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Barrel Drum (Mridangam), Southern India, Early 20th Century

NMM 1190.  Barrel drum (mridangam), Southern India, early 20th century Another view of barrel drum (mridangam)

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NMM 1190. Barrel drum (mridangam), southern India, early 20th century. A double-headed drum used in Carnatic music and to accompany dancing. According to Hindu mythology, the mridangam (literally, "body of clay") is the invention of the god Brahma ("The Creator"). Jackwood body with two drumheads usually tuned in octaves. The right head is made of three layers: the siyahi (a mixture of rice, manganese dust, iron filings and other substances) forms the "black eye" in the center; the base layer of leather is traditionally made from monkey skin; and the rim, or kinnara, of bull hide. The right side is designated the female voice, while the left is the male. Traditionally, players sit cross-legged on a mat with the drum resting on its side (the smaller head at the player's right). Length of drum (with siyahi): 475 mm. Diameter of right drum head: 165 mm. Diameter of left drum head: 170 mm. Ex coll.: Rev. Emmons E. White. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.

Details of Drum Heads


Upper head Lower head

Literature:  Thomas E. Cross, Instruments of Burma, India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet, The Shrine to Music Museum Catalog of the Collections, Vol. II, André P. Larson, editor (Vermillion: The Shrine to Music Museum, 1982), p. 7.

Thomas E. Cross, Instruments of Burma, India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet, M.M. Thesis, University of South Dakota, May 1983, p. 15, plate IV.

André P. Larson, The National Music Museum:  A Pictorial Souvenir (Vermillion: National Music Museum, 1988), p. 29.

Sarah E. Smith, "Percussion Instruments in America's Shrine to Music Museum," Percussive Notes, Vol. 37, No. 1 (February 1999), p. 7.

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