Brief introduction 

 

Miruthangam is a classical double headed percussion instrument of Tamil origin. Along with its ancestor the Mathalam, Miruthangam is one of the most ancient of rhythmic instruments. It is commonly referred to as the “King of percussion” instruments.
 

 Miruthangam is used primarily as a rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble including vocal, instrumental and Bharatha Natyam dance performances.

In its ancient form it is said to have been played by Sivaperuman (Lord Siva) and Nanthikeshwar (Lord Nanthi) making it a divine instrument, it is thus called the Theva Vaathiyam (Instrument of the lords).

The term Miruthangam is derived from the Sanskrit words "Miruth and Angam" which respectively mean "Clay and Body," indicating that it’s body was originally made of clay.

It's original Tamil name, Thannumai, is rarely used. Overtime Thannumai has been replaced with the Sanskrit word Miruthangam. The term Thannumai can be traced back to Silappathikaram where it is detailed as an accompanying instrument to dance.

The Tamil text shown here is an extrat from the Tamil epic Silappathikaram where reference to Thannumai is made.
It describes that the Yaal (harp), Kulal (flute), Midar, and Thannumai (Miruthangam) must accompany the dancer alongside the song, of the singer, to produce an aesthetically pleasing show.
Miruthangam is a “Sruthi” percussion instrument, in that it can be tuned to various pitches. The right head is tuned to match the tonic pitch of the vocalist or instrumentalist being accompanied.