Traditional Music Instruments of Nepal

From temple bells to drum wedding processions; to the cacophonous and woodblock khukuri holders; to the dream-like sitar and bone trumpets mourning the dead, Nepal has a wealth of traditional musical instruments that are still a part of people everyday lives.

These instruments remind us about the commitment of people towards a musical and spiritual life, signs of creativity and originality and showcasing connections between different cultures.


These musical instruments are used for different purposes; some are used for folk music, some in Nepali classical music, some for religious ceremonies and some for specific events such as marriage, jatras, festivals and many more.

Here below listed are some traditional Nepali music instruments.

1. Madal


First introduced by the Magar community, it is one of the famous folk musical instrument. With both sides open, it is a hollow wooden cylinder which is covered with skin. Mostly used in Nepali folk songs, it is carried around the waist and is played with both hands.

2. Shankha


Played by blowing air with the mouth, it is the outer shell of ocean snail used on the occasions such religious ceremonies and when the dead body is taken for cremation. This instrument is only used in ritual events and most of them starts with the sound of Shankha.

3. Dholak


It is a bigger version of a Madal, made of a hollow cylinder of wood, open on both sides and is covered with skin. This instrument is specially played in Holi, to celebrate the birth of a child and to welcome harvesting.

4. Murali (Flute)


Also known as Basuri, it is believed that this instrument was played by Lord Krishna. This musical instrument is made from pieces of bamboo with 6 holes in it, each representing a musical note. It is played by placing under the lips and blowing air into it.

5. Sarangi


It is a traditional folk musical instrument which is made of a piece of wood of Khirro and four strings. It is played by rubbing on the strings especially right and left repeatedly with a small stick. Traditionally, it was only played by people of Gandarva; who sang folk songs and narrative tales. However, today it is widely used and played by many people.

6. Panchai Baja


It is a set of five different traditional Nepali music instruments that are played on various occasions. Instruments such as Jhurma (Cymbal), Damaha (Drum), Tyamko, Narsingha (Trumpet) and Sanai (a kind of Clarinet) includes the Panchai Baja. This instrument is usually played by dalit caste known as Damais.

7. Damphu


Popular among the Tamang community of Nepal, this instrument is similar to that of a small drum which is made of hollow wood further stretched by leather over one edge. This musical instrument is used during celebrations and dance performances.

8. Dhyangro


This musical instrument is somewhat similar to drum which is made of hollow wood by extending calfskin to both edges and is played with a bended stick known as Gajo. It is used by faith healers, also known as Dhami or Jhakri for worshipping or treating ill patients.

9. Tungna


This musical instrument is popular mountain region and is made of a piece of a flower called rhododendron and has four strings as that of in Sarangi.

10. Urni


This instrument is made of outer hard cover of the coconut by stretching leather and fastening a string with a rod and is especially played by Dhimal Community.

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Written by Rashmi Lohia

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