest in these arts.