Constructing a Tanpura 2

The difference between male, female, bhajani and instrumental tanpuras lies in their size. The male tanpura needs to produce the low tones and is therefore the largest. The female tanpura is slightly smaller in size followed by the Bhajani tanpura. Although the instrumental tanpura is sometimes without tumba or gullu, I have included it in the list as it is quite a popular instrument. Of course there are many in-between sizes, but the table below will deal with these four main sizes. It should be said that because there are no real standardisations, all these sizes are approximate as each instrument is made by hand.

 

TYPE OF TANPURA

TOTAL LENTGH

TABLI WIDTH

DISTANCE 

Bridge to bridge

SIZE OF TUMBA  

Circumference

TUNING RANGE  

According to string size

MALE

57"/145cm

14½"-18"

37-45cm

40"/101cm

54"/137cm

C-D#

FEMALE

51"/130cm

13"-14"

33-36cm

36"/91cm

48"/122cm

G-Bb

BHAJANI

41"/105cm

11½"

30cm

27½"/70cm

40"/101cm

C-F#

INSTRUMENTAL 

Tambouri

35"/89cm

9"

23cm

24"/61cm

-

C-D#


The best pumpkins, tumbas, in the world come from the east coast of Africa and were used in the famous Hemraj tanpuras. However, the best Indian tumbas come from Pandharpur which is close to Miraj. Pandharpur is famous for its non-edible, and poisonous gourds that grow along the banks of the Chandrabhaga River. The soil there is rather hard and not too sandy; this suits the gourds. The gourds grown in the area of Dakar in Bangla Desh are thinner and of lesser quality. 

These gourds, sown in the monsoon time take about 6 months to grow, and can weigh up to 50 kilos. after harvested they are hollowed out and quickly treated to protect it from being eaten by insects. This is done by coating the inside of the gourd with a copper sulphate solution and leaving it for a day to dry.  They are left to dry in the sun for at least two months, then hung-up to dry for about a year, after which it's weight will be only one kilo.

It seems that besides its size, one of the criteria for a good tumba is its yellow colour. 

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