The Tabla consists of two drums, the bayan or the left drum, and the Dayan, the right drum. These two heads of the instrument are primarily made of goatskin cut in a circular shape from a large sheet of hiding using a template. The cut skin is then soaked in water for a softer texture and easy cleaning to remove dirt and animal hair sticking on it. The size of the skin is always kept two inches larger than that of the drum’s diameter. Once rightly measured and cut, the circular piece is folded to make holes at the periphery, and twine is passed through it.
The Tabla body is made out of neem, balsa, or rosewood. Once the wooden log is selected, it is shaped into a container form with openings at both ends, using a wood lathe machine. At these openings, small pieces of goatskin are arranged, followed by the placement of the pre-cut circular skin with the twine over it. Then the entire setup is turned upside down and at the bottom of the Tabla, a ring made out of a thick hide strip is placed and it is tied with the skin on the top, using a rope. This is a temporary setup until the rim for the Tabla is created. Now another circular piece of skin with a center opening is tied around the top of the Tabla and stretched by hand. The skin sides are also marked with a pencil to make holes with a chisel, which accommodates the hide strips. The formation makes a rim for the top of the Tabla, locally called ‘Gajara’. The same goes for the other end of the drum. Using the top and bottom strips, the side harness of the Tabla is tied around the instrument, which is called ‘Baddhi’. After the rim is ready, it is separated from the body and trimmed to remove extra layers of skin underneath and set back to the instrument body. They are then tied tightly using a rope, followed by hiding strips that pass through small holes made on the rims. The top skin is made wet and stretched to tighten as tightening gives better sound quality. The existing circular hole in the skin center is now turned bigger with a blade and a bamboo strip to make space for ‘Syahi’, the center black area. The layer on which the syahi is applied is locally called ‘Maidan’. The area drawn for Syahi is scrubbed for a rougher surface and chalk powder is applied over it. The chalk layer is smoothened with sandpaper to make the instrument look neat and clean. By this, the artisan proceeds to the important part of Syahi making. Here Syahi is made by mixing iron filing powder and wheat flour with water. It is applied in multiple layers and each time a layer is produced it is rubbed with a stone to create cracks on it. This procedure continues until the intended thickness is obtained. The shape of the application is also taken care of, as it is hugely responsible for obtaining the defined pitch and harmonic nature. Hence the center portion is often kept thicker than the edge. After that small circular pieces of wooden rollers are placed between the hide strips to alter the tone of the sound when needed. Thus, a magnificent piece of Queen of instruments, Tabla, is formed.