Instrument of divinity
Dhananjaya Bhat

IN Hindu mythology, most of the divinities are associated with some music instrument, like Lord Shiva with the damaru, Saraswati with veena. But it is the flute, associated with Lord Krishna, for which there are many esoteric explanations by Saints.

The bamboo flute is the oldest musical instrument known to the mankind. It is the only musical wind instrument which is most natural and does not contain any mechanical parts. It is made of`A0a single length of bamboo and`A0has six or seven holes. Flute uses no keys, tone control being`A0a matter of breath control and unique technique of`A0fingering.

The bansuri, which Krishna played, had eight holes
The bansuri, which Krishna played, had eight holes

There are two main types: bansuri and venu. The bansuri, which has eight holes, is the one used by Lord Krishna and is found today in Hindustani classical music. The other genre venu is more commonly used in the Carnatic system of music. Flute has the vocalist style of playing known as the gatkaari ang in classical music. It is very close to human voice and whatever the vocalist brings out through his music, one can bring out through flute. The flute player actually sings in his heart and blow through flute. This is the reason the flute sounded very melodious, when played by Krishna in an atmosphere surrounded by Nature.

Once, Krishna asked his devotees what they would like to become in his hands. Some said the lotus, some the conch, some the chakra and so on, but no one mentioned the flute. Krishna advised them to become his flute. In his discourse to his devotees, he said in the human personality structure, as in the flute, there are eight main spots:

The five organs of perception and mind, intellect, and ego. If you get rid of your ego and become like a hollow reed flute, then the Lord will come to you, pick you up, put his lips and breathe through you and out of the hollowness of your heart, the captivating melody will emerge for all creations to enjoy. But if you will continue your attitude of dislike, hatred and jealousy, the Lord will distance himself from you, since you will be useless for his purpose.

Many episodes in Lord Krishna’s life are quoted to show, as to how even his consort Rukmini Devi could not understand the music of his flute, whereas his beloved Radha realised and knew the meaning of the music Krishna was playing in his flute.

According to Swami Sukhaananda: "Rukmani loves Krishna so much that she is very possessive about him. But she hardly gets time to spent with her beloved one. But she always has marked one thing, that the flute which Krishna plays is most of the times with him, except when he takes bath or when he goes out for some specific reason. Once Rukmani thought of asking the flute as to what is so special about it a mere bamboo stick. One day, when Krishna went to take bath, Rukmani took his flute, breathed life to it and asked it "Why are you so close to Krishna! Despite being his wife, I am not able to spend that much time with him?". The flute gave a surprise look to Rukmani and told her " Even I don’t know why it’s like that. Look at me, I am empty. I am just a stick with some holes and I am of no use to anyone. But once Kirshna puts air into me, nice music comes out of it. I don’t have any mental blocks so I am close to him. So you too take out all blocks (remove your ego), be empty, then only you will be close to Krishna". Rukmani realised that Krishna’s flute represents a devotee, who has transcended his ego self and has become an unobstructed medium for the music of the soul. — MF