The venu (Sanskrit: वेणु; veṇu) is one of the ancient transverse flutes of Indian classical music.[1] It is an aerophone typically made from bamboo, that is a side blown wind instrument. It continues to be in use in the South Indian Carnatic music tradition.[2] In Northern Indian music, a similar flute is called bansuri.[3] In the South, it is also called by various other names such as pullankuzhal (புல்லாங்குழல்) in Tamil, പുല്ലാങ്കുഴല് in Malayalam, and ಕೊಳಲು (koḷalu) in Kannada. It is known as pillana grōvi (పిల్లన గ్రోవి) or Vēṇuvu (వేణువు) in Telugu (Andhra Pradesh).

Other namesMuraḷi, Vēṇuvu, pillana grōvi, kūḷalu, pullankuzhal
Classification Indian Woodwind Instrument
Playing range
More than 2.5 Octaves (8-hole bamboo flute)
Related instruments
List of Indian Flautists
More articles
Palladam Sanjiva Rao, H. Ramachandra Shastry, T. R. Mahalingam, T. Viswanathan etc..

The venu is discussed as an important musical instrument in the Natya Shastra, the classic Hindu text on music and performance arts.[4] The ancient Sanskrit texts of India describe other side blown flutes such as the murali and vamsika, but sometimes these terms are used interchangeably. A venu has six holes, is about the thickness of a thumb, and twelve fingers long. A longer murali has four holes and two hands longs. The vamsika has eight holes, between twelve and seventeen fingers long.[5]

A venu is a part of the iconography of Hindu god Krishna.[1]

Construction and technique

One of the oldest musical instruments of India, the instrument is a key-less transverse flute made of bamboo. The fingers of both hands are used to close and open the holes. It has a blowing hole near one end, and eight closely placed finger holes. The instrument comes in various sizes. The venu is also a highly respected instrument and those who play it are expected to appreciate it, for it is considered a gift to be able to play it.

The venu is capable of producing two and half octaves with the help of over-blowing and cross fingering. The flute is like the human voice in that it is monophonous and also has a typical two and half octave sound reproduction. Sliding the fingers on and off the holes allows for production of variety of Gamakas, important in the performance of raga-based music.


The flute (Venu) finds great mention in Indian mythology and folklore having been listed as among the 3 original instruments meant for music along with the human sound and Veena (vaani-veena-venu).[6] However it is strange that there is no name mentioned for the typical flute that the Lord plays.

The venu is associated with the Hindu god Krishna, who is often depicted playing it. This kind of flute is mainly used in South India.The Lord Vishnu is portrayed as Sri Venugopala - playing the flute of Creation.

In the Hindustani style, it is known as Bansuri. In the Carnatic style, it is known as flute.

Venu Players

Venu players of the past

  • Palladam Sanjiva Rao (1882-1962), a disciple of Sharaba Shastri.
  • H. Ramachandra Shastry (1906 - 1992), a disciple of Palladam Sanjiva Rao.
  • T. R. Mahalingam (1926-1986), a child venuist prodigy who started playing the flute at the age of five years. He is most popularly known as "Mali" or sometimes "Flute Mali."
  • T.A. Hariharan, Disciple of T.K. Radhakrishnan
  • T.K.Radhakrishnan (1919-2003)
  • Manda Balarama Sharma, Disciple of T.R.Mahalingam
  • T. Viswanathan (1927-2002), grandson of Veena Dhanammal and brother of Balasaraswati
  • Cochin Ranganathan
  • B.N.Suresh, (1946-1990) disciple of T.R.Mahalingam
  • Prapancham Sitaram (d.2014)
  • N. Kesi (1918-2015)
  • Dindigul S.P. Natarajan, Disciple of T.R.Mahalingam
  • K.S. Narayanaswamy, (Flute) (d. 2003)
  • N Ramani (1934-2015), disciple of T.R.Mahalingam
  • A.V.Prakash (1941 - 2016)
  • Sikkil Sisters - Kunjumani & Neela

Venu players of the present

See also


  1. Lochtefeld 2002, p. 747.
  2. Bruno Nettl; Thomas Turino; Isabel Wong; et al. (2015). Excursions in World Music. Taylor & Francis. p. 691. ISBN 978-1-317-35029-3.
  3. Dalal 2014, p. 163.
  4. Rowell 2015, pp. 99–103.
  5. The Bhaktirasāmṛtasindhu of Rūpa Gosvāmin. Motilal Banarsidass. 2003. p. 217. ISBN 978-81-208-1861-3.
  6. Tarla Mehta (1995). Sanskrit Play Production in Ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 149–150. ISBN 978-81-208-1057-0.


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