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Gharha: Folk Musical Instrument

Gharha, the Rajasthani folk instrument, is a simple earthen pot with minuscule amendments in it.

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earthen pot

earthen pot

Earthen pots Carnatic music

Earthen pots Carnatic music

Gharha folk musical performance

Gharha folk musical performance

The rich culture of Rajasthan has the variety of native musical instruments, but none of them is as unique as this one. Made of earth, and often used as a pitcher, Gharha is one of a kind percussion instrument, which proves that when it comes to sources, music indeed knows no limit.

Originally, the art of playing Matka, another name for Gharha, had begun in Punjab, but eventually, the art found its way to the heart of the state of Thar Desert and had become an inevitable part of its folk culture. A similar art is prominent in southern India as well. The instrument is called Ghatam there, and it constitutes a significant part of the Carnatic music system. The Ghatams, here, are often used in multiple numbers, with each Ghatam producing varying sound based on its thickness.

In Rajasthan, however, just one pot is used, and to serve the purpose of creating variations, players would change the place where they would strike the pot. From the neck to the base, a professionally crafted Gharha is capable of producing dulcet tunes of varying pitches. The hollow of the pot works as an amplifier, and the resultant music is simply divine. Another method is gaining popularity in the playing of a Gharha by using a thick canvas fabric.

The fabric used for the purpose is thick canvas, which is tied around the mouth of the earthen pot stiffly. It creates a rigid yet flexible surface onto the pot, on which a player can create rhythmic tunes using the thrumming movement of his/her fingers.

While this structure of Gharha may resemble any regular percussion instrument, the microscopic holes in the earthen pot give it its signature touch, a distinct cadence that goes amazingly well with the wavy Rajasthani folk music.

Apparently, the device is most fundamental in its nature (all the materials and methods included), and perhaps this is the reason that almost all the communities in Rajasthan use it as their folk musical device, sans any discrimination. Arguably still, the Meghwal community of Rajasthan has the special place for the instrument in their folk music. They combine the bass tunes of the Gharha with contralto jingle of brass plate. Want to hear what the combination sounds like, watch this video here.

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