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Saturday, March 24, 2012


Thavil : The rhythm of south India

Tavil is played generally with Nagaswaram and Saxophone. Here one can have glimpse of high toned Tavil with Saxophones. (Video by team leader)


Thavil or Tavil is a very famous and a commonly used instrument in south India. It is used in folk songs, very commonly in temples and in Carnatic music. It is a very importantly played instrument on occasions like weddings, Kola and other traditional festivals and ceremonies. It is often accompanied by Nadswaram.
This instrument is made up of wood, animal skin and steel. It consists of  a hallow cylindrical shell made of  jack fruit wood. The left  membrane is made of goat's  skin and the right membrane is made of  water buffalo's skin. The right face has a larger diameter than the left face. The right face of this instrument is stretched tightly to produce high pitch and sharp sound while the left  face is kept loose to allow the pitch to bounce. This indigenous percussion instrument Thavil is generally  47 cm in length.
This instrument is played on in sitting position or it is tied on the shoulder with a 
cloth called  Nadai.
The rings or caps used while playing Thavil 
The right head is played on with the right palm,wrist and fingers. The player usually wears hard rings (also called caps) on all fingers of right hand. They are made of rice flour or Maida flour called 'Koodu' to give a deeper effect and volume. The left head is played on by using a short, thick stick made of the portia tree(Poovarasam).
The modern Thavil has a body made of  jack wood and it is surrounded  by steel rings. Two skins are separately fixed to this ring with steel tapes which are coated with plastic material. The modern caps or rings for playing this instrument are  made of very fine cement type material.
It is a traditional musical instrument of the ancient city of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. It is also said that this instrument was originated in this place. So any religious, social or cultural event in Thanjavur is incomplete without this traditional instrument.

Thavil is played by the artistes with great enthusiasm and 

fervor. The trained musicians of the rich Carnatic music sing 

in tune with the beats of Thavil. The loud beats of Thavil 

relieve the audiences of the stress and strains of daily 

mundane life and refreshes them with renewed energy and 

An artiste plays Tavil with saxophone. Photo by Nandan Herlekar

By Shivani Rao


  1. Excellent blog& presentation. Keep writing more and more. I voted for your blog and suggested your blog to my friends also.
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    1. Thank You Sheena. Your comment encourages me and my team.

  2. very good and quite informative, now that you are in mangalore ,the instruments used in Yekshagana etc can be also explored please. ABINANDAN.

  3. Dear Kishore
    Thanks for your valuable comment. I will certainly do it. My search (research(?)) is going on and I am enjoying it!

  4. Hi. Thank you for this post!
    Where can I find these finger caps / rings?
    Can you please share some links of places to buy them and a bit more information about the way they are made?

  5. Please someone let me know of one song that had thavil being played in it. It was a kind of a hip hop song, and had temple scenes in the background. The singer was thin and thats about all I know.Please email me the song name if any one remembers it. The year might be between 2003 to 2006. Thank you.