Mrudanga (literally meaning "clay limb") in Odisha -- not to be confused with mridangam of Carnatic performing arts -- is a terracotta two-sided drum familiar all over northern and eastern India. An essential accompaniment for devotional music and dance, it is also known as khol in West Bengal, Assam and Manipur. Prevalent from antiquity, it has specially haloed association with Shri Chaitanya in Bengal and Saint Sankaradeva of Assam since the bhakti movement of the 16-17th century.
Murchhana was presented on April 6 by Odissi dancer Sharmila Biswas with her well trained co-dancers in a very well attended ticketed show in Kolkata. The fascinating idea came to her -- in episodic form -- narrated by the mrudanga players when she was conducting research on the rural percussion instruments of Odisha. During the annual mrudanga making season, the mythic tales were repeatedly told to her through verses and songs (carefully culled and reworked) as part of mrudanga purification ritual and carried forward as an oral tradition. Said Sharmila, “The folk artists believe that whenever a man plays the mrudanga with his whole being immersed in his art, murchhana, the spirit, enters and possesses the mrudanga, stirring the person from within. It transforms him, and his art elevates to a spiritual level. It brings supreme bliss.”
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