The Pakhavaj, also called Mardal, Pakhawaj, Pakuaj, Pakhvaj or Mardala, is an ancient Indian barrel shaped percussion instrument which is similar to the mridangam. It is widely used as an accompaniment for various forms of music and dance performances

It is the standard percussion instrument in dhrupad. As with the tabla, the pakhawaj rhythms are taught by a series of mnemonic syllables known as bol.

Traditionally, the pakhavaj has been the favored percussion instrument for performances of the Dhrupad-style, be it vocal, on "Rudra-Veena" or on "Surbahar".


Set horizontally on a cushion in front of a crossed-leg "pakhavaji" the larger bass-skin is played with the left hand, the treble skin by the right hand.


The goatskin membranes are looped with leather thongs around the hollowed barrel, which is widest in the middle. Eight pieces of two inch wooden roundstock are pried between thongs and barrel and are hammered tight. The treble skin is constructed in a three-tiered design resembling three concentric rings, the innermost being composed of a dense black hardened paste (sihayi), a mixture of simple wheat flour and fine iron filings semi-permanently affixed to the main goatskin, which helps create a sound resonant with harmonics, and a third outer ring of goatskin which overlaps the first around the full circumference of the head.

The pakhavaj bears resemblance to the Carnatic "mridangam", however, it is not as notably barrel shaped. It has, similar to the North Indian Tabla, clyndrical shaped pieces of wood known as "Gatthe" underneath the leather braces. The pakhavaj skins also resemble more closely the skins used for tabla than that of the mridagam. More flour and iron filings mixture (masala) is used in the creation of Siyahi to enable a longer lasting sound.


The treble skin is tuned with a tuning-hammer, holding the instrument in a vertical position, striking down along the rim over the barrel to raise the pitch, turning the pakhavaj on its vertical axis as it is tuned all along the circumference of the skin. The sound emitted by a particular "stroke" should merge completely with that of the accompanying tanpura. The bass skin is tuned not by adjusting the tension but by applying a ball of dough from "atta", whole-fiber wheat. Its fundamental tone will be the lower tonic.


The pakhavaj has a low, mellow tone. The sound of the Pakhavaj is very rich in harmonics. In traditional pakhavaj-styles a student would learn a number of different strokes which produce a specific sound. These are remembered and practiced with corresponding syllables.

The very basic capacity is to play a "theka" in a particular "tala" or rhythmic cycle, as for instance "chautala" in 12 beats:

dha dha | dhin ta |
| kite dha | dhin ta |
| tite kata | gadi gene |

Advanced students will have learned endless "reela"s that are virtuoso compositions.

Well-known Players

These include
* Pandit Shrikant Mishra, Varanasi
* Pandit Durga Prasad
* Ambadas Agle
* Purushottam Das
* Akhilesh Gundecha (brother of the famous duo)
* Dr. Raj Khushiram
* Manik Munde
* Nana Panse, 19th Century
* Laxmi Narayan Pawar
* Ayodhya Prasad
* Taranath Rao
* Arjun Shejwal
* Chatrapati Singh
* Kudau Singh, 19th Century
* Pandit Tota Ram Sharma
* Pandit Radheshyam Sharma(son of Pt. Tota Ram Sharma)
* Mohan Shyam Sharma
* Bhavani Shankar
* Pandit Udhav Shankarao Shinde Apegaonkar
* Talib Hussain, Pakistan
* Ramji Upadhyay


* Chintangana Reswal is the first female pakhavaj artise [cite web|url=|title=fingers that roar|| author=Dr. Rajiv Trivedi] .pt.vasantrao ghorpadkar.


ee also

* Mridangam
* Tabla
* Dhol

External links

* [ Pakhawaj player Ustad Allah Lok]

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