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Serpentine Horn (Nagfani), Gujarat or Rajasthan, India

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NMM 1234.  Serpentine horn (nagfani), Gujarat or Rajasthan, India, 20th century. Brass tubing with flared copper bell, stylized serpent head. Used by holy men (sadhus) of India during ritual ceremonies (see detail of sadhus head on back of bell, in repoussé, below); also, by story tellers and street performers. Its name literally means "snake or cobra hood." Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.

NMM 1234. Nagfani, Gujarat or Rajasthan, India, 20th century

Postcard Documents Lowell Thomas' Trip to Tibet in 1949

Lowell Thomas in Tibet

This instrument was collected in 1949 by Lowell Thomas, the adventurer and journalist, when he made his famous trek from India across the Himalayas at Nathu-La, a 14,800' pass, to the Tibetan plateau and on into the holy city of Lhasa. On the return trip, he was thrown from his horse and fractured his hip, but survived. Later, he sent the nagfani to Arne B. Larson, who had written to Thomas before he left, asking him to bring an instrument back.

Face of Holy Man (Sadhus) on Bell

Repousee face on bell

The nagfani is commonly associated with the sadhus (holy men of India), because of the power harnessed by invoking the serpent, an intimate companion of Lord Shiva. Iconographic depictions of Shiva often include a cobra coiled around his neck. The instrument is also used by naqqals (story tellers, mimics; also translated as female impersonators who perform political satire) and mirasis (singers, a caste known as Mirasi).



Integral, conical brass mouthpiece; shallow metal cup inserted into top of elongated mouthpiece-tube section.

Construction Details:  Bell Seam and Bracing

Seam detail Brace detail

Left:  tiny drops of a red substance appear on both sides of bell seam.
Right:  three wires wrapped around narrow strips of pale orange cloth secure tube sections.

Literature:  Thomas E. Cross, Instruments of Burma, India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet, The Shrine to Music Museum Catalog of the Collections, Vol. II, André P. Larson, editor (Vermillion: The Shrine to Music Museum, 1982), p. 6.

Thomas E. Cross, Instruments of Burma, India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet, M.M. Thesis, University of South Dakota, May 1983, p. 13, plate III.

André P. Larson, The National Music Museum:  A Pictorial Souvenir (Vermillion: National Music Museum, 1988), p. 30.

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