The South Indian thavil is a heavy drum with great dynamics and penetrating power. It is used for traditional feasts and ceremonies together with the very loud nageswaram.

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The thavil can be played hung around the neck, standing or placed on the lap, sitting. Its skins are struck on one side with a short thick stick and on the other side with a differentiated finger technique. Thus, fascinatingly complex rhythms can be played on the thavil. All in all, the thavil is a very demanding instrument, which can, however, release enormous energies.


Sound sample Thavil.

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.


Measure: length 47 cm, diameter 37 cm, weight: 13.5 kg
Each instrument is individually hand-crafted and might differ from our description.


The barrel-shaped thick-walled body of the thavil is carved out of a single piece of wood. Jackwood has been most common, a very hard, durable wood with good sound qualities, which is also first choice for making mridangams and saraswati veenas. However, jackwood has become rare and expensive in recent years. Therefore wahe wood is often used as an alternative nowadays. The openings on both sides of the body are different in diameter.

The skins are affixed to hemp rings, which in turn are hinged to a tightening device. In case of modern thavils, the central metal supporting ring for the tightening device is firmly screwed to the body. In this way, a high basic tension can be kept up permanently while each skin can be adjusted individually. Plastic coated metal support straps are connected to the skin rings, which are tightened with screws. The tightening device is generally covered with decorative material during play.

Playing Technique

The bigger opening is covered with a thick water buffalo skin, which is extremely taut and gives a hard, banging sound. It is struck with a complex fingering technique; a right-handed person will use the right hand for this. In order to create more impact while striking, a kind of thimble with a hard surface - traditionally made of paper, cloth and glue, today often made of plastic - is slipped on each finger except for the thumb. Many thavil players slip hard rings on index, middle and ring finger to gain additional impact surface.

The smaller body opening is covered with goatskin, which is tightened a little. It is struck with the other hand using a short thick stick made from portia wood, giving a bass sound, which may be easily modulated by pressure of the wrist.

Even if the thavil is not tuned to a certain pitch, it is important that the tightness of each skin is exactly the same in order to get a good sound. Before being played, the smaller, loosely fitted bass skin is commonly rubbed with the rounded side of the drumstick with high pressure so that it gives in a little more, sounding bassier. Some thavil players moisten the bass skin with water if the bass does not sound rich enough - similar to the kanjira.