Published on February 19th, 2022 | by Ishan dasa | Full size image76
History of the Fibreglass [Balaram / Tilak] Mridanga
My name is Ishan das. I created the Balaram mridanga in L.A. It is really quite a story. But I’ll give you the brief version.
Some time in 1972-73 Srila Prabhupada saw that the East Indians were not carrying on the tradition of making the original mridangas and kartals. The younger generation who would normally take over the arts from their fathers were becoming more and more interested in going to school and going to the cities. They were thinking that working with leather making the drums and such was a lower class of activity. So Srila Prabhupada sent out a letter to all the GBCs indicating that some men should be sent to India to learn these arts.
At that time I was in the temple of Jaggadisha who was Srila Prabhupada’s Minister of education and a GBC member. Somehow by being alone in Jaggadish’s office I glanced at what was there on the desk, etc. and saw a letter expressing Srila Prabhupada’s desire in this connection.
That was all I had to see. This was the project for me. It was a way that I could do something that Srila Prabhupada wanted done. Jaggadisha sanctioned my participation in this adventure. But I would have to raise my own fare. Because I was married and had one child, the decision was made that Brajadevi would go to Gurukula in Dallas and my wife and I would go to India.
I have never been very adept at raising money. I did have in my possession a set of the three Bahagawatams that Srila Prabhupada had brought from India. I sold the set for about $200 dollars to a man who used to visit the Toronto temple. When I returned to Canada, after my time spent in India, I begged that man to please, please sell them back to me. But he would not hear of it.
In that letter from Srila Prabupada, he also mentioned that he wanted some devotees to take up the practice of making “dolls”. All these things had to be learned from the masters or those arts in India. Srila Prabhupada had personally selected the teachers. The learning was to be done on our land in Mayapur. The professional drum and doll makers would come to teach the devotees, during the daytime and then return to their villages in the evening.
So I reached Mayapur Dham and began my learning process. There were about half a dozen devotees who had come from various temples in order to learn. For the drums there were two processes. The clay man made the shells, and the leather man made the drums.
Learning from these men was not according to the western way of learning. In the first place these men were very proud of their trades, and would not easily part with their secrets which were passed down from generation to generation. Secondly, they had a good thing going. Gargamuni Maharaja who was temple president in Calcutta, was in the business of taking charge of the drums that these men were making, and then shipping them to the west as a way of raising funds and helping the movement. One of the men later confessed to me, “If you learn how to make these drums, our jobs are finished.” So they had a vested interest both in sharing the skills , but not sharing them too fast. There was a language problem as well. These were Bengalis and we were English speaking.
Another issue in regard to learning from these men was that in India, the teacher took the position of a guru, and the student became the apprentice. In other words, the student was, according to their culture, to become a menial servant, in all sincerity. I would bring these men water to drink. I would bring them prasadam. And I was the gofer. With the clay man, I had to take the clay that was dug out of the fields and minutely remove, by hand, every little twig, splinter, and grain of sand. And this I had to do in a crouching posture. This was no picnic.
As far as the leather man was concerned, when someone came from a local village with a freshly removed skin from a cow, someone had to clean it. The skin was still wet with blood. It would be folded in on itself like a package. Then the bloody skin was placed in a gunny sack for transportation. And this is the way that the new skins were delivered to our land. Therefore my first task was to take the wet skin out of the sack and stake it out in the filed, fleshy side up, to be baked crisp by the sun. Then there were the packs of wild dogs who were beside themselves wanting to get at that skin. When the skin was good and crisp, there was the hair to be removed from one side, and the course layers of dry fleshy material to be removed form the other side. This was my daily routine. The teachers loved it. Not only because there was someone to do the Joe-jobs. But here was a white western person who was willing to be their menial servant.
Well the learning went on. Somewhere along the way, Gargamuni Maharaj found a more local source for a good supply of clay drums to ship to the west. Closer to Calcutta. Now I was a problem for him. If I learned how to make these drums, this could interfere with his drum business. So he told Bhavananda Maharaj and Jayapataka Maharaj, who were overseeing everything at our Mayapur project, that Srila Prabhupada changed his mind. He no longer wanted us to learn these arts. The whole process was then suspended.
Along the way, I remembered that Srila Prabhupada also wanted someone to learn how to make the “dolls” so that we could have exhibitions in the west. So I wrote to Baradraja, who I knew from 1968 in the Montreal temple, when it was run by Hansadutta Prabhu. Baradraj and I were friends before we came in touch with devotees. We were in a rock band together, and Baradraj was living in a rooming house that I was running, to bring the landlord some income. There were a lot of devotees living in that house, but we were not devotees until Hansadutta Prabhu moved into the building. From that house the following persons joined up. There was Baradwaja, Chandan Acarya, Sripati, and Gopal Krishna Maharaja. Gopal Krishna was very hesitant to move in with us. He used to say “I cannot move in with you, because I am too impure.” But finally he also moved in. Hansadutta was on fire and everyone around him became a devotee.
So I wrote Baradwaja and told him that Srila Prabhupada wanted this “doll” learning process to go forward. Very soon Baradwaj appeared in Sridham Mayapur, learning the art of making dolls that looked like they came from the higher planets.
By and by Srila Prabhupada inquired as to how the drum project was going. Srila Prabhupada was told that Gargamuni had said that Srila Prabhupada no longer wanted us to make the drums. Srila Prabhupada was disturbed and said he had never given such instruction. So it was back to cleaning clay and scraping skins.
The other boys who were there to learn the drum process used to come to the mridanga-making hut armed with clipboards. They would watch and ask questions through an interpreter. One day, one of the clipboard team, asked the teacher why he did such and such aspect of the process in a certain way. Why did he not do it in another way that this godbrother thought would be a good idea. The teacher did not look up from his work. He was sitting in his regular squat position. He looked at the ground for a little bit. Everyone was very quiet. then the teacher looked up and said to the interpreter, in Bengali, “My father did it this way.” That was that. He continued with his work, and continued giving me assignments. Clean this. Move that. Bring this. Scrape that.
