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24, Jun 2013


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The Shehnai is a double reed, conical and a wind instrument with a metal flare bell at the end, used to create an atmosphere of auspiciousness. Shehnai has its origins from the Kashmir Valley.Popular Belief has it that it was introduced in India by the Muslims. The Shehnai is named after a shehnai player called “Shehinaia”. It’s also believed to be derived from the two words, “sheh” meaning breath and “nai” which means flute. Another variant says, it’s derived from the combination of the two Persian words, “shah” meaning king and “nai” meaning flute, to call it “the king’s flute”.

Also Called

Its called the Shehnai in the North and Southern India relates to it as the Nadaswaram. 

When is it used?

It is widely used during weddings, processions, temples and also played in concerts.  In fact, in several parts of the country, even today the temples resonate with the sound of the Shehnai in the early hours of morning, to awake the deities. Shehnai is the most sensitive ceremonial musical instrument. In addition, also a difficult instrument to play as it calls for great breath control, training and dexterity. The method of playing it is complex and strenuous, as it involves the partial closing of holes to create semitones and quartertones, thereby requiring a considerable lung capacity. Commonly used in North India, West India, Iran, and Pakistan.

What are they made from?

Made from Wood and Metal

Where would you find them?

Available in outlets where musical instruments are sold.


Shehnai has been an integral part of Indian culture for centuries. Any special occasion, with or without auspicious ceremonies begin with the Shehnai. Shehnai is supposed to bring good fortune to the newly wed. Perhaps no Indian wedding is complete without the sound of the Shehnai permeating the wedding venue.  Because of its rich, expressive sound and auspicious quality when paired with a shruti it provides a suitable pitch, that is a must in every Indian wedding. So strong is the association between this instrument and festivities that the very word Shehnai has become synonymous with celebrations and happiness. Ustad Bismillah Khan is solely responsible for popularizing Shehnai as a concert instrument, both nationally and internationally.

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