Mridangam virtuoso Karaikudi Mani takes the final bow

Context: Mridangam player Karaikudi R. Mani passed away. Through his group Sruthilaya, he popularised South Indian percussion instruments all over the world. He pioneered the Thala Vadya (percussion ensembles) performances in Carnatic music, which feature two percussion instruments performing solos without the use of vocals, veena, or violin.


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  • A percussion instrument of ancient origin.
  • It serves as the main source of rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble.
  • The pakhawaj, a modified version of mridangam, is the main percussion instrument in Dhrupad.
  • It is a complex instrument to tune and involves a lot of mathematics to construct korvais.
  • The mridangam is played during a percussion ensemble (Thala vadya).
  • The mridangam body is formed from a single piece of wood. The wood of the morgosa tree, the core of the coconut tree, and the palm tree are also utilised by manufacturers, but jackwood or redwood is their preferred material. 
  • The right head of the drum is made up of three concentric layers of skin.

Indian Musical Instruments

Musical instruments like seven-holed flute and Ravanahatha, have been recovered from the sites of Indus Valley Civilization

Four major traditional categories of musical instruments

  1. Avanaddha Vadya/Percussion Instruments: These are known as membranophone as they have an exterior membrane that can be beaten to extract specific musical tones. One or two faces are covered with skin or hide. Examples: Tabla, Drum, Dhol, Congo, Mridangam, etc. 

2. Sushira Vadya/Aerophones: Includes all the wind instruments. Examples: Bansuri (flute), Shehnai, Pungi, Ninkirns, etc. 

  • Shehnai: It is a double reeded wind instrument with a widening tube towards the end. The exalted title of the ‘Shehnai King’ has been given to the legendary Ustad Bismillah Khan, who took the Shehnai to its zenith through his soulful play. 
  • Flute: It has been in use since the Vedic period. It was initially called Nadi or Tunava.

3. Ghana Vadya/Idiophone: It is the genre of the solid instruments that do not require any tuning. Examples: Manjira, Jaltarang, Kanch tarang, Jhanj, Khartal, etc.

  • Manjira: A small brass cymbal that is generally used in temples. Archaeological excavations have dated Manjira to be as old as the Harappan civilisation.

4. Tata Vadya /Chordophones: String instruments that function best when their sound is modified by hand.

  • Three major types of Tata instruments:
  • Bowed: The instruments where the sound is drawn from drawing a bow across the strings. Example: Sarangi, Esraj and Violin. 
  • Plectral: The instruments where the strings are plucked by the fingers or by a plectrum of wire or horn. Example: Sitar, Veena and Tamboora. 
  • Those instruments that are struck by small hammer or a pair of sticks. Example: Gotuvadyam and Swaramandal. 

Classical Music

Two distinct schools of Indian classical music evolved

Hindustani music: 

  • Practiced in the northern parts of India.
  • This branch of music places more emphasis on the structure of the song as well as its improvisational potential.
  • The Shudha Swara Saptaka, also known as the “Octave of Natural Notes,” scale was adopted by the Hindustani branch. 
  • Ten main styles: Dhrupad, Dhamar, Hori, Khayal, Tappa, Chaturang, Ragasaga, Tarana, Sargam and Thumri.
  • Dhrupad
  • One of the oldest forms of Hindustani classical music. It is also mentioned in Natyashastra (200 BC–200 AD). 
  • Consolidated its position as a classical form of music in the 13th century but reached its zenith in the court of emperor Akbar. 
  • Akbar employed and patronised musical masters like Baba Gopal Das, Swami Haridas and Tansen.
  • Singers who mastered Dhrupad were also patronised in the court of Raja Man Singh Tomar situated in Gwalior.
  •  It became the major form of singing in the medieval period but fell in a state of decline in the 18th century.
  • Khyal
  • The origin of this style was attributed to Amir Khusrau. 
  • This form is popular amongst the artists as this provides greater scope for improvisation. 
  • A Khyal composition is also referred to as a ‘Bandish’.

Carnatic music

  • Practiced in the southern parts of India.
  • The music is based on kriti and emphasises the saahitya, or lyrical aspect, of the musical piece.
  • The Kriti is a highly developed musical composition with a definite tala or rhythmic cycle and a certain raga.
  • Mridangam is frequently used to perform Carnatic music. 
  • “Thanam” is the name of the melodic improvisation in unstructured rhythm with mridangam.
  • The term “Ragam” is used to describe those pieces without a mridangam. 
  • Less improvisation is allowed than in Hindustani music.

Practice MCQ

Q. With reference to the cultural history of India, consider the following statements:

1.Carnatic music is based on Kriti, a lyrical aspect of musical piece.

2.Pakhawaj is the main musical instrument used in the Carnatic music ensemble.

3.Chaturang and Tappa are two major styles practiced in Carnatic music.

Which of the above given statements is/are correct?

(a)1 and 3 only

(b)1 only

(c)2 only

(d)1 and 2 only

Scroll down for answer













Answer: (b)

One thought on “Mridangam virtuoso Karaikudi Mani takes the final bow

  1. The manjira, with its timeless origin, historical significance, and versatile use in Indian music, stands as a testament to the enduring cultural heritage of India. Its delicate, melodious chime has the power to transport listeners to a realm where rhythm and melody intertwine, creating a harmonious tapestry of sound. As Indian music continues to evolve and adapt, the manjira remains a steadfast and cherished component, preserving the musical traditions of the past while enriching the compositions of the future. Its unique and melodious presence ensures that it will always have a special place in the hearts of musicians and music enthusiasts alike, both in India and around the world.

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