Over time, I really developed a love for this man. He was a Bengali, maybe in his fifties or sixties. Maybe five feet tall, and extremely thin and wiry. His face showed his cheek bones and he had beautiful eyes. His black hair was oiled and combed straight back. His determination was was like steel, and he quietly went about his activities. He had seen all that life had to show him in this rural environment. He was a survivor. He had the demeanor of a fox. Quiet and patient, and knowing his objectives. He wore a white shirt and a small piece of cloth around his waist down to his knees. He wore no shoes when he worked on the drums. He had to use all hands and feet to make the drum. He would apologize to the drums for putting his feet on them. There was no other way.
One hot summer day in Mayapur, at the bamboo drum hut, we were working in the hut. The front wall was half open. It was about six feet by eight feet. And the dirt floor was raised so that we were about two feet above the outside land. The clipboard team was outside the hut taking notes. My drum guru, Jotinda, was working quietly. There were flies and he paid them no heed. there was the clipboard team and he paid them no heed. Then still in a crouched position, he stopped his work. His fine thin hands lowered until the leather knife he was holding rested on the dirt floor. A sly smile rested on his face. And one by one he pointed to the members of the clipboard team, and as he pointed at them one at a time, he made an announcement. “Mridanga mistree nay! mridanga mistree nay, mridanga mistree nay! ” Then he paused, and looked at me who was working beside him, in the hut, on some assigned task. His face wore one of his rare smiles, and he said, :”Ishan prabhu – mridanga mistree!” Then with one of his tools, he drew a map on the dirt floor. In the center of the map, was Sridham Mayapur. And all around the center were the other continents. And he said it once more, “Ishan prabhu – mridanga mistree!” It had the air of prediction, of giving me a blessing.
The work went on. Time passed. I learned the process, step-by-step. I completed my first mridanga, from start to finish, ghab and all. It was time. Srila Prabhupada was in Vrindaban.
I made the trip to Vrindaban alone, by train, and by horse-drawn cart. Raman Reti. the property was all dug up. Big holes in the ground for laying foundations. Boards and debris scattered. Big piles of earth beside the large holes. Srila Prabhupada was ill. It was summertime and the the nights were very warm. Srila Prabhupada chose to sleep on a cot in the midst of what looked like a war field. It was a war. A war against maya. And Srila Prabhupada was the commander-in-chief. I made my bed on a mat a few yards away. During the night I could hear Srila Prabhupada making sounds of distress. He was purifying the Dham.
A few days went by. Srila Prabhupada was getting stronger. He wanted to go on a morning walk, a short walk. He knew about my drum. I was told that I was to accompany Srila Prabhupada on his morning walk. We were a small group – maybe five or six. After a short time, Srila Prabhupada turned off the road and enterd an open field an sat down. We followed suit.
Srila Prabhupada asked his assistant if he had brought along a tape recorder. He hadn’t. Srila Prabhupada turned to me. It concerned the mridanga. I was ready, I said, to remain in India the rest of my life and make these drums for our movement.
Srila Prabhupada said, “It takes so much work to make one of these drums. And our men throw them down like pots. So go to the west. Use your western technology. Make a drum that they cannot break. And put a strong strap on it. The day will come when there will be big, big sankirtan in the streets. And the people will want drums. And we will give them drums.”
After a day or so, Srila Prabhupada had us come to his room. I was to bring my drum. Srila Prabhupada said, “Ishan has made this drum. We can have kirtan. Harikesh will play the drum” We had kirtan. Harikesh was delighted with the drum. He arranged to buy it from me.
The kirtan ended and Srila Prabhupada began to speak. “Ishan is going to the West to make mridangas. Where would you like to make these drums, London?” “In Los Angeles Srila Prabhupada. Los Angeles is the place where there is so much plastics industries.”
Jayatirtha, GBC, was in the room. Los Angeles was his headquarters. “I think he should go to London, Srila Prabhupada.” “London?”, Srila Prabhupada said. “No, Srila Prabhupada,” I said, “Los Angeles.” Srila Prabhupada looked at Jayatirtha. “Ishan will go to Los Angeles. Jayatirtha will give him all facility.” He looked at Jayatirtha, waiting for a sign of agreement. Jayatirtha agreed.
We had barely left Srila Prabhupada’s room and Jayatirtha descended on me. “O.K. Ishan”, he said, annoyance and hostility radiating from his face. “How much space do you need?” It was a very short discussion. I was to wait at the temple in Delhi. Jayatirtha would send me the travel funds from L.A.
Time passed. I waited. The funds never came. After recovering from malaria, I approached the Indian authorities, who in turn aquired the funds from my parents.
I went to several western temples canvassing for financial support for the project. Montreal, Toronto, New Orleans. It was a good idea, but results were slow in coming. Temple presidents thought I should do something more usefull.
From New Orleans I called Baradraj who was now settled in Los Angeles. He was given facility to have a “doll” making studio, with a staff of devotees. Srila Prabhupada wanted dioramas. Baradraj sent me the money to get a ticket to L.A. He would help me, give me some space.
Meeting Jayatirtha in L.A., he was not pleased. But I had reached L.A.
It was Karandhar Prabhu who really set things in motion. “Give me some figures, Ishan. How much space, what materials do you need, how much will it cost, how long till you come up with a product?” I submitted a detailed proposal. Karandhar funded the whole thing, himself. Even an apartmernt for my family.
Time went by. Maybe six to eight months. So many attempts. All failures. I would have given up. One thing kept me going. If I could do this thing, maybe Srila Prabhupada will be pleased with me.
Then it happened. I had a shop. It was set up. Ranadhir was my liason to the different suppliers. Metal rings, raw urethane, fiberglass shells, inserts, straps, heads from special molds made by Remo Drum Company. We had all the equipment, the materials. Production began. And so did distribution.
