is one of the oldest percussion instruments
of South India. The mouth of the GHATAM is
open and is played with two hands, wrists,
ten fingers and nails. GHATAM is a specially
designed clay pot, usually made of a mixture
of clay baked with brass or copper fillings
and a small amount of iron fillings. The pitch
of the GHATAM varies according to its size.
Each GHATAM has an inherent pitch of its own,
but can be altered marginally by the application
of plasticine clay and water to the insides
of the pot.
unique in the whole array of musical instruments,
as all the five elements of nature - earth
(prithvi), water (jalam), air (vayu), fire
(agni) and space (akasha) are found in it.
The basic material for Ghatam is mud that
represents the holy earth. Mud is mixed with
water, another element of nature. It is then
baked in fire adding the third element. The
air inside the belly of the Ghatam encompasses
space or akasha that reverbates creating the
musical sound. Ghatam, thus, represents all
the five elements of nature!
Udupa with Guru Vidhushi Sukanya Ramgopal
Ghatam Maestro Vikku Vinayakaram.
Here is a research paper
presented by Ghatam Maestro Vikku Vinayakaram
on ghatam (Courtesy: Percussive Arts Center,
GHATAM means pot in Sanskrit.
It is a percussive instrument and ancient
like other musical instruments mridangam,
veena etc. Sage Valmiki in his Ramayana describes
about the sound emanating from GHATAM (Sundara
Kandam, Chapter 10, Sloka 46). Besides, in
a work called Krishna Ganam , there is
an important reference about GHATAM. In
this, there is a description of a cowherd
playing on a pot as an accompaniment to Lord
Krishnas Flute. GHATAM has found its place
in ancient books on musical instruments. From
all these, we conclude that GHATAM is a very
DESCRIPTION AND MAKING
GHATAM is different from
ordinary mud pots, with its mouth being narrow.
Its size differs according to the pitch or
shruthi. The ones of lower pitch will be of
bigger size. It has three portions namely
mouth, a slanting portion from the mouth and
the round shaped bottom portion.
A special type of baked clay is used for the
preparation of this instrument. With that,
copper, iron, or brasses fillings are mixed.
The mix which also includes some other powders
is known to the traditional makers only.
This instrument is made in number of place
in south India, but the ones made in Mana
Madhurai are famous for their quality and
strength. So this is preferred by most of
Known as Noot in Kashmir
and Mudki in Rajasthan, it was mainly a folk
instrument in olden days. In south India,
it has become highly sophisticated instrument
raised to concerts status. Apart from traditional
concert platforms, GHATAM is also gaining
prominent status in Rock music, Jazz, Jugal
bandhis, Fusion, Ensembles and unique programmes.
METHODS OF PLAYING
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.
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, mainly during laya vinyasas.
Basically it has three modes
of sound production using middle portion,
upper portion and the bottom portion of the
instrument. Seven words are given to indicate
these three sounds to enable easy fingering.
The seven words are namely THA, THI, THOM,
NAM (DHIM), TI, KUN, NA. The combinations
are chosen so that it will be pleasing to
ears. For different talas fitting combinations
SPECIAL FEATURES OF GHATAM
Unlike other instruments
this is the only instrument which is homogenous
in structure. This is the only instrument
which is moved into various positions during
playing. Like flute, the pitch or shruthi
of the instrument cannot be changed.
SOME OF THE OLD WIZARDS
It is understood 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 vidwans.
CONCERT FEATURES OF GHATAM
Though a concert can be held
without a second line percussion instrument,
there is certainly a difference when a ghatam,
Kanjira or Morching joins with the Mridangam
in a concert. Normally a dhothi is good enough.
When we put on a shirt we feel a completeness.
When a Angavastra is put on it adds to
our get up. Added to this if we wear perfumes
also we feel satisfied. In the same way the
second line percussion instruments add a beauty
and completeness to the concert. During
Swaras when Mridangam is played for main
artiste, the second line percussion instruments
are played for violin. During Thani Avarthanams
or Laya Vinyas, the new sound of the second
instrument combines with the sound of mridangam
and gives a beauty to the Thani .
Comparing GHATAM with Mridangam which is the
basic laya instrument in Karnatak music, we
note the following aspects.
Both are played using
Sound places of Mridangam
is almost available in ghatam also.
Ghum sound can be
produced more or less in ghatam also.
Syllables and Korvais
of Mridangam can be produced in ghatam
also with matching Nadam and getup.
Certain disciplines are
to be observed for the ghatam to add beauty
to the concerts. In the beginning of the concert
itself the ghatam artiste should ascertain
the level and mentalities of the main artiste,
Violinist and the Mridangist. This has to
be learnt by experience. During Keerthanas
and pallavis mainly Mridangam is played but
ghatam can join if required. During Pallavi,
ghatam can join in top level and low level
syllables and join fully during Swaram .
During Laya vinyas it should be played matching
with the korvais of Mridangist but without
exceeding the same. While reducing in Thani
it should be played in close association with
Mridangam. Even if it not possible to play
the same reduction in Misram, Kandam etc,
atleast the qualities of these should be reflected
in ghatam . Overall it should be played
without affecting the beauty of the whole
GHATAM has got some unavoidable
disadvantages. As already told, we cannot
alter the shruthi of this instrument. Though
the shruthi matches with the main artiste
in the beginning, it may change during the
concert due to climatic and other conditions.
This cannot be corrected like other instruments.
If the pitch is slightly on the higher side,
we can some how manage. But nothing can be
done if pitch is low. On such situation the
thumb should not be used much because the
Nadam mainly emanates from that only.
So the success and satisfaction of playing
GHATAM in a concert depends upon the cooperation
of main artist, other factors like good instrument
and more than all, the blessings of Lord.