The mridangam (Sanskrit: मृदंग , Telugu: మృదంగం, Tamil: மிருதங்கம், Kannada: :ಮೃದಂಗ, Malayalam: മൃദംഗം) is a percussion instrument from India of Tamil origin. It is the primary rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble. Alternate spellings include "mridanga", "mrudangam", "mrdangam", "mrithangam", "miruthangam", and "mirudhangam".

The mridangam is also played in Carnatic concerts in countries outside of India, including Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. During a percussion ensemble, the mridangam is often accompanied by the ghatam, kanjira, and the morsing.
In ancient Hindu sculpture, painting, and mythology, the mridangam is often depicted as the instrument of choice for a number of deities including Ganesha (the remover of obstacles) and Nandi, who is the vehicle and companion of Lord Shiva. Nandi is said to have played the mridangam during Shiva's arcane Tandava dance, causing a divine rhythm to resound across the heavens. The miruthangam is thus also known as "Deva Vaadyam," or "Instrument of the Gods."

The word "mridangam" is derived from the two Sanskrit words "Mrid" (clay or earth) and "Ang" (body). Early mridangams were indeed made of hardened clay. Over the years, the mridangam evolved to be made of different kinds of wood due to its increased durability, and today, its body is constructed from wood of the jackfruit tree. It is widely believed that the tabla, the mridangam's North Indian musical counterpart, was first constructed by splitting a mridangam in half. With the development of the mridangam came the evolution of the tala (rhythmic) system. The system of talas (or taalams) in South Indian Carnatic music may be the most complex percussive rhythm system of any form of classical music.

Over the years and especially during the early 20th century, great maestros of mridangam also arose, inevitably defining "schools" of mridangam with distinct playing styles. Examples include the Puddukottai school and the Thanjavur school. The virtuosos Palani Subramaniam Pillai, Palghat Mani Iyer, Palghat R. Raghu and C.S. Murugabhupathy contributed so much to the art that they are often referred to as the Mridangam Trinity. There is also another style i.e., the blending of Saakotai Rangu Iyengar's and Kumbakonam Azhaganambi Pillai's taught to hundreds of disciples by the legendary Late Sri Kumbakonam Narayanaswamy Iyer and late Sri Kumbakonam Rajappa Iyer. Other prominent mridangam maestros of today include T. K. Murthy, Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, Trichy Sankaran, Karaikudi Mani, and Guruvayur Dorai, Thiruvarur Bakthavathsalam.

Even with the two main schools/styles (Puddukottai school and the Thanjavur school), the mridangam tradition carries on with today's younger mridangam players. From the great masters come second generations maestros like T. K. Murthy, Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, Karaikudi Mani, and Guruvayur Dorai. Next come the third generation players like Thiruvarur Bakthavathsalam and Mannargudi Easwaran.
Essential Question

+ Why are percussive instruments so popular in all cultures?

Vocab: Rhythm, pulse, learning curve, ease, fundamental
Fun Facts


+ Mrdangam Vid
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