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Indian Percussion Instruments




Indian Percussion Instruments

Gathered by Dr. Peyman Nasehpour

Names and explanations of some Indian percussion instruments


Indian percussive art is great and most probably one of the most sophisticated and complex ones in the world. Here is the list of Indian percussion instruments:


Budbudke: Hourglass drum of Mysore beaten with a knocked string by shaking the drum

Chenda: Cylindrical drum of Kerala, usually heard as accompaniment to the Kathakali dance, made of wood, it is suspended from the shoulders of the player almost vertically and only upper face is beaten with sticks.

Daff: A large circular open drum usually played with drumsticks. This word itself has been imported into India from Persia.

Danda: This is a pair of sticks, with or without jingles, beaten together, used in folk dances.

Dholak: Folk instrument known throughout the Indian continent, made of wood in the form of barrel, the two mouths are fixed with hide and beaten with sticks or hands. 

Gajjai: Dancers ankle bells of south India

Ghatam: Found in south India it is an earthen pot and it is held with its mouth to the belly of the player and stuck with palms and fingers.

Ghumat: Goblet drum of Goa

Ghungroo: Dancers ankle bells of north India

Gilabada: Small shells of dried fruit tied in a garland and round the waist found in Chenchus of Andhra.

Gna: Two-faced frame drum of inhabitants of Himalayan hills, performing in their Lamaic dances. 

Idakka: Hourglass of Kerala

Jaltarang: Which literally means water-waves is a series of porcelain cups filled to various levels with water is arranged in a semicircular manner. The choice of the size, thickness and material of the bowl, and the amount of water in it determines its pitch. The cups are laid out and the player, squatting in the center of the semicircle, beats them with thin bamboo sticks. Its Persian version is called kasat.

Jamuku: Goblet drum of south India

Kal-chilampu: A hollow ring filled with small pellets or balls worn on the feet

Kai-chilampu:  A hollow ring filled with small pellets or balls held in the hands

Khanjari: Small sized frame drum struck with hands found in northern villages and may have jingles.

Khanjeera: Small and slightly deep frame drum found in southern India has no jingles and is covered with crocodile or iguana skin. 

Kolu: This is a pair of sticks, with or without jingles, beaten together, used in folk dances.

Mridangam: South Indian cylindrical drum

Nagara: Kettledrums often in pairs, the smaller female and the larger male, made of earth, wood or metal, beaten with sticks vary in size from a few inches to feet in diameter. It should be of Persian origin.

Noot: It is an earthen pot, used by Kashmiri singers of the rauf or soofiyana kalam, and is stuck on the sides and the open mouth.

Pakhawaj: North Indian barrel or cylindrical drum and accompaniment of the dhrupad (the ancient style of Indian singing)

Pataha: Ancient Indian frame drum 

Pianjan: A hollow ring filled with small pellets or balls worn on the feet

Pung: Barrel drum of Assam

Tabla: A pair of bowl-shaped drums and typically a north Indian instrument, the right one is called dayan and of the form of a large coffee-cup and made of wood, while the left one is called bayan and like an oversized tea-cup and of metal or burnt clay.

Tammatai: South Indian version of Daff

Tamukku: small sized nagara

Tappatai: Another name of Tammatai

Tasha: medium sized nagara accompaniment of shehnai (Indian oboe). Its Persian version is called tas.

Tumbaknari: Goblet drum of Kashmir, similar to Persian tombak. 

Tumda: Hourglass drum of Orissa beaten with hands

From the book: B. Chaintanya Deva, Indian Music, New Delhi, 1974.