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 LESSONS in Indian Music

Pakhawaj : Lesson 1

(created using SwarShala)

The pakhawaj is considered to be the most ancient of the developed Indian percussion instruments. One can see the pakhawaj depicted in sculptures in the temples of Konarak, Mount Abu and Ellora as well as in temples outside Bellur and Halebid.

The pakhawaj figures largely in Ragmalika miniature paintings and interestingly in the Bhakti literature of the Madhyakalin Kavis (saint poets). These poets profusely used the pakhawaj bols, its language, in their poetic compositions. Some of them like Kumbhan Das were highly proficient pakhawaj players.

The pakhawaj was played in Indian temples either as an accompaniment to vocal music - dhrupad or dhamar - or as an accompaniment to the veena. It was immensely popular in the Mughal period, indispensable to both vocal and instrumental music. Since the tabla had yet to the born, it was the pakhawaj that provided rhythmic accompaniment to instruments like the rabab, surbahar, veena and of course the sarangi. It also enjoyed good standing as a solo percussion instrument.

The name pakhwaj and its derivation pakhawaj originate from the two words, paksha meaning side and baaj meaning to play. Together, pakshvadya became pakhwaj, meaning the instrument which is played from both sides. The pakhawaj was originally called mridang and its counterpart in the south is called mridangam to date.

The pakhawaj has a highly developed language, design, and style. The accuracy of its pitch and the delicate bols with their subdivisions that are played make this percussion the father of all classical percussion music.

Pakhawaj : Lesson 1 Lesson 2

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