These beats are a part of a rhythm. What’s the difference you ask? The beat is the unchanging pace of the music piece and the rhythm is the pattern in which the notes of the piece move. The rhythm marks the duration of a performance. In Indian Classical Music (ICM), these terms are known as matra (beat) and taal (rhythm). The taal is a musical metre comprising of cyclical beats. Each taal has a different number of beats. Every taal is different in its characteristics, purpose and style. So how do we depict the taal in ICM? Percussion instruments are the medium to play the taals along with a vocal or other instrumental performance. And the most common instrument to do so is the tabla and sometimes the pakhawaj.
AvanaddhVadya, i.e., percussion instruments, are basically instruments wherein a vessel or frame is covered with leather and is played by striking the surface. In terms of the shape, I am sure most of you have seen the barrel-shaped percussion instruments, which are played at both ends set in opposite directions, e.g., mridanga, pakhawaj, dholak, madal, etc. The other kind and the most important kind in ICM is the kettle-shaped musical drum with only one covered end, e.g., tabla. The tabla is always accompanied by a wider and stouter version of it, called the bayan or dagga. The tabla / dayan is the treble drum and dagga / bayan, the bass drum.
There are two very interesting legends related to the tabla. First of all, the tabla is said to have its origins in West Asia, while some scholars have found evidence to believe that it has evolved with civilizations in the Indian subcontinent. The name ‘tabla’ most likely comes from the Persian word for drum — tabl. The Arab theory credits the invention of the tabla to the 18th century musician Amir Khusru who cut the pakhawaj into two parts. The second theory traces its origins to the 6th and 7th century temples in India. This theory states that the instrument may have acquired another name under Mughal rule, but it is an evolution of the ancient puskara drums. There are a number of carvings of musicians playing drums, using their palms and fingers to play the instrument, similar to the technique of playing the tabla and dagga.