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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The ghaṭam (Template:Lang-sa ghaṭam "pot", Template:Lang-ta kaṭam, Template:Lang-kan ghaṭa, Template:Lang-te ghaṭaṁ) is a percussion instrument used in the Carnatic music of South India. Its analogue in Rajasthan is known as the madga and pani mataqa "water jug".

The ghaṭam is an earthenware pot; the artist uses the fingers, thumbs, palms, and heels of the hands to strike its outer surface. An airy low-pitch bass sound, called gumki, is created by hitting the mouth of the pot with an open hand. The artist sometimes presses the mouth of the pot against their bare belly, which deepens the tone of the bass stroke, and is another way to produce the gumki sound. Different tones can be produced by hitting different areas of the pot with different parts of the hands. The ghaṭam usually accompanies a mridangam.

Although the ghaṭam is the same shape as an ordinary Indian domestic clay pot, it is made specifically to be played as an instrument. The tone of the pot must be good and the walls should be of even thickness all around to produce an even tone. In fact, there are two types of ghaṭams: Madras and Manamadurai. The Madras ghaṭam is a light pot which requires less force to play, thus is suited for extended fast patterns. The Manamadurai ghaṭam is a heavy, thick pot with tiny shards of brass mixed into the clay. This type of ghaṭam is harder to play but produces a sharp metallic ringing sound which is favored by some players.


The word ghaṭam in Sanskrit means pot. Variations of this term are used in modern Indian languages.

Similar instruments

The madga is a north Indian version of the south Indian ghaṭam and is made from a very special clay. The maker sometimes adds some kind of metal or graphit dust to the clay which is responsible for the blue/gray looking and for the special sound.

The madga can be played similarly to the ghaṭam. The extreme bass volume can be produced if one hits with the flat hand the opening at the top of the instrument. The madga can be played also with mallets (sticks) and there is a lot of differentiated sounds which can be produced with this instrument. It is thinner than a ghaṭam but one should not be afraid, it is very stable and not so fragile as one should think.

This clay pot in Gujarat is known as matka, features an almost perfectly round shape (tuned to C#), and is made in many villages in and around Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Gujarat. The matka is used to store water and sometimes yogurt (curd), and can also be used as a cooking vessel. When used as a musical instrument in folk music, it is known as ghaṛa and is played in a similar manner as the South Indian ghaṭam but the technique and rhythmic style is not as refined as that of Carnatic ghaṭam. Another difference is that the ghara is often traditionally played with metal rings on the thumbs, index, middle, and ring fingers of both hands (but players vary on how many rings and fingers are used). There are a few versions of this instrument. Some are made from a black clay that typically comes from a single area in Rajasthan while many others in Rajasthan and Gujarat are made from a reddish clay. A third version of the ghaṛa is made from reddish clay but features a much flatter, squat shape. Both of the red clay types can also be found highly decorated with colorfully painted designs (pictured below) while the black ones are usually plain and unfinished. The black ghaṛas are extremely light but very dense and have a huge sound. The shell tones ring in a bell-like fashion with much more of a sustain than the various South Indian ghaṭams (although the Mysore ghaṭam comes close). The bass tones of this instrument are also very prominent. Since these instruments are fired at a much higher temperature for a longer time than South Indian ghaṭams, there is more consistency between instruments in terms of Western pitch. In other words, there is much less variation in the tuning when compared with ghaṭams from South India, which can range from a low B up to a high A chromatically. Ghaṛas or matkas are usually found with a range from approximately C or C# to D (or slightly higher) although there does not seem to be any indication that these instruments are constructed with tuning considerations. Other spellings for matka include mutkay and madga.

Veteran ghaṭamists

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ghatam" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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