is a percussion instrument
used in South Indian Carnatic music
. The ghatam is one of the oldest instruments in the Carnatic tradition - so old, infact, that it is mentioned in the Ramayana
. The ghatam is a single-piece instrument - it is a large clay pot
. Though it is easy to see how it originated, the ghatam
has since evolved into something quite different from the clay
pots used for domestic
The clay used for the ghatam is mixed with iron filings for strength and quality and fired in a kiln; unlike domestic clay pots, the ghatam is made very precisely, for the shape and thickness determine the pitch. It is played with the player sitting down cross-legged and the ghatam in his lap. The ghatam has a small, open mouth; this mouth is usually pressed to the player's stomach so that when struck the air inside the ghatam is set in vibration and a deep tone is produced. However, there are other positions for playing the ghatam, including with the mouth up or with the mouth facing the audience.
All parts of both hands are used to strike the ghatam: palms, wrists, fingertips, nails, etc. Furthermore, striking different parts of the ghatam produces very different sounds: the player can elicit various volumes and tonal colours by striking at the neck, centre and bottom of the outer surface. The method of playing the ghatam is almost as highly refined as that of the mridangam, and learning to play properly can take years. The ghatam, along with the kanjira and the morsing, is a secondary percussion instrument and accompanies the mridangam; however, contemporary Carnatic artists who like the sound sometimes use it as the primary percussion instrument.