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date: 08 December 2019


  • Alastair Dick


The most ancient known drum name of India, found in Sanskrit texts from the late 2nd millennium bce to about the 13th century ce. Its type has not been identified with certainty, but references throughout the period indicate a loud drum connected especially but not exclusively with war. The name is doubtless onomatopoeic.

The Ṛgveda mentions the dundubhi in contexts associated with Indra (god of thunder, war, etc.), and the Yajurveda states that the spirit of the trees resides in it, as in the flute and the harp, thus indicating that it was of wood; the Atharvaveda, in an incantation, has the dundubhi played by ‘the Goddess around the house’, together with the karkarí (probably a chordophone). Ritual texts of the 1st millennium bce record an earth-drum (bhūmidundubhi) used in the winter-solstice rite mahāvrata, which consisted of the hide of the sacrificed beast being stretched over a pit and beaten with its own tail. The association of the dundubhi with war continues in epic and classical literature, and terms such as ...

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