Meanwhile Rameswara Mahara put me in charge of the Bhakta program, the new Brahmachari ashram, and the kitchen. I needed help in the drum shop. I got one man. He was very sincere and gifted. He was on dialysys, regularly, but he gave it all he had..
1977. Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance. All insanity came to bear. Everyone was sitting on large Vyasasanas. I was threatened with violence for naming it. Perhaps I made a huge mistake. I left the movement and the association of devotees. Sadhana with devotees, morning and evening. Participation in the Diety program. All gone. My service left behind, with one man to run the drum shop.
But the drums are still rolling out. Now, they proudly wear a new insignia – tilok. I am so fortunate to have been a part of it. Actually, when the guru gives an assignment to a bhakta, the bhakta is empowered to do the job. Otherwise, how could a cripple-minded insect have come up with a synthetic mridanga, “a drum that the men can’t break”? So once more we have to say, “All glories to Srila Prabhupada!”
For more information and to place your order for a brand new Tilak Fibreglass Mridanga please click on the link below:
Respectfully and sincerely,
Ishan Prabhu, I have owned a red Balarama mridanga for decades. I play it every day and I am still learning how to get new sounds out of it. I love it! I feel happy to have briefly gotten your association in Austin back in 1971. All glories to this great service you have done for the Sankirtan.
Apparently there are some problems in shipping parts overseas these days, and orders for new drums are not being met. If you know anyone who wants to be involved in setting up production in the west please have them contact me. We need someone who can handle PR in setting up contracts, someone who is into digital/computers for sending drawings to a list of manufacturers, obtaining quoters on mold and part production, someone for handling distribution, cashflow, etc. I feel that we can create a better drum with a lower selling price. I do have some ideas for a drum with less parts and easier tuning. But this is definitely a team effort kind of project. So if you have any ideas, please let me know. Hare Krishna! Obeisances. Ishan
Hare Krishna Ishan das, pamho agtsp
I have a technical question that I don’t expect to get answered, but here goes anyway. As a long time fan of Vishnujana Prabhu (aren’t we all?) I was looking forward to learning how to play my favourite songs of his, Jai Sachinandana and Govinda Jaya Jaya when I bought my yellow mridanga. In the recordings I have, both songs are in the key of G so naturally I tuned the large drum head (baya) to G and tried to tune the small one a fifth higher at D. But due to what I think I are called “standing waves” the smaller dayan goes dead between C sharp and D sharp. Using the standard reference of A=440Hz it tunes perfectly well at these neighbouring frequencies but stops resonating at what I think is a D5 of 587.3 Hertz (it could be an octave lower D4 of half that frequency, I haven’t got perfect pitch!).
At first I thought it was a flaw in the Mylar skin so I bought another one, this time from America. But no, same problem. From I have been able to learn online, apparently the physics of the inside of the drum – most likely (I’m guessing here) the cylindrical pvc piping at the narrow end – cause “standing waves” at that D frequency which cancel each other out, resulting in a dead sound. Tuning it a semitone higher or lower restores the bright resonance but of course that is no good for playing along to the tape because it is out of tune with it.
As a guitarist I have found the best workaround for me is to tune to a minor 3rd lower at E and B, quite compatible with the open strings on a guitar with standard EADGBE tuning. Otherwise I just listen to the Vishnujana tape and don’t try to play along to it.
So I’m wondering:
were the PVC pipe dimensions chosen for a particular reason, and
has anyone tried experimenting with different size and shape PVC piping eg would a conical insert perhaps copper or steel like a tabla fix the issue of the standing waves; or perhaps a longer or shorter pipe so it will tune nicely to a D?
I tried asking a music teacher that I played in a band with but he insisted that drums do not have a specific pitch. Obviously he was not familiar with the mridangas or tablas which are nearly always tuned to set pitches, often a perfect fifth apart or occasionally a perfect fourth. Sometimes they may be an octave apart on a clay khol with ahimsa leather skins but in my experience Mylar skins do not lend themselves to such extremes of tuning.
Thanks in advance for any knowledge, help or advice, which is greatly appreciated. Ys Sam
Hare Krishna Bhakta Sam! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
I do understand your love for Vishnujana Swami. I lived with Vishnujana in Austin Texas, and after he opened a temple there, he made me president before moving on to open a temple in Houston. Yes, when Vishnujana engaged in Kirtan, his eyes glistened with love and delight, and this is what attracted so many to become devotees under Srila Prabhupada’s direction. He was a living testimony of the validity of Krishna Consciousness.
Regarding your technical questions: I am very, very impressed by your sensitive appreciation of the dynamics, the relationship of tuning to singing, and the relationship of drum structure to tuning. As a musician myself, I can only tell you Prabhu, that your sensitivity to tuning, and your analytical propensity, are extremely uncommon when compared with the average devotee, who is completely unaware of the relationship of drum tuning to the key in which we are singing etc.
When I engage in bhajan or kirtan at home, by myself, or accompanied by my good wife, I naturally feel that the key and/or scale is suggested to me by the mood of the drum according to temperature, tuning, humidity, etc. The drum, or more properly, Sri Mridanga, is the leader, and I become the follower. In this sense Sri Mridanga tells me what scale, major, minor, and key to sing in, and sometimes I am filled with wonder as to where this takes me. And I then hear my own singing with wonder, thinking “I must remember this feeling, this mode.” But of course, Sri Mridanga always has His own mood, and my business is to follow.
As I say, very few seem to think in these terms. Srila Prabhupada noted the insensitivity of all of the devotees in general, and one time said to me that our men are so passionate and uncontrolled that they treat this precious instrument like a clay pot that is thrown in the gutter after one eats the content. In that sense he was derisive in speaking of our gross material natures. It was at that time that he instructed me to make a drum that our men couldn’t break, and to supply it with a strong strap as well.
When I returned to the west and began research and development, R & D of the fiberglass mridanga, not being a business man, I took shelter of different temple presidents so that they could supply me with facilities, funds, etc. All of them were very enthusiastic at first, thinking that if the drum were developed it could be a source of income. But when time passed without conclusive results, they would ask me to give it up and accept some other service. In this way I moved from one temple to the next. It was in Los Angeles that one very sincere and wonderful devotee, Karandhar Prabhu, an expert administrator, arranged to provide me with all facilities, and a small team of support. For example one man connected me with various suppliers, mold makers, etc., and then there was the warehousing, order taking, and shipping, accounts receivable, etc. All of these devotees had their individual natures. The conclusion or upshot of this assembled team was that matters were taken out of my hands. Although I felt that more research was wanted and that a better drum could be made, with time, they were overcome with impatience and the excitement of getting “the product” out there, and generating a positive cash flow. In that way the drum became what it is today. At first it was named, by the promoters, the Balaram mridanga. Being fiberglass, that is shot in to the mold with a gun, no two drums had identical sound. But the drums were hardy, and we distributed about 1000 of them before Srila Prabhupada “disappered”.
At that time, the drum factory was on Iskcon property. When some of my godbrothers began to claim that they were pure devotees, and that we should all worship them as we worshipped Srila Prabhupada, I could not play this game, and left the movement, and the drum factory.
With the passage of time another business-minded devotee began having these drums manufactured in the Philippines (I believe) by having the manufacturers copy the specs of the Balaram drum. And that is the Tilok drum. In my opinion, the Tilok drum is less sensitive. After all, those who are making it are not devotees, but poorly paid workers in a fiberglass factory in the Far East. The devotee who spear-headed this project later told me that they simply couldn’t get the drum to sound like the Balaram drum, and there was a lot of trial and error involved. And they finally settled on what is now available.
I am not a business man. I am a sudra. I work with my hands. My thoughtsis that the way to go is to connect with some company that can do this kind of research so that they can create the sounds that you are looking for, and standardize the molds, the materials, etc. That kind of research project would require some start-up capital, negotiation, etc., but then we would have a really nice drum.
I do have a few ideas of my own that would improve the ability to tune, reduce production costs, etc. I do think about these things, but so far have not seen the opportunity to go forward in this way.
It may be of interest to you to consider that Srila Prabhupada, who was the ultimate transcendental musician of musicians, did not concern himself with tuning Sri Mridanga before playing. When he recorded his bhajans, he would first sing while playing harmonium, and then add the drumming while hearing his recordings with head phones. In other words, his sense of transcendental tuning was the tuning of the heart. His transcendental expertise was in using what ever was available in Krishna’s service. His very first recoding of the Mahamantra was not with mridanga, because he did not have one at the time, but with a very basic hand-drum which he payed with one hand while holding the drum in the other.
“As far as possible the chanting should be heard from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord.”, Srila Prabhupada instructs us. Srimad Bhagavatam tells us that the sound vibration of the pure devotee is saturated with the saffron dust particles that are on Krishna’s lotus feet. I do understand and respect your desire for musical harmony and integrity. But I wish to humbly encourage you to hear, and open your heart to Srila Prabhupada’s bhajans as well, and allow his devotional feelings to stimulate in you, an deeper understanding of what love of God, love of Krishna is. It is our faith that as our love of Krishna comes more and more into focus,all of your considerations will be accomplished by Krishna’s grace for the ultimate satisfaction of the eternal spirit soul.
Thank you for writing me. Feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have inclination to discuss any aspect of Krishna Consciousness further.
Hare Krishna Ishan das !
I want to buy yellow Tilak Mridanga. I didn’t find it on the website.
Please help me to buy it.
If it’s possible write me to my WhatsApp: +seven910452422eight
Here are out off stock: http://krishnastore.com/mrdanga-drum-fiberglass-tilak-new-balaram-mridanga-h-krishna-1464.html
Mrdangas are not available at the moment. You have to wait until they are available again.
Please write the exact date when Mridangas will be available. People are waiting.
We have no idea when the drums will be available. Shipping problems caused by the covid situation, etc.
Hare Krishna Prabhu, Obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada! Is this just a temporary break in production? Have you been informed that production will continue in the near future? Please advise me of the situation. If necessary, I will return to this arena of service to Srila Prabhupada’s mission. Your servant, Ishan das
Hare Krishna Ishan Prabhu
Yes. Jitarati Prabhu is having problems, not so much with production, but with shipping the drums in the current situation. So right now he can not ship them economically to the US. But he can still produce as far as I know.
So I think he will be able to supply again in the near future hopefully.
It is not so easy, making the drums on an industrial scale. Trying to make a hundred drums, over and over and over again. He has been doing a very good job for many years. And as far as I know it is just a shipping issue at the moment.
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!
Thank you Madhuvisa Prabhu for letting me know the situation. Actually fiberglass is very difficult to work with. No two shells will be identical due to thicknesses in different areas, and quality of resin and mesh. The best way to go is a molding approach, like thousands of products that we have in our homes (computers, calculators, waste baskets, pop bottles, etc.) And much less costly. One day I plan to get involved again, with a drum that is more consistent in quality and half the price, sold with a DVD on how to play (Prabhupada style), etc. It is a dream of mine. Hare Krishna! Ishan
Hare Krishna Ishan Prabhu
So do it Prabhu. Make a better and cheaper mrdanga. Make it sound more like the clay drums. Just do it. Not that we talk about it and never get around to it. If you make it and it is good we can sell them at KrishnaStore.com
Yes. Of course these days there are many new materials available that were not available back in the 70s. There are all sorts of resins that can be moulded which are very strong. And maybe even you could find some new material that has acoustic qualities closer to clay.
So just do it Prabhu. Make a prototype at least and test it.
Research the materials that are available today and see what is possible. Reinvent it. All anyone has ever done so far is copy what you originally did. So if anyone can reinvent the Western version of the mrdanaga, it is you Prabhu. So do it. Make it and we will sell it for you at KrishnaStore.com
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!
Thank you Prabhu!
Does this mean chant Hare Krishna and you will become happy? Or, chant Hare Krishna and BE happy? I am inclined to think the second, because a happy heart in the mode of goodness appears to be a prerequisite sensing the presence of Krishna in the sound vibration.
Hare Krishna Ishan Prabhu
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Krishna consciousness is anandambuddha-vardhanam, and ocean of ever-increasing bliss. But in the beginning we can not appreciate it because we are in a diseased condition. Our consciousness is materially contaminated so although Krishna and Krishna’s holy name are not different and when we chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra we are in contact with an ocean of pleasure, because of our materially diseased and contaminated condition, we can not experience it.
So actually, in the beginning, we may not experience transcendental bliss when chanting Hare Krishna, it may seem tedious and even painful for us. But it is working, so if we keep on chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra that will cleanse our hearts and mind, ceto darpanam marjanam, and gradually, as our hearts are cleansed, we will begin to feel the actual transcendental bliss that is in Krishna and in His holy names.
So to answer your question it means chant Hare Krishna and you will become happy. Because there are no prerequisites for chanting Hare Krishna. It is, in a sense true, that a devote who is sensing the presence of Krishna in the sound vibration of the Hare Krishna mantra, but that is not a prerequisite for chanting Hare Krishna. We can chant Hare Krishna in any condition and by the power of the Hare Krishna mantra our consciousness will be purified and our hearts will be cleanses and we will develop all the qualities of the mode of goodness.
So you see the point is to chant Hare Krishna, then you will develop all the good qualities, then you will be happy. But in the beginning we may not fell much bliss from chanting Hare Krishna, that is saddhana-bhakti, that is following the rules and regulations set out by the spiritual master by force, even if we are not actually immediately experiencing any apparent benefit.
So the idea is that we surrender to Srila Prabhupada and surrender to Krishna and agree to chant at least 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra every day on beads, we strictly follow the four regulative principles: no illicit sex, no meat eating, no gambling and no intoxication, and we read Srila Prabhupada’s books at least 1-2 hours a day. And even then we may fall down over and over again. Because these days difficult to find the association of good devotees, etc.
Anyhow, point is we have to have fait in Srila Prabhupada, faith in the holy names of Krsihna, and keep on chanting Hare Krishna and following the regulative principles and reading Srila Prabhupada’s books and we will experience that transcendental bliss that is Krishna consciousness.
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!
That was so nice, Ishan Prabhu. Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Please continue with your great service to Srila Prabhupada.
May this meet you in the best of health & happy mood. Hare Krsna!
Hare Krishna Prabhu! Obeisances. Yes, Srila Prabhupada is our Lord and master, and anything that we do that is meritorious is simply a reflection of his divine grace upon us.
Thank you for your kind words. Actually, when I had the Balaram mridanga factory, it was located in a building that was owned by Iskcon. When Srila Prabhupada apparently departed from our presence, and some of my more foolish godbrothers thought that they could/should seat themselves on Vyasasanas, I decided to eave their assocation. Therefore the factory was left behind, and one of the men that I had trained continued with the service until he passed away. Today his brother manages the factory, but to to much overworked to give it his full attention. But the Tilok mridanga is a pretty good copy of the Balaram drum. I have several ideas fro improvement of the drum, but I am not a business man, and those who do manage financial affairs have shown no interest in implementing these improvements, such as bluetooth connection with large speakers, digital addition of kartal recorded sound with tempo and volume control (also bluetooth), etc. Also the entire cost could be significantly reduced, and fiberglass is not the best material for the drum in terms of cost and consistancy of sound production. Some parts can be eliminated, and tuning can be greatly facilitated. My hope is that one day I’ll meet a devotee who would be willing to handle the business end of the research and development that I can spearhead in order to make a better, more consistant product, at about half the price. The synthetic drum was Srila Prabhupada’s vision, and he wanted it for spreading Krishna consciousness and not as a means of profit. So keeping the cost minimized would be the next step in the process. Hare Krishna!
I want to buy
You can purchase at:
Hare Krishna Dharma-rupa Prabhu. Obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Please accept my humble obeisances.
I still have fond memories of you when you were in Austin
at time of my initiation in August of 1971. It’s truly amazing
how you invited the mayor of Austin to attend the ceremonyand he showed up!
Where are you these days?
Hare Krishna Prabhu!
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Vishnujana Maharaja was an inspiration to all of us in those days, and still today, even in his apparent absence.
I was just fortunate to have been given a chance to do some little service. How fortunate we were to have been able to live and serve together, to have daily kirtan and sankirtan, and experience the excitement of helping new people to come in touch with Krishna consciousness.
Hare Krishna Prabhu! Please accept my humble obeisances in return. All glories to Srila Prabhupada, shaktavesha avatar and jaga guru sent to us from Krishna Loka.
Austin seems so far away, and also like it was only yesterday.
Today I live in the Gila National Forest, on some acerage that was owned by someone before it became a national forest. Have been here for 18 years now, cultivating Krishna consciousness, living beside a small stream, planting a garden, cutting firewood, and carrying water back to the house. I study a lot and I am beginning to write some Krishna conscious articles for devotees. Obeisances to Vishnujana Maharaja who was such a great source of encouragement for all of us due to his wonderful enthusiasm in serving Lord Caitanya’s mission. Your servant, Ishan das
It is so nice to be back in touch, Ishan Prabhu. Recently I found Pulastya das on the internet. He was friendly but is no longer practicing Krishna consciousness. Dvija Hari Prabhu left his body. I got to meet him again at the Mississippi farm before he departed. He was very friendly. How are your wife and daughter doing?
Hare Krsna Sankarshan Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!. Thank you for your email. I hope to meet you & Ishan Prabhu in the future. As time goes on, it is more important than ever to respect & associate with Prabhupadanugas.
My new Tilak Mridanga just arrived yesterday. I have been wanting one for so long. Now, by Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, it has happened. May this meet you in the best of health & happy mood.
