Music

Tongs keep the tempo

As we were scheduled to perform in Mumbai, we included a visit to Shirdi on our itinerary. After the concert, we headed to the town for a darshan and to see the Sai museum.

The Sai Sansthan has preserved many of the things used by Sai Baba. One that aroused our curiosity is the musical instrument chimta, which was used by Baba and his disciple Abdul. We started researching the instrument and its connection to divinity.

The chimta is an idiophone or a ghana vadya coming under the category of metallic percussion instruments without membranes attached to it. Chimta is played mostly in North India, mainly in Punjab. It is also found in the central province of Pakistan. This rhythm instrument has two long pieces of flat iron strips with pointed ends. A metal ring is used to join the ends of the two strips, which are fitted with metal or brass rings, bells and circular discs. The instrument is played with both hands The chimta is used mainly to keep the beat of a song.

It is said to be made by the Lohars belonging to the Kshatriya community. The chimta, (which means a pair of tongs) is used as an accompaniment to the devotional music sung at Gurudwaras during Gurbani, also known as Shabad, which is from the Guru Granth Sahib that even mentions raags and taals it should be performed in.

Chimta is also used while singing kirtans and bhajans in temples or congregations. The chimta is played along with the dholak and at weddings, it is paired with the dhol. It accompanies the Bhangra dancers and is also a part of Punjabi folk music.

The chimta, ektara and dhol are played during Giddha, a Punjabi folk dance. This dance is performed more during Teej. Chimta is also played for the Malwai Giddha dance, which originated in the Malwai region. There are a variety of chimtas such as those with small rings used for Bhangra performances and the bigger ones played at village festivals. This instrument also has an important place in Sufi and Qawwali performances.

The tradition of playing the chimta for hymns can be traced back to the Jogis or the Naths. The instrument, also known as ‘tambourine sword’ and ‘fire tong,’ is played during the Gugga dance, as part of worship of Gugga or Gogaji in Haryana, Punjab, Uttarkhand, Himachal, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Panch vir or panch bhagats, who sing songs or bhajans in praise of Gogaji, carry their own musical instruments including the chimta, deru ( a small side drum), dholak and manjira. This takes place in the villages of Haryana, especially during the month of Bhadra. The chimta, is essential to the music of Himachal Pradesh too.

Our trip over, we left Shirdi with the sounds of chimta echoing in our ears.

(The writers are veteran violinists)

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 2:24:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/chimta-a-musical-instrument-was-also-played-by-shirdi-sai-baba/article8649722.ece

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