History And Technique Of Pakhawaj Musical Instrument In English

Pakhawaj Musical Instrument
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History And Technique Of Pakhawaj Musical Instrument

History –

  • Pakhawaj is a barrel-shaped, double-headed drum, originating from the Indian subcontinent, the oldest version of double-headed drums and its descendants are the mridangam of southern India and the kendang of Maritime Southeast Asia and other South Asian double-headed drum. Its older forms were made from clay.
  • Mainly used in North Indian classical music concerts to accompany ‘Dhrupad’ and ‘Dhamar’ style of music and accompanied by instruments played in Dhrupad style like bean, rabab, surbahar, etc. It is also a solo instrument.
  • It is the most commonly used percussion instrument in the Dhrupad style of Indian classical music and is less commonly used as a percussion accompaniment for various other sub-forms of music and dance (e.g. Kathak, Odissi, Marathi).
  • It has a low, mellow tone that is quite rich in harmonics. The sides of the pakhawaj are made of animal skin (most often goat, cow skin).
  • Pakhawaj players hold the instrument horizontally in front of them as they sit on the floor with legs crossed.
  • Players may sometimes place a cushion under the narrow treble face to raise it slightly. A right-handed person places the large bass-skin on the left and the treble-skin on the right.
  • The face of the bass is covered with some fresh wheat flour which acts as the beam and gives the Pakhawaj a vivid bass sound.
  • The tuning of the pakhavaj is similar to that of the tabla – with wooden wedges placed under the plucked bars. Due to the different thickness of the skin covering the treble face, the treble face can produce at least two tones that are a semitone apart.


  • The word pakhavaj – pakhavaj is of Prakrit origin, with its equivalent in Sanskrit being pakshavadya – where it is composed of the words paksha paksha (“a side”), and vadya vadya (“a musical instrument”).
  • Tamil pakkavadyam and Kannada pakkavadya are cognate. It is said that during the 14th century, the great mridangamists experimented with the materials used in mridangam making and eventually started using wood for the main body as opposed to the original clay.
  • Thus, a new name Pakhawaj emerged, while the old name, Mridang, was still used.


  • Like the tabla, the Pakhawaj rhythm (or taal) is taught by a series of mnemonics known as bols. The technique of playing differs from that of the tabla in several aspects.
  • Most notably, the performer hits the bass face – which for a right-handed person would be the left side of the pakhawaj – with the entire palm with the finger tips as is done with the tabla.
  • The treble fret – which would be the right side of the fretboard for a right-handed person – is played with different fingering arrangements to produce different notes according to a given rhythm, whereas the traditional mode uses the whole hand in sequence. To produce pure and perfect sound, which is called ‘Chanti’.
  • In traditional Pakhawaj styles a student learns many different strokes that produce a specific sound.
  • These are memorized and practiced along with the corresponding syllables i.e. mnemonic. This memoir is often referred to as Padhant in Hindi.
  • The Indian classical music tradition encourages the percussionist to verbally pronounce the talas expressed in these mementos. However, unlike Konnakol notation in Carnatic classical music, such lessons are rarely presented as independent performances.

Notable Traditions

  • Nana Panse, Nathdwara and Kudai Singh may have been the primary surviving Gharanas of Pakhawaj, but at least 11 styles can be traced back to recent history – Jawali, Mathura, Punjab, Kudau Singh, Nana Saheb Panse, Nathdwara, Bishnupur, Gurav Parampara, Mangalvedhekar, Gwalior, Raigarh, Gujarat, Jaipur and Jodhpur.

Pakhawaj player –

  • Gopal Das
  • Ustad Rehman Khan
  • Chhatrapati Singh
  • Pandit Madan Mohan
  • Pandit Bholanath Pathak
  • Pandit Amarnath Mishra.


  • wood, parchment, leather, black paste

Answer the questions of Pakhawaj –

What is the use of Pakhawaj?

Pakhawaj is most commonly played in the Dhrupad style of Indian classical music.

Pakhawaj is used in which state?

Pakhawaj is used in North India.

which metal is the pakhawaj made?

Pakhawaj is made of wood, parchment, leather, black paste and edges are made of animal skin (often goat, cow skin).

Name the Pakhawaj player?

Names of famous Pakhawaj players – Gopal Das, Ustad Rahman Khan, Chhatrapati Singh, Pandit Madan Mohan, Pandit Bholanath Pathak, Pandit Amarnath Mishra.

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