From the veda veena of ancient times to the harmonium, a range of musical instruments are on display at the Government Museum in Egmore.

The artefacts at the exhibition inaugurated on Sunday were bought by the museum officials in 1903. The thavil, mrudangam, kanjeera and the salangai are familiar to us but there are some instruments like the panchamukha vadyam which are still in use, says curator Thulasi Brinda. The drum with five faces, believed to depict Shiva’s five phases, is still played during puja at the Tiruvarur temple.

Little-known instruments like various kinds of harps (yazh) used as long ago as 2 B.C. during Sangam period, and the Burmese harp, which is still in use, are on display.

V.V. Kalavathi brought her daughter Nandini to see the instruments. The awe-struck child was seen enquiring where each and every instrument came from. Similarly enchanted were Mary and Gilbert from France, who wished it was possible to hear the sounds the instruments made. Ms. Thulasi said the collection had been with the museum for over 100 years but had never been displayed so far. An interesting item is the ‘Mayil’ harp, which has been fashioned like a peacock and designed like the ancient harps. Images of national leaders have been carved in ivory on its frame.

Though the instruments have been preserved with care, many of the strings seem to have been rusted or damaged. S.S. Jawahar said “The Burmese harp is played even today during the swearing-in ceremony of the highest official of the State in Myanmar (erstwhile Burma).” A total of 65 instruments are on display to mark the chief minister’s birthday.

The exhibition, which was inaugurated by veena exponent E. Gayathri, has been organised with help from Government Music College and will be on till March 3 at the centenary exhibition hall

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