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The 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 delicate.

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.

 

Right Hand Fingering

Fig. 1

Left Hand Fingering

Fig. 2

Mainly 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.

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