The pakhawaj is one of the predecessors of the modern Tabla. Many hundreds of years old, the Pakhawaj was used in temple music throughout North India and is a clear relative of the South Indian mridangam. (The pakhawaj was indeed called mridang even into the 20th century.) Apart from its continued use in temples in North India, the pakhawaj is most notable as being the primary accompaniment instrument for the classical musical traditions of Dhrupad and Dhammar.
Because Pakhawaj is not so popular an instrument as Tabla, POD does not at present offer a group class for this instrument. If you are interested in learning, please contact us and find out if there is any availability for private classes for this instrument.
Some History of the Pakhawaj
The Tabla was most likely invented through the gradual introduction of folk drumming traditions into Court music during the 17th and 18th centuries. Tabla clearly owes the construction of its drum heads to the pakhawaj, but the idea of using two drums is likely attributable to the folk drum naqqara. A large portion of tabla technique and repertoire, particularly folk repertoire, comes from drums like dholak; much of the remaining repertoire comes directly from Pakhawaj in the form of parans and other compositions.
The first historical reference to tabla in India comes from around 1730. Before that (and likely for sometime after), Pakhawaj was the predominant drum for North Indian Classical music. The use of the tabla was likely relegated to lesser folk-influenced musical forms, the kind that developed into modern day Thumri. Later, during the 19th century, the musical forms of Dhrupad and Dhammar began to be subverted by a new form of classical music: khayal. Khayal, which literally means "imagination," required a drum that could be played much faster to suit the new instruments being used to play it; Tabla fit the bill perfectly. As Khayal came to take center stage in the world of classical music, the pakhawaj gradually fell out of popularity. There is a wonderful Natya Sangeet, or Maharashtrian musical drama, that dramatizes the rise of Khayal in relation to Dhrupad: "Katyar Kaljat Ghusali." The following video gives an idea of the distinction between Dhrupad and Khayal, and the different roles of Pakhawaj as opposed to Tabla: