As much Rajasthan is famous for its history and traditions, Rajasthani folk music is equally popular. Also the musical instruments which are used to create the mesmerizing music are unique in their own way. Khartal is one of them.
It is the one of the oldest percussion instrument, said to be 500 years old. Khartal is a set of wooden blocks, generally made up of Teak. It is the most portable percussion instrument which is played like doing a tap dance with fingers. It is played by clapping the wooden blocks together to create a string of colorful sounds and complex rhythms. Evidently, the playing method is quite identical to castanet, spoon and karaqeb in west. However, it takes a great amount of balance and adeptness to create even a simple rhythm. The name is derived from "Khar" and "Taal" which means hand and rhythm, respectively. The instrument is also known as Kartah, Khar Taal and Khurtal.
Khartal is usually played by the Langas and Manganiyaars tribe of Rajasthan. The instrument is a handmade product made only by the khartal players as it’s not just about hitting two wooden pieces to create a tone but to get the required sounding from the blocks.
One can hear the sound of Khartal in the backdrop for devotional and folk songs however, now a day it is also played as a solo instrument.
The popular form of Khartal known to most of the people is Khartal-Manjira, which is a pair of unusually shaped wooden planks with metal jingles on them. Proper Rajasthani Khartal does not have any jingles.
Khartal can also be seen in many of the pictures of Meera Bai, the most famous devotee of Lord Krishna in the 16th Century. She was born into a Rathore family in Pali, Rajasthan.