Damarutham (or Thamarukam in Tamil), often shortened to Damaru, is an hour glass shaped instrument of ancient origin. The Damarutham is used extensively in folklore especially by Tamil soothsayers, the Kudukuduppai Karan. It is sometimes associated with the Udukku due to similarities in shape thus also regarded as the instrument held on the right hand of Lord Siva. Just like the Udukku it is symbolic of creation and the sound produced by it is said to be the source of the Pranava Manthiram, the AUM.

 
The hour glass shaped body ranges in length of about 4 – 10 inches with a diameter of about 3 – 8 inches at either side. Large (one foot) variants, though uncommon, do exist. The instrument traditionally was made of hardened clay (sometimes hardened by firing in a kiln). Modern variants of the body include wood that is hollowed out from a single block of Jackfruit wood, usually varnished with dark brown or red pigment to resemble the finish colour of the clay, or a single cast piece (or two joint cast pieces) of brass.

 

Very thin layer (the outer membrane) of skin (goat, cow or water buffalo) is stretched across the flat, but slightly curvy, wooden hoop and attached, laced, to the two sides of the body using thin strings. The skins are tightened by running the string around the laced strings at the centre (the thinnest section of the body), this is fixed firmly but can either be tightened or loosened to produce the desired sound. At the centre of the lacing two loose strings are left to hang free which are either knotted at the end or have a small bead (usually made out of rounded wood) attached to them.

 

The Damarutham is played by holding the drum at the centre in a horizontal manner so that the heads are protruding outwards. The hand, and thereby the drum, is then rotated it in alternating directions so as to allow the loose string ends to strike both ends of the skin which produces a rattling sound. The pitch can be altered by squeezing or pulling the strings.
 
Some Damarutham drums will have a small wooden block attached, via string mechanism, at the centre which is held between the index and middle fingers, when these fingers are lifted while still grasping the drum the strings are tightened, this alters the pitch.

 

The Tamil soothsayer, Kudukuduppai Karan, wonders the streets with the Damarutham rattling preaching that he is there to pass on the message of Jakkamma (Goddess Amman regarded as the mother of all beings). The Kudukuduppai Kaaran often recites the sooth in a poetic manner, and believers approach him to listen to what their future holds. Kudukuduppai is another Tamil name for the Damarutham which evolved from the sound generated by the instrument i.e. Kudu Kudu.

 

References to the Damarutham have been made in many of the Saiva hymns, Panniru Thirumurai, for example:
 
 

This text from the Third Thirumurai describes that Sivan adorns himself with the Damarutham along with Soolam (Trident), Pirai (crescent moon) and Thaalvadam (Circular gong). The Damarutham and Thaalvadam are depicted as being attached to the Soolam.