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The pakhawaj also called mardal, pakuaj, pakhvaj and mardala is an Ancient Indian barrel shaped percussion instrument which is similar to the mridangam. It is famous in North India. It is widely used for orissi dancers and sometimes for kathak. It is the standard percussion instrument in dhrupad. As with the tabla, the pakhawaj rhythms are taught by a series of mnemonic syllables known as bol.

Playing technique

Set horizontally on a cushion in front of a crossed-leg pakhavaji the larger bass-skin is played with the left hand, the treble skin by the right hand. The goatskin membranes are looped with leather thongs around the hollowed barrel, which is widest in the middle. Eight pieces of two inch wooden roundstock are pried between thongs and barrel and are hammered tight. The treble skin is fitted with three concentric rings of dense black hardened paste which helps create a sound resonant with harmonics. The treble skin is tuned with a tuning-hammer, holding the instrument in a vertical position, striking down along the rim over the barrel to raise the pitch, turning the pakhavaj on its vertical axis as it is tuned all along the circumference of the skin. The sound emitted by a particular stroke should merge completely with that of the accompanying tanpura. The bass skin is tuned not by adjusting the tension but by applying a ball of dough from aarta, whole-fiber wheat. Its fundamental tone will be the lower tonic. Traditionally, the pakhavaj has been the favoured percussion instrument for performances of the Dhrupad-style, be it vocal, on Rudra-Veena or on Surbahar. These are all capable of employing low registers so the colours match well.

Famous Players

  • Talib Hussain Pakistan
  • Bhai Nasira Pakistan
  • Ayodhya Prasad
  • Taranath Rao
  • Manik Munde
  • Chatrapati Singh
  • Arjun Shejwal
  • Ramji Upadhyay
  • Mohan Shyam Sharma


The pakhavaj has a low, mellow tone. The sound of the Pakhavaj is very rich in harmonics. In traditional pakhavaj-styles a student would learn a number of different strokes which produce a specific sound. These are remembered and practiced with corresponding syllables.

The very basic capacity is to play a theka in a particular tala or rhythmic cycle, as for instance chautala in 12 beats: Dha din din dha, dha din din dha tirikata gadi gana Dha. Advanced students will have learned endless reelas that are virtuoso compositions.

The pakhavaj bears resemblance to the Carnatic mridangam which, however, is smaller in diameter and has a lighter timbre.

There is great pakhawaj player in lucknow ,U.P. P.Rama Kant Pathak. He is top grade artist of A.I.R. and T.V. His playing style in Kudao Sing Gharana,and Nana Sahib Pansey Gharana. Please give his name in famous pakhawaj player.