Origin and History of Tabla In English

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(1). A tabla is a pair of twin hand drums from the Indian subcontinent, somewhat similar in shape to bongos. The tabla is an essential instrument in the devotional traditions of Hinduism and Sikhism, such as during the singing of bhajans and kirtans.

(2). It is one of the main Qawwali instruments used by Sufi musicians. The instrument is also featured in dance performances such as Kathak. Tabla is a rhythmic instrument.


(1). The history of the tabla is obscure, and there are several theories regarding its origin. There are two groups of principles; The former theorizes that the instrument was indigenous in origin, while the latter originated with the Muslim and Mughal conquerors of the Indian subcontinent.

Indian Origins

(1). The Indian theory traces the origin of the tabla to an indigenous ancient civilization. Stone carvings in the Bhaja Caves depict a woman playing a pair of drums, which has been claimed by some as evidence of the ancient origins of the tabla in India.

(2). A different version of this theory states that the tabla acquired a new Arabic name during Islamic rule, having evolved from ancient Indian pushkar drums.

(3). The textual evidence for materials and methods of construction similar to that of the tabla comes from Sanskrit texts. The earliest discussion of the making of musical instruments like tabla is found in the Hindu text Natyashastra.

Muslim and Mughal Origins

(1). This theory is based on the etymological link of the word tabla to the Arabic word tabla which means “drum”.

(2). Another version states that Amir Khusrau, a musician patronized by Sultan Alauddin Khalji, invented the tabla when he cut a voice drum, which was shaped like an hourglass, into two parts.

(3). A third version attributes the invention of the tabla to an 18th-century musician whose name sounds similar to Amir Khusrau, where he suggests cutting a pakhawad into two to make a tabla.


(1).Buddhist at Bhaja Caves, Maharashtra, India 200 B.C. The carvings depict a woman playing a pair of drums and another performing a dance.

(2). Some drums from central India which look like tabla, but do not have ink which produces the unique tabla sound.

(3). A type of small Indian drum, along with several other musical instruments, are also mentioned in Tibetan and Chinese memoirs written by Buddhist monks who visited the Indian subcontinent in the 1st millennium CE.

(4). Various Hindu and Jain temples such as Eklingji in Udaipur, Rajasthan show stone carvings of a man playing a pair of small drums like a tabla.

(5). Small drums were popular in the south during the Yadava rule (1210 to 1247), at the time when the Sangita Ratnakara by Sarangadeva was written.

(6). Madhava Kandali, the 14th-century Assamese poet and author of the Saptakanda Ramayana, in his edition of the “Ramayana” lists several instruments, such as tabla, jhajhar, dotara, veena, bin, vipanchi, etc.

(7).According to the classification of musical instruments defined in Natyashastra, the tabla is classified in the avanadha vadya category of percussion instruments, which is made by capping an empty vessel with a tanned skin.

Tabla Gharana

(1). Tabla gharanas are responsible for the development of a variety of new bols, distinctive playing techniques, compositional styles and rhythmic structures.

(2). The gharanas served as a means of preserving these styles among generations of tabla players.

(3). The first recorded history of gharanas dates back to the early 18th century. The Delhi Gharana is considered to be the first and oldest traditional tabla tradition. Its students were also responsible for the development of other gharanas.

(4). Each of these gharanas includes some prominent players and masters. They bear the honorific titles ‘Pandit’ and ‘Ustad’ for Hindu and Muslim tabla players respectively.

Different Gharanas of Tabla –

  • Delhi Gharana
  • Lucknow Gharana
  • Ajarda Gharana
  • Farrukhabad Gharana
  • Banaras Gharana
  • Punjab Gharana

Famous Player

  • Ustad Ahmad Jan Thirkawa
  • Ustad Alla Rakha
  • Ustad Zakir Hussain
  • Pandit Yogesh Shamsi
  • Pandit Suresh Talwalkar
  • Pandit Anindo Chatterjee
  • Pandit Kumar Bose
  • Pandit Ramdas Palsule
  • Pandit Nayan Ghosh
  • Pandit Subhankar Banerjee
  • Pandit Swapan Chowdhary