Smearing the Drums

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 19 21:38:16 EST 2001

>Chapter six in the Kalpasthana of the Susrutasamhita teaches how to make up
>a caustic paste (k.saaraagada) and smear it on drums (dundhubhi), banners,
>and town doorways.  Once this paste has been applied, and the drums have
>been beaten loudly so that everyone can hear, any general poisons affecting
>the populace will be banished.
>Dominik Wujastyk
>Founder, INDOLOGY list.

I was reading about the taNNumai drum in CT.
It appears taNNumai is comparable to what we call as mRdangam today.

Its name contains the prefix, taN 'cool', and its
percussion sound is described soft ('ta_laGku' or 'aritta
kural taNNumai'). Usually the bards 'pANar' were gifted
with young calfs, and the soft calf-leather was utilized as
taNNumai membranes.

  kan2Ru peRu valcip pANan2 kaiyatai
  vaLLuyirt taNNumai pOla  - naRRiNai 310:9-10

The suspended leathers of the taNNumai drum were
tightly strapped: 'vici uRu taNNumai' - puRam 89:7

The important information that the drums were
smeared with a flour paste, and were played with
the drummer's hands just as maddaLam or mRdangam
is given by patiRRuppattu poem:

             ".....  maak kaN taNNumai
      kaival iLaiyar kaiyalai a_luGka"

                          - patiRRuppattu 51: 33-34.

"maak kaN taNNumai" clearly states the application
of flour paste on the drums and one of the earliest
literary attestations of this ancient Indian practice
mentioned in Natyasastram, Susruta Samhita, and so on.

N. Ganesan

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