Wife left me in the early 80’s (I was not a very congenial husband). Braja (daughter) is a high tech airplane mechanic in Vancouver, Canada. I sent her to Gurukula; that gave her a very bad taste of what Krishna consciousness has to offer. I think she is a devotee at heart (although not practicing) and very wary of devotees. My memory of Pulastya was that he was very sweet natured, warm-hearted (which explains why he was attracted by Vishnujana Swami’s energy). But Krishna consciousness requires a very sober intelligence to complement that loving feeling. No spiritual culture on the planet comes close to Krishna consciousness intellectually or aesthetically; but one has to really want conclusive answers – or else, they begin to look for warm feelings in the wrong places. Obeisances, Ishan
I am looking for a 20/21 inch mridanga.
Hari Bol! Hare Krishna.
The Tilak Mrdangas are currently out of stock. But we should have them back in stock within the next month. So when we have them available again you will be able to get it at:
Are these drums 100% vegan ?
Yes. They are. They are made of fiberglass and the heads are rubber.
Yes, these drums are 100% vegan. But you should be convinced that the clay and leather drums used in the time of Lord Caitanya were and still are worshipable. We do not call the drum “Mridanga”, but “Sri Mridanga”.
It is a mistake to apply our personal values to the ways and means in which Lord Caitanya’s movement is introduced to us by Srila Prabhupada. Being a vegetarian is not a qualification for returning home, back to Godhead. But that does not mean we can eat animals, birds and fish. We simply have to follow the teachings as originally given, as good as God. Hare Krishna!
Thank you for your response. I am new to Krishna consciousness and mean no disrespect. I have no doubts about the worship ability of a drum with cow skin. But in today’s times you really never know where the skin is coming from. So just to be on the safe side and honor the cow I would prefer to purchase a drum made from synthetic material. Much love. Hare Krishna!
Hare Krishna Dustin! Obeisances. You are right. I am too quick to give advice. Your humility is a good example for me to follow. Actually the leather (skin) from western cows is too thick and not strong enough for mridangas. But even in India, this cruelty exists. When I was in India, I scraped and prepared many of those skins as an apprentice to a mridanga maker. The synthetic drum was Srila Prabhupada’s vision and he asked us to make them in this way. So you cannot go wrong. Hare Krishna! Your servant, Ishan das
Hare Krishna! I am Ishan das. Some who have left comments are dear Krishna conscious friends from the past. Others I do not know. But anyone who wishes to correspond with me can email me at: email@example.com
Hare Krishna Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances.
Whereas now we are availing these books of Srila Prabhupada so easily, only you must be knowing the troubles you took your entire life to preserve the original books and the other unlimited recordings, conversations, letters , etc of Srila Prabhupada. Only you will be knowing the opposition you had to single handedly face so many devotees who interpreted things in the wrong way….
And now having made things so easily available to us, you have even made it so easy for us to render service to Srila Prabhupada, to engage our 24 hours in Krishna’s service. And over and above this, many a times you have given me a wonderful solution to problems that may have arisen either in both my material and spiritual life. And most important among all , you brought me in contact with Srila Prabhupada ( the most loving father on earth! ) and Krishna ( whereas I had never imagined before, that I would one day be able to be in contact with God!)
And for all this there is practically no way to express my gratitude to you. Please be kind and tell me how I could be of any help to you…Please let me render this insignificant service. If there is any desire of yours remaining, that I could perhaps carry out… please let me know, and I will try my best to do it. Prabhu, it is a humble request, that I am seriously asking for something I could do for you…
Please fulfill this intense desire of mine.
Once again, I am extremely, extremely grateful to you.
Your humble servant,
Hare Krishna Rukmini
Surrender to Srila Prabhupada, take Krishna consciousness very seriously, make it the purpose of your life, become a pure devotee of Krishna, and preach, spread Srila Prabhupada’s pure Krishna consciousness movement all over the world. Someone has to do it. Krishna is ready, Prabhupada is ready, but someone has to take it seriously and learn it and preach it for the benefit of the world and for their own personal spiritual benefit also.
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!
I badly wanted to learn to play Mrdanga (and maybe harmonium as well) to go on sankirtans, but where shall I learn how to play it? There is no one I personally know who will teach me. In krishnatube.com there is a series of about five classes to teach how to play mridanga step by step from beginning to end; however it doesn’t teach how to play any of the tunes like Hare Krishna Maha-mantra tune or the Pañca-tattva tune or any of the other songs like gurvastakam. Is there some way I can learn how to play mridanga (& maybe harmonium as well, but priority to mridanga)? I just want to know the basic beats. I remember having read in one of the conversations of Hansadutta prabhu , that when he was playing Mrdanga and invented a tune of his own, Srila Prabhupada criticized him, asking him to stick to the basic tunes… So I would be extremely glad if there is some way I could learn at least the basic ones…
Your support would be greatly appreciated.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada, Sri pañca tattva and the glorious Radha Madana-mohana !!!
Mrdanga and Harmonium [and book distribution] lessons:
Prabhupada’s Kirtans and Bhajans [you can hear him playing the mrdanga and copy it]
This contains a section with mrdanga lessons including a tape where Srila Prabhupada personally gives mrdanga lessons:
Yes, when I was in Maypur (1973-75), as the first building was still under construction, different devotees were leading kirtan. Srila Prabhupada, on the third floor, would walk from his room to Bhavananda’s room, very disturbed, because of the innovation of new melodies and new mantras being sung by the devotees. One night I lead, in the mood of Srila Prabhupada’s melodies and drum playing. Once more Srila Prabhupada went to Bhavananda’s room and asked who is leading kirtan. Bhavananda replied that it was Ishan, and that Ishan always chants following the mood and style of Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada said, “He is intelligent”. He also gave instruction that I should lead from that point on. But devotees in general do not understand that everything Srila Prabhupada has done is for our example to follow. They are always making on-going changes, even to Srila Prabhupada’s books. In 1968 Srila Prabhupada thanked me for being clean-shaven, head and face. Today devotees wear beards and long hair, dread-locks. Even such devotees are pictured in Iskcon preaching materials for distribution. There is the thought to encourage new people that we are very tolerant. But the result can only be that everything will be lost unless we try to follow as Srila Prabhupada has instructed. More members is not better. Srila Prabhupada gave the example of adding water to the milk to make more. Eventually there is no milk – just water.
Recently my 4 year old Son Aja’s School invited Parents to perform for their class so I took my Mrdanga to the School and got them all chanting Hare Krsna Maha Mantra.They got very enthusiastic and the teacher actually had to stop us to give another Parent a chance!
Hare Krishna! All glories to Ishan Prabhu!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
HARE KRISHNA. All glories to His Divine Grace Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. i recently bought a small Tilock Mridanga drum. I think it is different from the Balaram Mridanga drum. I find the small head hard to play as the lip is so thick, the black rubber where you hit is low inside and the hand doesn’t connect easily or sharply. That aside, yes, a broken clay Mridanga drum can be repaired with fiberglass resin and fibercloth. Now a story. Back in the 70s i was having a fight with my husband and angrily pushed over his beloved clay mridanga drum. It immediately cracked and a big 6 or 8 inch hole appeared in the side and that’s exactly when i realized that the mridanga drum is non-different from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. I felt terrible and offered my obeisances. My husband went in search of a repair. We found a devotee who knew how to fix it so that it sounded as good as new or better and shortly thereafter the drum was happily taken by a sannyasi to South America to preach. Hare Krishna.
Great, great story. Love Ishan prabhu. Thank you. We heard that once Srila Prabhupada told him, “Ishan makes mridangas in theory only.”
Dear Customer Service Manager,
We run a world music instrument store located in Hungary.
One of our customer is looking for 2 pcs. of tuneable fiberglass mridangas.
Please send to our email a sales offer including discount price of 2 pcs. fiberglass mridangas and transport costs to Hungary.
We are looking forward to your kind reply.
Best wishes and Haribol,
Please place your order at http://www.krishnastore.com
The shipping calculation, etc, will be automatically provided to you there.
I ask this with outmost respect and to seek a better understanding. In Hinduism, the cow is sacred. why was cow skin or any product relating to actual carcass used in making a drum. I am a vegetarian and seek clarity on this topic.
Hare Krishna Neena
Cows die naturally. And when the cows are dead there is no prohibition from using the cow skin for making drums, shoes, etc.
The prohibition is against killing cows. But when cows die naturally there is no prohibition from using the cow skin for drums, etc.
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!
Acctualy i have a question. I see that the new tilak mrdanga have a powerfull and clean bass, better than the old one, what did you change? The head size or quality? I have an 20 year old balaram mrdanga that\’s amazing, but i would like to upgrade it\’s sound. Could anyone help me? All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
ALL GLORIES TO SRILA PRABHUPADA
Pls Accept my humble obeisances
This pastime of Prabhupada, his desire, his devotees n his mercy is mesmerizing… I feel blessed.
i was impressed by this story. Sounds honest and spifitual. I am too old to contribute. to this movement in any way. God Bless
I am looking for cruelty-free mridanga, something that does not have any animal skin/matter on it. Does Tilak mridanga have any leather or other animal derived ingredient in it?
Hare Krishna Arun
Tilak mrdangas do not have any animal parts… The heads [which on traditional mrdangas are made from leather from cows] are made from rubber. Which as you know comes from trees. And the bodies are made from fiberglass. So no. There are no animal parts.
You can purchase from:
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!
i need tilak fiber glass mridanga
You can get the Tilak Mridangas at http://www.KrishnaStore.com:
I like it ! Congratulatios…Beautiful history
Haribol Ishan Prabhu This is Kartikeya das Hope You remember me from Toronto Temple Eons ago..I hope all is well with You and that You are in good health and remembering Krsna!
All obiesances. Dearest Godbrother Ishan Das!
Twelve years in a forest. Much respect. I leave this week to do the same. I am on the East coast, but I would like to make it to where there are Devotees to serve and associate with. I constantly pray that Iskcon will be purified of those in the grips of Maya. I hope to meet all the wonderful souls I have spoken to on this blessed site, one day when we can all unite, when Iskcon is cured.
My name is Ishan das. I am a bit of a retard on computers. So I was not aware that this page existed. But I have just happened to stumble on it.
I am very moved that the page has been created. And I am very moved by the comments.
Some of the comments go back to April 2010, so I am a little over 3 years behind in responding to the kind things that some of you have written.
I have lived alone in the woods for 12 years now on a piece of land in the midst of a national forest. Reading these heart-felt comments from devotees here and there is a bit over-whelming, very moving.
My firm intention is to respond to each and every one of you who have written. Thank you for the kind things you have written.
All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Your humble servant, Ishan das
Dear Isan Prabhu,
Please accept my most humble obeisances. I would be very grateful to get your address so I can correspond with you. I and so many other devotees have been wondering where you might be! I would also like your permission to put your story on The Legacy Project site as I am encouraging all Srila Prabhuapda’s beloved disciples to write a Memoir of their life in service to Srila Prabhupada. The story you’ve written for Krishna.org of the making of the Balaram Mridunga would be perfect. So many devotees wish you well Prabhu, I pray at your feet that you will respond to my message!
Your humble servant and godsister,
I’d like to buy a Tilak Mrdanga,. in what number in US that i can call to get more information?
i work on the cruise ship, every Sunday i in fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Hare Krishna Prabhu
You can order the Mrdanga at:
and any questions please put them in our customer support help desk at:
There is no telephone customer support. You need to contact the customer support by the help desk link above and they will reply to you very promptly.
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!
I am editing an article for the New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments on the mrdanga and would like to include a discussion of the development of the balarama and tilak mrdanga.
I love this article and was wondering if you could help me get in touch with Ishan Das or someone else who is intimately familiar with the instrument’s construction. I have some follow up questions that I would love to ask. I also want to make sure I correctly credit the innovators for their contributions.
Any help you can provide me would be greatly appreciated,
Ethnomusicologist and Research Fellow
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Department of Musical Instruments
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028
hare krsna prabhuji ishan dasa….
nice story, Im sad to hear the business mentality to involeve our bhakti ect…wich u describe in your story in learning mridanga art…in india..and not hlep even against prabhupad instructions..anyway..I also last 17 years I join hare krsna in czech republic,wich Im from, start to have love for that drum..I was in india for 2-3 years also learning that,so Ialone repairing mridangas in europe..beside that I start to dream a lot of improving this drum..specialy,in his “weeknes”of tuning and repairing a heads..I was alsoinspiring of your plastik drum tecnologie..but, becouse I loved mostly that beutiful clay leather sounds..I
have a dream to make a drum similar to your but no plastik, but clay,leather,and masala…but with screw tuning..for many years I had a no chance to do it,try it,also 12 years brhamacari,living in teple,no suport,I feel similar to u. Now Im maried and have no so much time or money too..but still waitin for Krsna and guru blesing, that one day I will do it…a dream..a centre,workshop..with few devotees to make a traditional mridanga plus my (your)a improoved mridanga…one day…please…jay radhe..Im dedicating mylive to my sri guru siksha sri Aindra das…and my diksha as well..please any contact on you I will be very happy…thanx…nitai gaur
I se that you are saying that you are able to reparing clay mridanga?
Are you capable to tune clay mridanga, and are lokated in Europa?
I have been looking for someone who are capable to do that.
You can not repair clay mrdangas. If they are broken they are broken… At least that is what I think… It is hard to put the smashed pieces back together. And tuning is not very easy either, it is very dependent on the weather conditions, the humidity, etc… Much more practical would be to get a Tilak Fiberglass Mrdanga:
Thanks for that story Ishan Prabhu it was enlivening so much so I dug my Balaram drum out ,well actually took it down from on top the closet a played a few beats ( I am the owner of a small yellow Drum )
DO YOU KNOW WHY ISKCON STOPS SELLING THIS MRNDANGAS!
They still make a few. It is just one devotee who makes them and he is very busy with other things so he does not have much time for working on the drums.
Thank you Ishan Prabhu for that beautiful story of how the Balaram mridanga came into existence. All glories to Sri Mridanga!
Those were magical days in Montreal. Ishan, a talented trumpet player, made sure that we surrendered all attachments to material possessions. I recall with pleasure, staying up late into the early morning hours, debating with Hansadutta, trying to find holes in his arguments. Couldnt be done. We all eventually surrendered to his logic. But the greatest influences on my decision to join were the sweetness of Himavati and the determination of Bradraj.
The first Mrdanga I ever heard was a clay one on the streets of Sydney in 1974. By 1980 I was playing the plastic Balarama Mrdangas on the streets. I’ve often gone from preferring the clay Mrdangas for a while and then back to the Balarama Mrdangas but either way have kept the playing up. Just half an hour ago my new Tilak Mrdanga arrived – small size for Gopis, of course :o) and I look forward to continuing to somehow serve Srila Prabhupada’s movement and honouring your wonderful service to him by beating this drum for many hours to chase away Maya and call the residents of Sydney, Australia to Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet. If you don’t mind a fool who has done nothing with her life saying it: you’ve surely done this great movement one of it’s most marvelous, though too infrequently glorified, services.
Thanks for a great story prabhu – Your Servant Rasika Dasi
i have some Q?who is guru(teacher)?
A Guru or teacher is he who is a perfect student that repeats the instuctions of his teacher without modification or change.
Dear Ishan Prabhu, obeisances for you and all your friends, all glories to Srila Prabhupada everyone’s friend. I never knew how diligent and dedicated you were in following Srila Prabhupada’s desire to learn the art of Mridunga making. Tears rolled down from my eyes reading you tell it.
I also remember how you generously and with great care provided me and Himavati with a room in your big Boarding house. you gave me a blank check, and we made many devotees there. I would come in the early morning hours to the room a Baradraja, he would be sitting naked in a yoga pose, girlfriend in bed, and me with the mridunga inducing him to sing and chant Hare Krishna with me. the girlfriend did not like this, but eventually Baradraja would come with me to the temple, then shaved his head, and in the end he embraced all of Prabhupada and Krishna. I could see immediately he was a Great artist and introduced him to Prabhupada on that note. Prabhupada asked him to draw a picture of Lord chaitanya, when he returned the next day to show Prabhupada the copy, prabhupada lit up and the rest is history.
I was so fortunate top have been given the opportunity to come into your orbit with all the others who went on to surrender to Prabhupada and Krishna.
Dear Ishan, thank you for narrating this story, it has really touched my heart.
Your humble servant,
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Please accept my humble obeisances.
I’m in such a extasis after reading this story.
Thank you Ishan prabhu.
May Harinam Sankirtan fill every street in this material world with happy Balarama Mrdanga sounds, echo of the extatic dancing of Sri Krishna.
Hari Bol !
Hare Krishna Ishan Prabhu!
It’s been such a long time. I see John Matlick from time to time. If you recall, we both went to Remo with you for the development of the drum heads. I was your protege for a little while, when I had spare time from management at Spiritual Sky. I remember scraping skins with you to make heads and straps. I’m very happy to hear anything from you! I hope you are happy and healthy and above all, always deeply inspired by Srila Prabhupada!
Hare Krishna Prabhuji.
After all the great work of preaching that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta did in India, founding 64 temples of the Gaudiya Math, printing books, publishing 5 news papers, etc. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta said:
“Sri Varsabhanavi dayita dasa desires to serve the beloved Lord of Sri Varsabhanavidevi by giving up all offenses. O Gandharvika-Giridhari, I pray day and night for your service while sitting at Sri Vrajapattana, Mayapur.”
His ideal was to serve Sri Sri Radha and Krishna personally. The man is measured by his ideal; if the ideal is big, the man is big.