m.rda.mga drum

Srinivasan Pichumani srini at engin.umich.edu
Sun Jul 21 14:39:49 UTC 1996

	Howard writes:

	A small addition: at least in West Bengal, the m.rda.ga drums are 
	still commonly made of clay, and then wrapped in strips of dried 
	leather. These clay drums are prominently used in the Hari-nama 
	sankirtan performed by the followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, 
	the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. I have been playing these clay drums myself 
	for many years. In fact, I have one at home here right now.

It's interesting that they are entirely made up of clay... I remember
reading a short note written by the Sanskritist (late) V.Raghavan regarding
the mrdangam entitled "Why is the mrdangam so-called?" in the Journal of
the Music Academy, Madras (1955 or 1956... vol. XXVI).  Just found my 
photocopy of the same.

Raghavan refers to an earlier detailed article of his on the same subject...
where he shows why the mrdanga was so-called, i.e. "one having mud as its 
characteristic ingredient" and where exactly on the drum it was applied... 
apparently, in the original article he quotes from the Natyashastra to show 
that fine dark mud from the water-brink of rivers was applied on the face of 
the mrdangam.  In this short note, he provides corroborating evidence from
the Tamil epic Cilappadikaaaram where it is said that the muzhavu drum is 
smeared with mud (the relevant phrase is "maN kaNai muzhavum", from the
28th chapter, naDukal kAdai, where vocal and instrumental music are described
as the preliminaries before the dance of the cAkyar from ParaiyUr).

I guess the modern "black powder with ferrous content" as Palghat Raghu put
it may not be very far off in composition, specifically metallic content, from 
this fine dark mud of yore !


ps: Raghavan also quotes from Talbot Kelly's book on Burma where the Burmese 
play is described... regarding the drums, the author apparently says, "These 
are tuned by clay being squeezed on to the skin until the right pitch is 
reached.  The skilful manner in which the operator manages the clay is 
interesting to watch, and it forms a pretty pattern in white upon the dark 
skin."  This probably corresponds to the rava on the left side !

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