Get Ghatam essential facts below. View Videos or join the Ghatam discussion. Add Ghatam to your topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.

The gha?am (Sanskrit: ghatah, Tamil: ? ghatam, Kannada: ghata, Telugu: ghatam, Malayalam: , ghatam) is a percussion instrument used in the Carnatic music of South India. A variant played in Punjab and known as gharha as is a part of Punjabi folk traditions. Its analogue in Rajasthan is known as the madga and pani mataqa ("water jug").

The ghatam is one of the most ancient percussion instruments of South India. It is a clay pot with narrow mouth. From the mouth, it slants outwards to form a ridge. Made mainly of clay backed with brass or copper filings with a small amount of iron filings, the pitch of the ghatam varies according to its size. The pitch can be slightly altered by the application of plasticine clay or water.[1][page needed]

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.

Ghatams are mostly manufactured in Manamadurai, a place near Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Though this instrument is manufactured in other places like Chennai and Bangalore, too, Manamadurai ghatams have special tonal quality. It is believed that the mud is of special quality. The Manamadurai gha?am is a heavy, thick pot with tiny shards of brass mixed into the clay. This type of gha?am is harder to play but produces a sharp metallic ringing sound which is favored by some players.


It is played with the heel of the palms and the fingers, while held in the lap, the mouth facing the stomach of the musician. By changing the distance between the pot and the stomach, the musician can vary the tone of the instrument.[2]

The pot is usually placed on the lap of the performer, with the mouth facing the belly. The performer uses the fingers, thumbs, palms, and heels of the hands to strike its outer surface to produce different sounds. Different tones can be produced by hitting areas of the pot with different parts of the hands. Sometimes the ghatam is turned around so that the mouth faces the audience and the performer plays on the neck of the instrument. The ghatam can be moved to other positions while being played. Occasionally, the performer will, to the amusement of the audience, toss the instrument up in the air and catch it. The ghatam is ideal for playing rhythmic patterns in very fast tempo.[3]

The artist sits cross-legged on the floor and holds the Ghatam close to his [or her] body with the opening near the abdomen. The Bas[s] effect is got[ten] by pressing and releasing the Ghatam to the abdomen and striking the body of the Ghatam by the lower parts of the wrists. For Treble sounds, fingers are used to strike the Ghatam at different parts to get different sounds. The bols are the same as for Mridangam. The Ghatam is used together with the Mridangam in concerts.[4]


The word gha?a 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 gha?am and is made from a very special clay. The maker sometimes adds some kind of metal or graphite dust to the clay which is responsible for the blue-gray appearance and for the special sound.

The madga can be played similarly to the gha?am. Loud bass tones can be produced if one hits with the flat hand the opening at the top of the instrument. The madga can be played with mallets (sticks) and there are many sounds which can be produced with this instrument. It is thinner than a gha?am but very stable and not as fragile as one might think.

In Gujarat and Rajasthan,

This clay pot is known as matka and 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 be used as a cooking vessel. When used as a musical instrument in folk music, it is known as gha?a and is played in a similar manner as the South Indian gha?am but the technique and rhythmic style is not as refined as that of Carnatic gha?am. 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 gha?a 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 while the black ones are usually plain and unfinished. The black gha?as 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 gha?ams (although the Mysore gha?am comes close). The bass tones of this instrument are very prominent. Since these instruments are fired at a much higher temperature for a longer time than South Indian gha?ams, 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 gha?ams from South India, which can range from a low B up to a high A chromatically. Gha?as/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.[5]

Notable players

See also


  1. ^ Reck, David B. (1999). "Musical Instruments: Southern Area". Routledge. In: Arnold, Alison; ed. (2000). Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent. Vol. 5. Garland, New York/London.
  2. ^ Alexander, Kavichandran (1996). "Liner notes", Tabula Ras?, p.17. Water Lily Acoustics: WLA-CS-44-CD.
  3. ^ Bonnie C. Wade. Music in India: the classical traditions. 2008. Pp 134-135.
  4. ^ Naimpalli, Sadanand (2005). Tabla, p.16. Popular Prakashan. ISBN 9788179911495.
  5. ^ Robinson, N. Scott (2006). "Ghatam", Accessed: October 10, 2009?.
  6. ^ Ramakrishna, Lalita (2003). Musical Heritage of India, p.279. Shubhi Publication. ISBN 9788187226611.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes