Text Box: Khol ( Assamese Khol)

Class : Membranophone


                 Khol is played with bare hands. The Taalis on both sides are struck to produce different Bols (Sound) of Dhol. According to tradition the Daina is to be played with right hand and the Bewa with left hand, exceptions of which are not accepted at the highest level.


             The Bols or Swar (sound produced)  in Khol are divided into three types ; Mulswar ( Principal ) , Juktaswar       ( Combined) and Upaswar ( Additional) . Again these swars can be of two categories – Daina Swar and Bewa Swar. Principal and additional wars are also called  xaral swar   or simple swars.

Khola or Dima (Body) : The wooden or Earthen body of the Khol is called the Khola ( Upper Assam) or the Dima ( Lower Assam). It can be deduced that the Dima name came as it is shaped like an egg.


Bajnasaal or Taali ( Membrane)  : Both ends of the Khola is covered with two cow skin membranes, which are called Bajnasaal or Taali. The skin of  heifer is considered best for Taali.


Kaatoni Saal (Additional membrane) : To keep the taali in place, one additional membrane with middle part removed is used , which is called Kaatoni Saal.


Moluwa   Babdhoni (Membrane Frame) : To facilitate fitting of the Taalis  frames  made by twisting lather strings are used, and these frames are called Moluwa bandhoni.


Boroti (retaining string) : Both the Daina and Bewa Taalis are tied together along with the Kaatoni saal, in several loops with a long lather string, which is called Boroti. The  loops of boroti runs over the Khola and connects the moluwas on both sides.



                 Khol is an principal  instrument in Bhäona, Gayan-Bayan, Praxanga- Kirtan, Borgeet etc. of Assamese vaisnavite culture and in allied folk music such as Deh-Bisar Geet, Thiyo-naam, Borage Geet etc. Playing Khol is a holy activity. Because of the vast expanse of of the Ek-Xaran Naam Dharma Mahapurush Sankardeva into the core of Assamese Culture, Khol has  become a  very popular and common musical instrument in Assamese Culture. To spread His religious ideologies among the masses, Gurujona (  Mahapurush   Sankardeva) utilized culture as one of the tools, and thus created several Songs, Bhotimas, including Bhäona, and  in the course added the essence of Raaga based Indian Classical Music in Assamese folk and thus created a new genre of Music. Musical Instruments like Khol came to existence during this cultural renaissance  in the 14th century. With its uniqueness, Khol can be classified as one of the most important traditional musical instruments of Assam.


                                The single most important musical instrument of Assamese Vaisnavite music or ‘ Xatriya Music ‘ is the Khol. The religious and socio-cultural renaissance  initiated by Mahapurush Sankardeva  in the 15th Century, has led to evolvement of several musical instruments, and one of the most important of them is the Khol, which has become an integral part of Assamese Folk Culture. Instruments similar to Khol are found in different cultures of India; however Assamese Khol has its uniqueness in construction, size, sound and significance. Some authors mention that the instruments like Mridong , which are being used in Assam and different parts of India couldn’t produce the effect as desired by Mahapurush Sankardeva, hence  HE developed the Khol. At that times Khol was made of Potter’s Clay only. In ‘Guru Sorit’( ancient literature depicting the life and work of Mahapurush Sankardeva and others) , origin of Khol is described as follows



Kopilimukhor pora komar onai . { He called for  potters from Kopilimukh( a place in Nagaon district of Assam)}

Matikhol gorhailanta Sankar Goxai  { and Guru Sankardeva made the Khol}


             However, it can be said that Assamese Khol is a modified form of the original Mridong.

1. Khol Badya : Sri Jogeswar Bordoloi – Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha

2. Kholar Onko : Sri Jogeswar Bordoloi – Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha

3. Oxomor Badyajantra – Sri Dharmeswar Duwara – Bani Mandir

4. Badya Abhigyan : Dr. Debajit Saikia ,- Oxom Naam Xomaroh Udjapon Xomiti ; Sri Sri Auniati Xatra

Sri  Jogeswar Bordoloi – Boloma – Teok; Jorhat

Sri Badan Moliya – Moliya Gaon – Jorhat

Sri Prafulla Saikia –Saikia chuk, Dhekial , Golaghat

                 In old times Khol was made of potters clay only, but as they are very brittle and hence difficult to handle, people started using wooden Khols later. But according to experts, the sound of earthen and wooden Khols  are distinctly different, earthen one sounds better. That is why Earthen Khol is not extinct yet. The trunk of a matured Jackfruit tree is  used to  make Khol. The right side (of the player) of the Khol is called Daina and the left Bewa or Baya.


                The Shape of Khol resembles a matured xilikha ( a fruit , terminalia chebula) . Khol may be of different sizes, though  conventionally it should be 11/2 haat by the player ( A haat is a traditional method of approximating length of objects, the distance between the elbow to the fingertip). Generally Khol is of an length of 25 cm to 35 cm. Though the length may vary , but the proportions has to be maintained in making  a Khol. The periphery of the Daina is approximately 16 inches and that of the Bewa is 30 inches, for a Khol for an average adult player. The mid portion of the Body is bulged, and the diameter gradually reduces towards the ends. Daina side is smaller than the Bewa or Baya. The largest part in the middle called the Nabhi.


                                                                                 The different parts of the Khol are as follows





Bayanacharya  Sri Jogeswar Bordoloi – Boloma , Teok, Jorhat

Types of Khol

             Apart from variations in size, no significant differences in  Khols in use,  are observed.

Baya Swar :(to be played with left hand) 

             The Sounds made with left hand on the taali of Baya side are called Baya Swars. The main  Bewa Swar are

Bewa Principal Swars


Khit Bewa taali is hit with four fingers and then kept pressed for a little longer. Here the thumb should lightly touch the Taali


Dhei : The Taali is hit with all four fingers , wrist is loose so that the fingers bounce back after hitting


Bewa Additional Swars


Dhet or Dhit : The Ghun part is hit with four fingers near the Katoni saal. It is similar to Khit but force is much lesser.


Khi : The central part of the Ghun is hit with the finger tips , bending the fingers a bit.


Ka : This is similar to Khi but with less force


 Ga or Da : The Katoni saal is hit with four fingers. The wrist must be kept flexible so that the fingers bounce back.


Daina Swars ( to be played with right hand)

             The Swars produced by hitting the Daila Taali with right hand  are called Daina Swar

 Daina Principal  Swars :

       Dit : The Taali is hit with four fingers keeping them together.


        Dao: Dao Swar is produced when the Daina is hit freely with all four fingers of the right hand. The bases of the fingers should rest on the Moluwa, and the fingered to be allowed to bounce while playing this Swar.

Daina  Additional  Swars

       Ti or Na : The Taali is hit freely with the distal ( First) Phalanx of the index finger near the Kaatoni Saal


      Tin  or Nin : Here the Taali is hit with the distal phalanx of the index finger in the center of the Ghun. The finger should bounce back

      Ra : The Ghun  is hit with the middle phalanx of the index finger. Finger to be kept pressed for a while.


     Ta : For this swar , the Ghun is to be hit with the middle and ring finger.


      Di: The Taali is to be hit freely with four fingers, and the fingers to bounce back.

Combined Swars :

                 The Swars produced by hitting both the Taalis together are called Combined Swars. Again the Swars produced by riffs  are kept in this category.  The Combined Swar are


Tri or Tir : This bol is produced when Ra and Ta are played together in same scale


Trin : Trin is played by playing Tri and Tin together


Dhin : Dhei and Dao together produces Dhin Swar


Thei : This bol is played combining Khit and Dao


Dhi:  For  Dhi, Dhei and Dit are to be played together


That  or Thak : Khit and Dit together at the same scale makes That or Thak


Dhei : If fingers a slid over the Ghun after playing Dhin, Dhei bol is produced


Khring : Khi plus Trin make Khring



                  Ragars are combination of Simple Swars of left and  combined Swars of the right hand . Ragars are very important elements of  playing Khol.





Puli (Holes) : To insert Borotis small piecing are on the Kaatoni Saal and Taali, which are called Puli. Konari or Tikoni (Loop) : To connect the rope with which the Khols is carried around the players shoulders, two loops made of lather string again are used. These loops are called Konari, or Tikoni in shoulders, two loops made of lather string again are used. These loops are called Konari, or Tikoni in some places.


Rupohi( Reinforcing knots)  : To make earthen Khols resilient , a small lather rope tied along the body circumferentially. This is called Rupohi. Now days Khol makers don’t  use Rupohi extensively.

Image source internet

Jogeswar Bordoloi, a connoisseur of Khol

Image source internet