(Last Updated on : 03/02/2015)
In the Carnatic music
of south India, Ghatam is a percussion instrument. Ghatam is a large, narrow-mouthed earthenware water pot used as a percussion instrument in India. Unlike other Indian Percussion Instruments
, such as the tabla
, the ghatam does not have a membrane over its mouth. Ghatam produce a distinctive metallic sound and are made in several sizes, each size having a different pitch. As used in Carnatic music, the ghatam is positioned with its mouth pressed against the players stomach. The player taps the surface of the ghatam with the fingers and the base of the palm and changes the pitch and resonance of the instrument by varying the pressure of the pot against the stomach. The ghatam is usually found in folk music, but it has also become popular in classical music genres.
Ghatam replicates or conveys the meaning of the pot in Sanskrit
. Ghatam is known as "Noot" in Kashmir
, "Mudki" in Rajasthan
and in Punjab
it is called "Bada". It was a folk instrument in olden days. In south India, ghatam is a highly sophisticated instrument raised to concerts status. Apart from traditional concert platforms, Ghatam Instrument in India is also gaining prominent status in Rock music
, Jazz, Jugal bandhis, Fusion, Ensembles and unique programmes. The Ghatam produces fast rhythmic patterns and is generally a secondary percussion instrument accompanying mridangam in the form of Sawal-Jawab (question-answer play).
Process of Making a Ghatam
Ghatam is made mainly of clay which is baked with brass or copper filings mixed with a small amount of iron filings. Although the ghatam 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 to produce an even tone. This type of ghatam is harder to play but produces a sharp metallic ringing sound which is favored by some players. Ghatams are of two types: Madras and Manamadurai.
The Madras ghatam is a light pot which requires less force to play while the Manamadurai ghatam is a heavy pot, which is difficult to play, and produces a sharp metallic ringing sound.
Ghatams are mostly manufactured in Manamadurai, a place near Madurai
in Tamil Nadu
. Though this instrument is manufactured in other places like Chennai
, too, Manamadurai ghatams have special tonal quality. It is believed that the mud is of special quality.
How to Play a Ghatam
In North India, the instrument is placed on a small round block with the mouth facing upwards and played on the sides by right hand on the mouth by left hand. Rings and bangles are also used to create sound. But in South India, it is placed on the lap, its mouth facing the stomach, played with gush of air with the help of belly. It is played with fingers, wrists and even nails. Hitting different areas of the pot with different hands can produce different tones. Its position is changed while playing. It is the only instrument whose position is changed while playing. Sometimes to delight the audience, the instrument is thrown up and caught suitable in rhythm.
Popular Musicians of Ghatam
The Great Maestro of Ghatam, Padmasri T.H. Vinayakram also known as Vikku, Ghatam Giridhar Udupa and K. Venkataram, who are the oldest and most respected players in India. It is believed that the famous Kanjira player Pudukkotai Dakshina Murthy Pillai was well versed in ghatam also. Later Palani Krishna Iyer, Sundaram Iyer, Vilvadri Iyer, Alangudi Ramachandran, Kothandarama Iyer were all notable ghatam Maestros. Sukkanya Ramagopal is first and leading lady Ghatam Artiste in India. She has been playing the instrument since 30 years and mastered it.