This ‘hourglass’ shaped instrument is called ‘udukkai’ in Tamil, is common throughout the India and elsewhere. It is a power drum, and when played by one who has the skill, generates spiritual energy. One can fall into spiritual trance by concentrating on the damaru sound.
DESCRIPTION: Damaru is a small two headed-drum. The hourglass shape separates its two sides from each other. A small neck-like structure holds the two sides together. Damaru is typically made of wood with leather drum heads at both ends for percussion. It is sometimes made entirely out of human skulls. The resonator is made of brass. The strikers are typically beads fastened to the ends of leather cords around the waist of the damaru. Knots in the leather can also be used as strikers, also crochet material is common. It is played single handedly. As the player waves the drum using a twisting wrist motion, the strikers beat on the drumhead.
TANTRIC RITUALS: The damaru is a major Shaivite symbol. In Shiva’s fierce forms such as Sathru Samhara Murthi, the iconography is never without the Trishula and Damaru. It plays a major role in the Aghori and Kapalika’s rituals and tradition. An enlightened aghori, carries with him a trishul and the damaru as external symbols of being a Lord Shiva follower true to the heart. To the extent that it can be revealed, Shaivite rituals set in cemetery conditions or tantric ritual dedicated to Rudra, Bhairava, Mahakali and Bhadrakali is never without the rhythm and tempo of the damaru.
The damaru is an essential tool for solo tantric practitioners. In larger group, the master of ceremonies or presiding has control over the chanting and damaru beats. In these rituals, the damaru is the standard right hand accompaniment to the ‘mani’ or bell which is held in the right hand. It punctuates the tantric ritual and sometimes the entire passage. This symbolizes the two utterly dissimilar states of existence, unmanifest and manifest. When a damaru is vibrated, it produces dissimilar sounds which are fused together by resonance to create one sound.
DAMARU HASTA: In his Tandava pose, Lord Shiva holds the damaru in his upper right hand. Iconography and art portray a specific hand-gesture called damaru-hasta. This implies a ‘damaru hand’ which works on the damaru when the Lord dances. As Mahakala, Siva is the Lord of Time. Thus the damaru symbolizes Sound Originating Creation or the beat of the drum is the passage of time.
MAHESHVARA SUTRAS: It is believed that Sanskrit language was recognized by the drumbeats of the damaru. Maheshwara Sutra or Shiva Sutra is said to be revealed to Panini, the Sanskrit grammarian by Lord Shiva. Alternatively, it is said that the ancient Seers heard the damaru sounds emanating in the Shiva-tandava and travelled towards them.
AUM: The Pranava Om is the perennial Cosmic Vibration. At the subtle level, the damaru symbolises the sound of creation. The sound thus produced symbolizes Nada, the cosmic sound of mystic AUM, which can be heard during deep meditation. According to Hindu scriptures, Nada is the source of creation. Despite audible sound of the damaru, it is also the symbol of emptiness or shunyata.
SHATKONA AND YONI: The Shatkona is a very essential symbol in Hinduism. It is also a symbol for Shiva and Shakti. The drum, when viewed from the side has the appearance of two overlapping triangles, which like the shatkona, representing the masculine and feminine aspects of God, the Shiva-Shakti. Shiva is represented by the upward pointing, pyramid like triangle (△). Shakti is represented by the revered pyramid standing on its tip and the downward pointing triangle (▽).
The upward pointing triangle represents the Masculine side of Parashiva, the all pervasive mysterious form of Shiva without qualities. It also represents Purusha, the Supreme Being and even the Taoist Yin. The downward pointing triangle represents the Feminine side of Parashakti, Prakriti or Mother nature and Yang.
When both the triangles overlap, it is a reminder that the Supreme is neither male nor female. This is represented as the symbols that appears as the twelve-petaled Anahata chakra or heart chakra. It is also a component in Sri Yantras and other Hindu symbols.
YONI: In tantra, yoni symbolizes the origin of life. It is an abstract representation of Shakti and Mother Goddess Devi, the Creative Force that mobilizes the entire universe. One side of the drum is seen to represent the male energy or Lingam, and the other represents female creativity or Yoni. Symbolically, the creation of the world begins when the lingam and yoni meet at the midpoint of the damaru and the destruction takes place when they separate from each other.
ARDHANARISHVARA: The two triangular shapes, seen togther from the sides also explain the Ardhanarishwara concept and admixture of Linga-yoni and non-duality. Indeed the Shatkona, ‘six pointed star’ is formed by two interlocking triangles, the upper one representing Siva's transcendent Being, and the lower one Siva's manifest energy, Shakti. This shatkona is also part of Lord Karttikeya's yantra where Skanda is known as Ardhanarishvara Karttikeya.
KUNDALINI: Damaru is a balanced cosmic music. Siva is inseparable from His Shakti and therefore Mahadeva is genderless. Siva the ida - feminine and the pingala- masculine nadis. Nadis are psychic nerve currents are balanced so that sushumna is ever active. The sadhak who balances these through sadhana and yoga becomes like Siva. In the unity of Ardhanarishvara all opposites are reconciled; duality vanishes back into the one source.
SHIVA THANDAVA STOTRAM BY RAVANA.
Jatatavee gala jjala pravaha pavitha sthale,
Gale avalabhya lambithaam bhujanga thunga malikaam,
Dama ddama dama ddama ninnadava damarvayam,
Chakara chanda thandavam thanothu na shiva shivam.
From His forest-like matted hair flows stream.
In His consecrated neck is hanging lofty garland of serpent.
Damad damad damad damad - to this sound of drum
He did fierce Tandava - may that Shiva shower auspiciousness.1
Hara Hara Mahadeva
(draft Symbolisms of Lord Shiva)
by Yogi Ananda Saraswathi