"Tavil" redirects here. For other uses, see Tavil (disambiguation).

The Thavil (Tamil:தவில்) or Tavil is a barrel shaped drum from Tamil Nadu. It is used in temple, folk and Carnatic music, often accompanying the nadaswaram. The thavil and the nadaswaram are essential components of traditional festivals and ceremonies in South India.

Velliyambakkam VM Palanivel playing thavil - note that thavil sides are reversed, as the player is left handed

In folk music contexts, a pair of wider, slimmer sticks are sometimes used. Thanjavur is famous for thavil, so called Thanjavur Thavil. In Kollywood Filmi songs thavils are mostly used, Notable movies: "Thillaanaa Mohanambal", "Paruthiveeran", "Karagattakaran".



Thavil is a traditional musical instrument of the ancient city of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. It is an integral part of the Carnatic music in Thanjavur.

Physical components

The thavil consists of a cylindrical shell hollowed out of a solid block of jackfruit wood. Layers of animal skin (water buffalo on the right, goat on the left) are stretched across the two sides of the shell using hemp hoops attached to the shell. The right face of the instrument has a larger diameter than the left side, and the right drum head is stretched very tightly, while the left drum head is kept loose to allow pitch bending. The larger face is higher in pitch than the smaller face.

Methods of use / Posture

The instrument is either played while sitting, or hung by a cloth strap (called nadai) from the shoulder of the player. The right head is played with the right hand, wrist and fingers. The player usually wears thumb caps on all the fingers of the right hand, made of hardened glue from maida flour. The left head is played with a short, thick stick made from the wood of the portia tree. It is not uncommon for left-handed players to use the opposite hands, and some nadaswaram groups feature both a right- and a left-handed thavil player.

Veteran thavilists

Some master thavil players:[1]

See also

Famous Nadaswara Vidwans Thiruvaduthuram Rajarathinam Pillai Karukurichi Arunachalam Vadarangam Gopalaswamy Paradhur Rathinasamy Pillai Thirupananthal Kuppusamy Pillai Vedharnayam Vedhamurthi Pillai Thiruveezhimalai Brothers Thiruvengadu Subramaniya Pillai Thrumeignanam Nadarajasundaram Andankoil Selvaerathinam Pillai Chidambaram Radhakrishna Pillai Sivapuri TR Padmanaban Therezhuthur Srinu Pillai Sathanur SN Ganesan Sembanarkoil Brothers Chidambaram Krishnamurthi Pillai Mayuram SRD Brothers Valaigaiman Soundarajan Madurai MPN Sethuram & MPN Ponnusamy


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