The sitar is a plucked string instrument mostly used in Hindustani classical music, where it has appeared since the Middle Ages. It gets its resonance from sympathetic strings, a long hollow neck, and a gourd shaped resonating chamber. The sitar is used throughout the Indian subcontinent, especially in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It became known in the western world through the work of Pandit Ravi Shankar beginning in the late 1950s. Also, it became further popularized after George Harrison of the Beatles took lessons from Shankar and Shambhu Das and played the sitar in a few of his songs. Shortly after, The Rolling Stones used a sitar in "Paint It Black" and a brief trend began for using the instrument in pop songs.
The tabla is a popular Indian percussion instrument used in Hindustani classical music and in popular and music of the Indian subcontinent. The instrument consists of a pair of hand drums of different sizes. The term tabla is derived from an Arabic word, tabl, meaning drum. Playing involves using fingers and palms in many different configurations to create different sounds. The heel of the hand is used to hit the larger drum or slide across it so that the pitch is changed as the sound fades away.
The shehnai, also known as shahnai, shenai, or mangal vadya, is a wind instrument, a double reed cone-shaped oboe. It is common in north and west India, and is wooden with a metal flare bell at the end. It is widely utilized during marriages, processions, etc. It is also played in concerts. Though south India does not typically use the shehnai, they have a similar instrument called a nadaswaram. The shehnai usually has between six and nine holes. It uses two sets of double reeds, making it a quadruple reed woodwind. It is believed to have originated in the Kashmir Valley, yet there are varying legends of it's origin.
The mridangam is an Indian percussion instrument. It can be described as a two headed drum. It originated in ancient times. It is the most usual and primary rhythmic accompaniment in Carnatic music. It is also played in Carnatic concerts in outside countries such as Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, the UK, Canada, etc. The mridangam is played resting parallel to the floor. A right hand player plays the smaller membrane with his or her right hand and the larger with the other hand.
A harmonium is a free-standing keyboard instrument similar to a reed organ. It is simply more portable. Sound is produces by air being blown through reeds. Air is pumped using bellows operated by hand, foot, or knees. It is said to have originated in Europe. During the mid 19th century, missionaries brought hand pumped harmoniums to India. The Harmonium, being portable, reliable, and easy to learn, quickly became popular. It remains one of the most popular musical instruments in India and the Indian subcontinent today, and is found in many Indian homes. It is used in many different genres and styles of Indian music. Though derived from designs developed in France, India has further developed the instrument. Also, in India and the Indian subcontinent, harmoniums are typically hand pumped and extremely portable. In Europe, they are generally foot pumped and stand taller. Though not very popular in Europe in modern times, the Harmonium remains popular in India.
The Tanpura is a long necked plucked lute. The body shape of the tanpura is similar to that of the sitar. It usually has four to five wire strings, which are plucked one after the other in a regular pattern to create a harmonic resonance on the basic note. Tanpuras come in different sizes to better accompany different vocalists' voices. The smallest version is used for accompanying a sitar or sarod. The name tanpura is probably derived from tan, referring to a musical phrase, and pura, which means "whole" or "complete."
Note: These are but a few of India's many musical instruments. These are simply a few of the more popular ones.