Sambal – Folk Drum of Western India

Soumya Manikkath

Anyone who has visited the Indian state of Maharashtra during the exuberant Ganesh festival will remember the Ganapathi Visarjan (idol immersion) ceremony. Accompanied by the loud beating of drums, the visarjan is probably the most colorful and exciting part of the festival. A percussion instrument that forms such a key part of the festivities is known as the sambal. It is also an inseparable part of Mahashtrian weddings and social events. The sambal is a traditional instrument of the Konkanis (community of Dadra, Nagar Haveli, Maharashtra, and Goa in Western India) and the Gondhalis (a community of people in Maharashtra who sing praises of the Goddess Tulajabhavani). 

No Maharashtrian wedding is usually complete without the ritualistic gondhal ceremony, performed during the night of the wedding. The gondhal is a mix of folk songs that are believed to remove chaos from the marital life of a newlywed couple. The songs are performed by traditional artists accompanied by the cymbals and the sambal.

Gondhal is also a must-have performance during Navaratri festival in many Maharashtrian families. The Gondhalis perform at homes during the nine days accompanied by the sambal, cymbals and tuntuna (a one-string instrument).

Originating in Western India, the sambal is a membranophone instrument. It has two differently sized drums held together from one side. Skin heads are stretched on their tops and one drum is tuned at a higher pitch than the other. It is played with two wooden sticks - one having a circular tip and the other being straight. The instrument is tied around the waist of the performer and the sticks are used to play on both sides. At times, the performer sits on the ground and plays by placing the drums on the floor. 

Today, the sambal is performed after every arati at the famous Tulajabhavani temple that was built in 12th century CE. The temple has a ritual of Chaughada where the sambal is played by Gondhalis before the puja starts, as a call to devotees for prayers. 

The sambal is a folk membranophone instrument from Western India. It consists of two wooden drums united from a side, with skin heads stretched on their top mouths. One drum is higher in pitch than the other one. This instrument is played with two wooden sticks, one beater having a circular tip. 

The sambal is also a traditional drum of the Gondhali people.The sambal is a folk drum found among the Kokna people of Dadra, Nagar Haveli, Maharashtra, and Goa in Western India. A traditional drum of the Konkanis and Gondhalis, a community of people who sing songs of the goddess

Sambal is a traditional instrument used by the peoples who are servants of goddess Mahalaxmi Devi and used in the gondhal pooja. 

One can hear this instrument at Ganapati visarjan and weddings in Maharashtra

One of the most important ceremonies in Maharastrian weddings is the Gondhal, performed during the night of the wedding. And that is when this instrument is honour of Goddess Tulajabhavani.

The two drums usually differ in size and pitch, one is tuned higher than the other. The wooden sticks, played both sides, have differently-shaped edges — one is plain and straight while the other has a circular tip.

The instrument is tied around the waist and played during processions, especially during Ganapati visarjan, a popular event in Maharashtra. It is also performed by placing the drums on the ground with the performer seated on the floor.

During Navaratri, Gondhal performance is a must in many Maharastrian homes. Besides villages, the Gondhalis are invited during the nine days at many cities to sing devotional songs accompanied by tuntuna, sambal and cymbals.