Mridangam is a double headed leather drum. Mridangam is said to be the instrument of Nandi (the Carrier of Lord Shiva). There are two heads of which one gives out sharp sound & the other gives out a base sound. Usually for right hander the sharp side is played with the right hand & the base side is played with the left hand. This is opposite for a left hander.
The main materials used for this instrument are Wood, Leather & Carbon with iron powder mixture.
Wood: The most suited wood for this instrument is ‘Jack Wood’. A trunk with minimum requirements for the instrument is selected for making of the Mridangam. Then it is cut to a shape which has two faces & hollow inside the trunk. The upper face is smaller than the lower face in diameter. The size of the wood differs on the pitch of the instrument.
The Sharp Side is the resonating side of the instrument. It’s a very unique combination of materials that is used. There are three skins & minerals used for the Sharp resonating side. The face is covered with the skin in a particular shape and size with calculated calibrations. This face is called as ‘Mootu’. There is a black eye on this side which is called the ‘Karnai’. This is a paste of carbon iron powder & a different type of adhesive or with boiled rice which is used for putting the basic foundation for the ‘Karnai’. The final layer & tuning is done necessarily with a paste of this powder with boiled rice only.
The left hand side is Base Side. This is combination of three layers of skin too. There are two outer thick layers which are cut round in the centre for the thin inner skin to be seen. The normal tone of the left is not tuned to Pitch. But the tone is reduced by applying a hand-made paste of batter mixed with water. This paste is made almost solid, but soft with a little moisture left. This paste is applied on the centre of the surface with the help of water and reduced to the required Base Tone. Nowadays there are some alternate pastes used for the same purpose.
The Playing technique is based on the combinations with the blend of strokes the right hand and left hand in a balanced format.