Pair of gulgul, early 20th century
Wood; H. each 7 ft. 5 3/8 in. (2.27 m)
Purchase, Amati Gifts, 2009 (2009.430a,b,431)
A longitudinal slit on one side of a hollowed log or metal cylinder provides a striking surface to sound instruments that are used almost worldwide for ritual and secular music or for signaling. These loud instruments, frequently used in groups of two or more with different pitches, provide music, mark the time, or send messages. Small versions may be handheld, or even worn, but larger ones are either placed horizontally or, like these imposing Madurese gulgul, stand upright. Both of these larger types may be suspended from beams.
On each of the Museum's gulgul, two scaly nagas, the serpentlike creatures of Hindu mythology, are carved into the tear-shaped log, one on either side of the vertical slit; a naga-head finial completes the design. Further Hindu-influenced elements include stylized lotuses and floral motifs at the ends of the slits. An unidentified doglike animal is clasped in each of the naga's constricting coils, perhaps reflecting a local legend or emphasizing the instrument's protective role as an alarm.