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Introduction of Ghatam

The Ghatam is a percussion instrument used in the Carnatic music of South India. A variant played in Punjab and known as gharha as is a part of Punjabi folk traditions. Its analogue in Rajasthan is known as the madga and pani mataqa ("water jug").

The ghatam is one of the most ancient percussion instruments of South India. It is a clay pot with narrow mouth. From the mouth, it slants outwards to form a ridge. Made mainly of clay backed with brass or copper filings with a small amount of iron filings, the pitch of the ghatam varies according to its size. The pitch can be slightly altered by the application of plasticine clay or water.


Origin of Ghatam

The literal meaning of word Ghatam (Sanskrit) is pot. Ghatam is a beating musical instrument of ancient origin and holds the same position as do Veena or Mridangam hold. Ramayana written by Valmiki also has a mention of music produced from Ghatam in its tenth Chapter. In addition, the ‘Krishna Ganam’ holds a reference to the instrument Ghatam, where Lord Krishna plays the flute and an accomplice plays a pot. Ghatam also finds mention in ancient scriptures about musical instruments and is considered to be of very old origin.

Its variant in Kashmir is called as ‘Not’, in Rajasthan is known as ‘Mudki’ and has been mainly associated with the folk music. Over the years Ghatam has made its way to the modern day music and has been used in concerts etc. In non-traditional category, the Ghatam is used in Jazz, Rock, Fusion and many other variants.


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The pot is usually placed on the lap of the performer, with the mouth facing the belly. The performer uses the fingers, thumbs, palms, and heels of the hands to strike its outer surface to produce different sounds. Different tones can be produced by hitting areas of the pot with different parts of the hands. Sometimes the ghatam is turned around so that the mouth faces the audience and the performer plays on the neck of the instrument. The ghatam can be moved to other positions while being played. Occasionally, the performer will, to the amusement of the audience, toss the instrument up in the air and catch it. The ghatam is ideal for playing rhythmic patterns in very fast tempo.


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Like any other earthen pot of Indian style, Ghatam is also made up of mud with special attention given to the uniform thickness of walls so as to produce good quality tone. Metallic fillings are added to the clay for producing the Ghatam that produce vibrating sound. Ghatams are generally of two origins: Mana Madurai & Chennai (Madras). Ghatams of Chennai are light weighted and do not require much force while playing, however Ghatams of Mana Madurai are comparatively heavy weighted and are played with difficulty but produce metallic sound.


How to Play Ghatam


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