Type: Membranophones > Drums > Barrel.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 211.22
Region: South Asia.
Description: The Mridangam [in Hindi: मृदंगम alternative spellings include mrdangam, mridanga or mrdanga] It is a double sided barrel drum having ancient origins. The mridangam played in Carnatic music of southern India. The mridangam evolved to be made of different kinds of wood due to its increased durability.
Today, its body is constructed from wood of the jackfruit [Artocarpus heterophyllus]. It is widely believed that the tabla, the mridangam’s Hindustani musical counterpart, was first constructed by splitting a mridangam in half. With the development of the mridangam came the tala [rhythm] system.
In Tamil culture, the mrdingam is called a tannumai [in Tamil: தண்ணுமை tannumai]. The earliest mention of the mridangam in Tamil literature is found perhaps in the Sangam literature where the instrument is known as ‘tannumai’. In later works like the Silappadikaram also we find detailed references to it as in the Natyasastra. During the Sangam period, it was one of the principal percussion instruments to sound the beginning of war along with murasu, tudi and parai.
Because it was believed that its holy sound will deflect enemy arrows and protect the King. During the post-Sangam period, as mentioned in the epic Silappadikaram, it formed a part of the antarakoṭṭu – a musical ensemble at the beginning of dramatic performances that would later develop into Bharathanatyam. The player of this instrument held the title tannumai, aruntozhil, mutalvan.
In Nepal the Mridangam has a large role in Newari music. One of the earliest Nepal Bhasa manuscripts on music is a treatise on this instrument called Mridanga anukaranam. The importance of a beating has changed over the years. In the old days, percussionists only used to accompany the lead player like the vocalist but this time their development is not restricted to accompaniment only but also to play one instrument shows.
Construction: A removable patch of tuning paste is affixed to each end, giving the drum a definite pitch. The left head is usually tuned an octave lower than the right. The drum is held across the lap and played on both ends with the hands and fingers. A similar instrument, the pakhawaj, is played in the Hindustani tradition of northern India, as well as in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Citations: Bibliography: Nepalbhasa sahitya ya itihaas, Author: Prof. Premshanti Tuladhar, Publication: Nepalbhasa Academy, ISBN 978-99933-56-00-4; Cuntaram, Pi. Em., Kalākēndra, T. 2010. Great layavadyakaaraas of Karnatak music. Percussive Art Centre ; Kalakshetra vol 8. p. 49 ; Surabhi: Sreekrishna Sarma felicitation. Prof. E.R. Sreekrishna Sarma Felicitation Committee. 1983. p. 90 ; T.S. Parthasarathy. “Bharatanatyam in History” Carnatica.net ; Iḷaṅkōvaṭikaḷ, Daniélou A. 1965 ; Shilappadikaram: The Ankle Bracelet. New Directions Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 0811200019 ; Viswanathan, Lakshmi 1984. Bharatanatyam, the Tamil heritage. Sri Kala Chakra Trust. p. 23. Tamil Studies, Volume 3. International Institute of Tamil Historical Studies. 1983. p. 36. Raman and Kumar 1920, Musical drums with harmonic overtones. Nature [London] 104 500, 453-454 ; Raman 1935 ; The Indian musical drums. Proc. Indian Acad. Sci. A1 179-188 Padma Shri Awards 2000–09 ;