Palitana is a town, about 50km from Bhavnagar, Gujarat. It is known to be the largest pilgrimage centre for the Jain community. This place is also where harmonium reeds are manufactured and shipped to other parts of the country and sometimes even abroad, making it a well-known place for buying good quality harmoniums. Let’s find out more. Read more.
Phalguni Gupta | BeatCurry Team
Reed is a piece of metal. The instrument thus produces sound as air flows past a vibrating piece of this thin metal in a frame. Palitana reeds are said to be the most durable with distinct notes, all showing Fine Craftsmanship. A harmonium includes two or three air chambers, each of which contains reeds set in different octaves. To make a reed, brass is melted and then cast in a cooper tongue. The reeds are then meticulously scrutinized and tuned by craftsmen to ensure they produce the right sounds.
Manoharbhai Parmar, a 76-year-old man, owner of ‘Manohar Musicals’ In Palitana is one of the most sought-after craftsmen whose harmonium are not only in high demands but his clientele goes from music directors-Khayyam, Naushad, Pyarelal to ghazal maestros Mehdi Hassan, Jagjit Singh, and Ghulam Ali.
“It’s the reed that is the soul or what is referred to as sur of the harmonium. Most musicians prefer the reeds made in Palitana,” says Anup Jalota who was introduced to Palitana harmonium by his father Padma Shri Purushottam Das Jalota, an acclaimed classical vocalist as quoted by Times of India (TOI).
According to the craftsmen of Palitana, it’s not an acquired skill but an art of making the perfect reed is a gift they were born with. “The secret to a melodious reed lies in a good ear. It depends on the innate ability of the craftsman to listen and to attune all his senses to music. It is not a skill that can be taught. It’s instinctive,” says Parag Mistry, great-grandson of Mohanlal J Mistry, whose family has been making reeds since 1931 as quoted by TOI.
What’s also said to be a unique quality of the reed manufactured in Palitana is that they never lose their tuning. This is one of the major factors which are considered before buying this instrument. The durability is such that even after long use of harmonium the tuning stays stable.
Between 1911 and the early 1960s, Indian harmoniums used German Jubilate Harmonium Reeds that were largely imported from Germany. But soon after the second world war most of the reeds making machinery was scrapped. German reeds were among products whose imports were then banned in India giving rise to the Indian reeds manufacturers.
The reason behind the excellent quality of the Palitana’s harmoniums is the combination of both skill and experience of more than 600 manufacturers working out of over 10+ units, just in Palitana alone, that they put into making these instruments. With so many maestros appreciating the work of these craftsmen, this instrument surely has a bright future to follow.
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