fingering technique is a very important consideration in a discussion
pertaining to mridangam. The mridangam has a balance between the
powerful and delicate techniques. A brief look at the history of the
instrument shows why.
The evolution of mridangam may be traced to an archetypical mridang.
This instrument had a close association to the ancient mythological
dramas. This association meant that the drums would sometimes have to
support both masculine and feminine characters. The delicate movements
of the dance are known as lasya while the more powerful masculine
movements are known as tandava. Powerful techniques were developed to
accentuate the masculine roles while delicate techniques were developed
to support the feminine roles.
In the last several centuries the drumming technique in north Indian
music has bifurcated. The more powerful and aggressive techniques have
been relegated to the pakhawaj while the delicate techniques have been
relegated to tabla. Yet there was no bifurcation of technique in the
South. The powerful and aggressive techniques exist alongside the
mridangam is played primarily by using the index, middle, ring and small
fingers of both hands while the thumb finger is used as a support
element. The palm of the right hand is also used mainly while playing
the stroke "plam or jham". To play the strokes "nam"
and "dhim", it should be kept in mind that when the index
finger is used to play these strokes, the ring finger should always be
positioned in between the outer rim and the inner black ring on
the right side of the mridangam (fig.1).
The stroke "thi" is played by using the middle, ring and
small fingers of the right hand in the centre of the black area on
the right side of the mridangam but it should be noted that these three
fingers should be held together while playing this stroke. Even while
playing the stroke "jham", these three fingers should be held
together. The stroke "ta" is played by using the index finger
of the right hand at the centre of the black area on the right
side of the mridangam.
two strokes are played on the left side of the mridangam. These are
"thom" and "tha". "Thom" is played by
using the middle, ring and small fingers of the left hand and these
three fingers should be held together while playing Another technique
involved in playing the mridangam is the use of "Gumki". It is
played on the left side of the mridangam and is played instead of
playing "Thom". One can produce subtle and soothing sound
using Gumki which is played using the lower part of the palm and the
middle and fore fingers of the left hand.this stroke. "Tha" is
played by using the four fingers other than the thumb finger and again
these four fingers should be held together.