Request for information concerning two words for musical instruments

rajam rajam at EARTHLINK.NET
Sun Dec 18 23:44:50 UTC 2011

I got some more information on this quest from a senior research scholar
  in Chennai.

Here you go:


As I know know/see as a regular feature at temple festival  
processions from my childhood (aged 71 years now)
at my place Mylapore Mada streets of Arulmiku Kapaaleeswarar temple  
which is hardly a cricket ball throw
from my house.

The naagraa drums are tandem vessels, (set of 2 drums) each of the  
size nearly of that of
north Indian tabla placed in the back of a bull hanging both sides  
from the centre of the backbone of the animal
and the player standing by one side, walks or stands on ground  
depends on the movements of the procession.
He plays with two different type of sticks that are hardly a foot and  
and a half long. One stick strikes the drum just few
inches away from end so that the stick itself will vibrate on strike  
while the other being played by another type of
stick held by another hand having a hooked end in which only the  
hook's center strikes

The two drums are played with its respective sticks reasonably ln a  
fast and the rhythm changes during playing
them and many times the player switches strikes crosswise between the  

As usual the drum and other instrument the players go in front of the  
procession before the deity and the
priests chanting from the of Holy scriptures follow the deity from  
back (in Saivite  temples)

The use of of an animal back is only to locate it in procession and  
those double drums are placed in floor on
stabilising rings made out of straw in the temple halls and played  
during important inside-temple rituals.
The rhythm with oscileting peak and also very high pitch during  
aarthi etc.

  Regarding the word's etymology naagraa may be connected with  
naagraa style of temple architecture
of the sikaaraas  as found in Orissa Or that may be connected with  
naagars the people from north east.
Because only the Buddhists from Mongolian connected race who  
percolated the Himalaya ranges into the
plains and when migrated to south for preeching  buddism they are  
referred here as naagars. You know
about 'naagaannikai connected with a chozha king/marriage/ son born / 
kept in a boat / reached  - - - - - etc '
  The Town Naga(r)pattinam got its name from Bhuddists who had their  
monasteries near sea shore even
during Kolothunga chola of 12 the century CE (Leidon Copperplate  
grants - the Grant  was on award against
a request by a  camping warrior general from Far east Buddhist King



Hope this helps,
V.S. Rajam

On Dec 17, 2011, at 7:35 PM, Gregory Bailey wrote:

> Dear List,
> A colleague who is not on the list made the request, included below.
> If anybody can throw some light on this I would be most appreciative.
> Thanks in advance.
> Cheers,
> Greg Bailey
> “One of the drums collected was from the Khasi of Meghalaya, a wooden
> kettledrum named by the Khasi as ka naakraa. Sachs traces the  
> etymology
> through Arabic, Persian, Hindustani/Urdu (naqqaara, which is  
> correct), and
> Skt. naagaraa (?).
> A second drum from the Garo of western Meghalaya, a double-headed  
> wooden
> drum, has the Garo name dama, for which Sachs indicates 'zu sanskr.
> daamaamaa' (?). In South Asian tradition, damaamaa is a Persian and  
> Urdu
> name for a very large metal kettledrum in Mughal India.
> Though both local drum names could well be loan words from South Asian
> culture, in my annotations I indicate that naagaraa and daamaamaa  
> cannot
> be traced in Skt. (Could not find either in my M.M-W. and Macdonell
> dictionaries.)
> Is this comment correct? If they are traceable, I imagine it would  
> be as
> very late loan words into Skt. but don't know of the sources to  
> confirm or
> deny this.
> At the moment I'm retaining my 'not traceable' comment. Any light  
> you can
> shed on this relatively minor yet tricky issue, given the prestige  
> of Skt.
> in South Asia and Sachs in ethnomusicology, would be greatly  
> appreciated.
> It doesn't seem appropriate to let Sachs's Skt. connections stand,  
> however
> well intended, if they are a mistake. I simply don't know where he
> obtained his ideas about Skr. naagaraa and daamaamaa, and question  
> their
> validity.”

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