Mridangam

The mridangam is the most important drum in classical South Indian (karnatic) music. Its powerful, characteristically metallic buzzing sound provides it with a positive assertiveness.

EU: 549 €
incl. 19% VAT, plus 6.90 € shipping within Germany / 6.90 € within Europe
Non-EU: 461.34 €
plus 6.90 € shipping within Europe / overseas on request

Thanks to a differentiated fingering technique, fascinating and complex rhythms can be played on the mridangam. It can be found in nearly every classical karnatic ensemble, accompanying singers, instrumentalists, dancers or as a lead instrument together with ghatam, kanjira and morsing in percussion ensembles. Design and playing technique are similar to the North Indian pakhawaj. 

 

Sound sample played on one of our mridangam models by Jens Petersen.

Features

The body of the mridangam is usually carved out of a single piece of jackwood, a very hard, durable wood with good sound characteristics, which is also first choice for making saraswati veenas. The body has quite a big opening at one end and at the other end a smaller one. On these two openings the skins are fitted. Their tension is held by a rawhide strap, which is pulled to and fro over the whole length of the body between the two skins.

The skins of mridangam are similar to those of tabla or pakhawaj. They are, however, significantly thicker. They are made out of goatskin and are layered. The black spot (atham or karanai) on the smaller skin is made of rice starch as a binding agent and ferric oxide as substance and is confined to a smaller area and is thicker than on North Indian drums. The outer skin ring, which overlaps the end-to-end main skin, covers a larger area so that between this ring and the black spot only a very small ring is exposed. The overlapping outer skin ring is partly responsible for the typical rattling sound. The bigger skin has no black spot. Tuning blocks under the strap are also traditionally not used for mridangams.

Including carrying bag.

General Info

Name

The term mridangam is derived from the sanskrit words "mrid" for "earth" or "clay" and "ang" for "body". The body of the mridangams was apparently made originally from dried or burnt clay. Today mridangams are exclusively carved from wood. This may lead to confusion because sometimes the Bengal drum khol with its traditional clay body is called mridangam, especially by Krishna worshippers. Due to the various transcription systems of the different South Indian scriptures there are a number of alternative spellings - mridanga, mrudangam, mrdangam, mrithangam, miruthangam, and mirudhangam, all mean the same instrument.

History

The mridangam already appeared in myths, sculptures and paintings of the Indian antiquity. It is connected to the elephant-headed god Ganesha and is said to have been also played by Nandi, the mythological mount of the great god Shiva on the opportunity of his dance during the creation and destruction of the world. From the orginal simple clay drum progressed in the course of centuries an elaborate fully differentiated classical musical insrument. Particularly in the beginning of the 20th century, the mridangam performance experienced a flourishing previously unknown, thanks to a generation of outstanding musicians. The two current main styles, the Puddukottai and the Thanjavur school, date back to this time. 

Bass Skin Preparation

Traditionally a dough made of flour and water is applied to the bass skin every time before playing in order to get the typical deep bass sound. However, this procedure is rather complicated and time consuming. Alternatively you can prepare the bass skin permanently with some kind of bathroom sealant. We recommend a sealant called Plastic Fermit for this purpose. It is available for little money in hardware stores and in many online shops.  Any dough residue on the skin must be removed thoroughly before applying the sealant to ensure good adhesion. Apply the sealant in a thin base layer first, pressing it firmly against the skin. Add more sealant onto the base evenly until you get the desired pitch. Plastic Fermit can remain permanently on the skin without causing any damage. It can also be removed at any time. After several months, it usually gets brittle and starts falling off. Then it can be replaced completely. If the skin has such a high tension that the desired deep sound is not reached even with a very thick application of sealant, the basic tension of the skin should be reduced. This also extends the life of the skin. Plastic Fermit should not be confused with Aqua Fermit - Aqua Fermit is oily and damages the skin with prolonged use.

Manufacturer / Supplier

PALOMA is the international brand name for instruments made by Haribhau Vishwanath from Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Haribhau Vishwanath was founded in 1925 as a small repair business and developed into one of the leading Indian harmonium manufacturers in the course of decades. In addition, Haribhau Vishwanath makes shrutiboxes, santoors, swarmandals and some drums. Haribhau Vishwanath is also an active musical instrument trader and supplies us with some rarely demanded instruments where a direct purchase from the manufacturer is not profitable. Thanks to his good infrastructure and long experience with instrument manufacturing, trading and international shipping, Haribhau currently supplies all common harmonium models and many other instruments constantly in a high quality regarding workmanship. In addition, he excels through attractive innovations, like e.g. the harmonium Compactina or a particular silk-mat finish. Haribhau Vishwanath is a partner of India Instruments since 2005. Today the company is run by Ashish Diwane.

Tuning

India Instruments stocks by default mridangams with a length of 24 inches / 60 cm. Mridangams of this size can be tuned to a tonic between c and e and are also called low pitch mridangams. Alternatively we provide also mridangams with a length of 22 inches / 55 cm on request. They can be tuned to a tonic between f and b and are also called high pitch mridangams.

In karnatic music of South India, tonics are often defined by relating to the absolute pitches of Western music. Shruti 1 corresponds to note c, shruti 2 to note d, etc. up to shruti 7 corresponding to b. The integral shrutis 1 to 7 correspond to the notes of the C major scale. The half-tones in between are named by half decimal numbers. Shruti 1.5 is C#, shruti 2.5 is D#, etc. until shruti 6.5 for A#. According to these terms, a low pitch mridangam of 24 inches is suited for shruti 1 to 3. A high pitch mridangam with 22 inches is suited for shruti 4 to 7.

Size

Measure: length 55 - 60 cm, diameter 28 cm, weight: 7.5 kg
Each instrument is individually hand-crafted and might differ from our description