Mridangam is a classical percussion instrument much popular in South India. Mridangam is the main instrument that provides rhythm to Carnatic music performances. Mridangam is also known by the name of mridanga, mrdangam, mrudangam and mrithangam.

In Hindu sculpture mythology, mridanga /mridangam is often shown as the instrument of many popular deities such as Ganesha and Nandi, (the vehicle and companion of Lord Shiva). According to mythology, it is believed that Nandi played the mridangam during Shiva's Tandava dance. It is due to these reasons mridangam is also known as "Deva Vaadyam," (the instrument of the Gods). The mridangam is played from both sides.

The mridangam is made using hollow piece of jackfruit wood, which is about an inch thick. The two sides of the drum are covered with leather and tied to each other with leather around the circumference of the drum/mridangam. These leather straps tied on the circumference of the drum are stretched to high tension on either side of the hull, which allows them to resonate when struck. Here, it is important to note that the two membranes are different in width, which helps in production of both bass and treble sounds from the same drum.

The "thoppi" or "eda bhaaga" is the bass aperture whereas the smaller aperture is known as the "valanthalai" or "bala bhaaga". The smaller membrane of the mridanga, when struck with stick, produces high pitched sound and the wider aperture produces lower pitched sound. The goat skin that covers the smaller aperture is smeared in the center part with a black round spot that is made of rice flour, starch and ferric oxide. This black paste is known as the "sAtham" or "karnai" and gives the mridangam its distinct metallic timbre. The combination of two dissimilar circular membranes helps in production of distinctive and unique harmonics.
J. D. Parran
William Parker
Roland Schaeffer