18th century
South India, India
Ivory, inlaid silver
H. 6-3/4 in. (17 cm); Diam. 4-3/4 in. (12.2 cm)
Membranophone-double-headed / waisted drum
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund and Clara Mertens Bequest, in memory of André Mertens, 1992
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Siva, Hindu Lord of destruction, regeneration and mythic inventor of drums, plays the damaru when he appears as Natesa, Lord of Dancers. He twists the hourglass-shaped drum causing pellets, attached by strings at its waist, to strike the skin heads which cover each end. Its rhythmic reverberations, a primal sound of creation, moves the cosmos in an ever changing, endless dance. The damaru's long association with Siva represents but one context in which this widely distributed instrument type is found. Known by diverse names throughout South Asia, the Himalayas, and Mongolia, the instrument's unrestricted use places it in the mortal hands of members of any social stratum, from priests to beggars. Drums like this one are usually made of plain or turned and painted wood although metal ones are not uncommon. This rare, 18th century, ivory damaru is encircled by incised and carved bands. Bands close to the open ends contain integral beading while ones nearer the waist reveal remnants of silver beads. Criss-cross and parabolic patterns resulting from the lathe's changing cutting angle appear beneath the reddish-brown patina. The drum's interior, usually blocked from view when covered by skin membranes, is concentrically grooved.

  • References

    "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 1991-1992." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1992), pg. 92, ill.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History