Newari Music: Membranophones


Dhimay is the most common musical instruments amongst the Newars. It is considered as the oldest musical instruments amongst the membranophones. Even though there is no evidence that Mahadeva invented this instruments (as legend says) but there is evidence to support that it dates back to Kirat period. It resembles the Chyabrung of Kirat Rais and Dhola of Tharus. Dhimay is played in almost al ceremonial marches by the Jyapus. They are fund lost in dancing with deep rumble of Dhimay in festivals.

Dhimay is constructed from cylindrical hollowed tree trunk with leather pads at both of its ends. Nowadays, Dhimays are frequently made of brass and other metals. the general size of Dhimay is 20" in length and 16" in diameter .Its left hand hide which sounds much higher is known as Nasah, whilst another hide is called Mankah or Haima. Mankah carries a tunning paste inside. Dhimays are of two kinds: bigger Ma Dhimay and smaller Dhahcha Dhimay or Yalaypoh Dhimay. Dhimay has capacity to produce a multiple reverberating echo, which is its main feature. Dhimay is accompanied with Bhusyah (a pair of cymbals). Chhusyah and TainNain is also played in some places.


Gunla (a month according to Nepal Era) is taken as Buddhist holy month. As Dhah is played during Gunla it is also termed as 'Gunla Bajan'.It looks similar to Dhimay but is Slightly smaller than Dhimay.

Dhah is constructed from cylindrical hollowed tree trunk slightly smaller than that of Dhimay. Tuning paste is stuck at the inner side of Mankah. Tuning paste is made of castor seeds, mustard oils etc.

Besides in the Gunla month, Dhah is also practiced in different dances and other different festivities. Dhah is accompanied with Bhusyah (pair of cymbals), Tah (smaller cymbals), Muhali (clarinet/trumpets) or Bansuri (flute). Ponga is also played in Bhairab dance of Thimi.


Myth says, Paschima was invented by lord Krishna. This instrument is also known as Mridanga. It is a double headed drum with tuning paste in on hide (Nasah) and dough made of wheat flour is plastered in the other hide (Mankah) before playing.

Paschima is accompanied with Baboocha (thinner cymbals), Tah (thicker cymbal), Muhali (shwam) or Bansuri (flute).


It is another musical instrument used in many rituals. This instruments is mainly played by the Khadgis, however, this instrument is also played by other castes. It is also called as 'NayaKhin' or 'Dyah Khin'. Since it is also played in funeral processions it is also known as 'Seeh Bajan' (funeral drum). Long long ago, there was a tradition to play fanfare on NayaKhin to proclaim the news. In the Malla period, proclaiming by beating of NayaKhin was widely spread.

The NayaKhin looks similar to Dhah but it is smaller. It is constructed from hollowed tree trunk of an average size of 14" length and 7" diameter.

NayaKhin is played by producing a rubbing vibrato in Mankah hide. Whilst playing as the 'Seeh bajan', NayaKhin is accompanied with Chhusyah and Kaha. Similarly, whilst playing as the 'Gunla bajan' Tah is also played and instead of Kaha, Muhali is played.

Dapa Khin

Dapa Khin has various names: Yakah Khin, Joh khin, Lala Khin, Deshi Khin, for instance. It is double headed drum with tuning paste in both hides. Dapa Khin is mainly played in Dapa Bhajans (traditional hymns). If a single Khin is played it is called Yakah Khin and if two Khins are played, they are called as 'Joh Khin'.

Dapa Khin is accompanied with Tah, Baboo and Bansuri (flute) or Muhali (Shwam).

Koncha Khin

Koncha Khin is single headed drum resembling Tabla. It is also termed as 'Khicha Khwah Khin' as it is said that dogs start to cry when Koncha Khin is played. Koncha Khin is mainly played in marriage processions and accompanied with baboo, Tah and Baya or Muhali.

Pastah Khin

Also known as Kwatah Khin, Pasta Khin is a combination of Dapha Khin and NayaKhin. Ancient stone images of people playing Pastah Khin signifies its use since ancient time. Pastah Khin is an important instrument in Bajrayan sect of Buddhism. Pastah Khin is accompanied with Ponga and Tah.


Nagara is a kettle drum played with two sticks. This instrument has been described in purans as Dundubhi, Dundhu, Dundhub, Bheri, Adamber etc. It is often played in pair, known as Joh Nagara. Nagara is also played in Panchai Baja as Damaha. It is too played in Mahakali Dance.It is accompanied with Chhusyah and Muhali.


Dholak resembles Dhah in structure and its playing techniques are similar to that of Paschima. Dholak is played in Dhalcha Bhajans and also accompanies Bansuri.

Kantan Dab Dab

Also known as Damaru, it is a small two headed drum with straps. It is the instrument played by lord Shiva. KantanDabDab is especially played during Mohani Festival.

Magah Khin

This two headed drum with tuning paste at both ends belongs to magar community, however it has become an important part in Newar folk music. It is said that there are fifty four talas of Magah Khin. It is commonly known as Madal.


Daha, or a tambourine is a percussion instrument played in Bansuri Bajan or Khin Bajan. It is also used whilst singing songs and in Bhajans.


Though it is not a Newar instrument it has become an integral part in many rituals. Dhyangro is basically played by Jhankris (Witch Doctors) or Kirats.