Indian Percussion Instruments

Indian Percussion Instruments

by Peyman Nasehpour

Introduction. This is a brief introduction to Indian percussion instruments.

Indian percussive music is one of the most sophisticated art forms in the world. In Indian classical and folk music, tens of percussion instruments are played and some of which are unique in form and technique.

On this note, I introduce a couple of Indian percussion instruments.

Budbudke. The "budbudke" is a kind of hourglass drum of Mysore beaten with a knocked string by shaking the drum.

Chenda. The "chenda" is a cylindrical drum performed in Kerala, usually heard as an accompaniment to the Kathakali dance, made of wood, it is suspended from the shoulders of the player almost vertically and only the upper face is beaten with sticks. The chenda is famous for its loud and rigid sound. In Tulu Nadu, it is known as the "chende".

Daff. The Indian "daff" is a large-sized circular open drum usually played with drumsticks. This word itself has been imported into India from Persia. Note that a daf (a large-sized Persian frame drum) is played by the bare hands of a drummer.

Danda. The "danda" is a pair of sticks, with or without jingles, beaten together, used in Indian folk dances.

Dholak. The "dholak" is a folk drum known throughout the Indian continent, made of wood in the form of a barrel, the two mouths are fixed with ropes or turnbuckles and beaten with sticks or hands. A larger version is called "dhol". See also Dohol Persian cylindrical drum.

Gajjai. The gajjai is the dancer's ankle bells used in south India.

Ghatam. This is a south Indian hand percussion instrument in the form of an earthen pot. It is held with its mouth to the belly of the player and stuck with palms and fingers.

Ghumat. The ghumat is a vessel-shaped drum from Goa. On the bigger mouth, a natural lizard skin was stretched though lizard skin has been banned recently and other kinds of natural skins are recommended.

Ghungroo. The ghungroo is the dancer's ankle bells used in north India.

Gilabada. The small shells of dried fruit tied in a garland and round the waist found in Chenchus of Andhra are called the gilabada.

Gna. The gna is a two-faced frame drum of inhabitants of Himalayan hills, performing in their Lamaic dances.

Idakka. This is a kind of hourglass drum from Kerala.

Jaltarang: The word "jaltarang" literally means water waves. The jaltarang is a series of porcelain cups filled to various levels with water, 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 the "kasat کاسات".

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. The khanjari is a small-sized frame drum struck with hands found in northern villages and may have jingles.

Khanjeera. The khanjeera (also spelled as kanjira) is a small and slightly deep frame drum found in southern India which has no jingles and is covered with crocodile or iguana skin.

Khol. The khol (also known as mridang) is a barrel drum from northeast India.

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

Mridangam. This is a famous south Indian cylindrical drum related to the north Indian drum called pakhawaj.

Nagara. The nagara is a kind of kettledrum often in pairs. The smaller (female) and the larger (male) are made of earth, wood, or metal. They are beaten with sticks and vary in size from a few inches to feet in diameter. See also, Persian Kettledrums.

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. The pakhawaj is a north Indian barrel or cylindrical drum and accompaniment of the dhrupad (the ancient style of Indian singing).

Pataha. The pataha is an ancient Indian frame drum.

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

Pung. The pung is a barrel drum of Assam which is very similar to khol. Note that the body pung is wooden while the body of khol is of clay.

Tabla. The tabla is a pair of bowl-shaped drums and is typically a north Indian instrument. The right one, which is called "dayan", is in the form of a large coffee-cup, and is made of wood. The left one is called "bayan" and is similar to an oversized tea cup of metal or burnt clay. For more, see Tabla and Talas and Famous Tabla Players.

Tammatai. The tammatai is a south Indian version of the frame drum daff.

Tamukku. The tamukku is a small-sized nagara played with leather straps.

Tappatai. Another name of Tammatai

Tasha. The tasha is a medium-sized nagara accompaniment of shehnai (Indian oboe). Its Persian version is called "tas تاس".

Tumbaknari. The tumbaknari is a Kashmiri goblet-shaped drum, similar to the Persian tombak.

Tumda: The tumda is an hourglass drum of Orissa beaten with hands.


B. Chaintanya Deva, Indian Music, New Delhi, 1974.