The mridangam is a percussion instrument from India of ancient origin. It is the primary rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble.
The word "mridangam" is derived from the two Sanskrit words mŗda (clay or earth) and anga (body). Early mridangams were indeed made of hardened clay. Over the years, the mridangam evolved to be made of different kinds of wood due to its increased durability, and today, its body is constructed from wood of the jackfruit tree.
It is widely believed that the tabla, the mridangam's North Indian musical counterpart, was first constructed by splitting a mridangam in half.
With the development of the mridangam came the evolution of the tala (rhythmic) system. The system of talas (or taalams) in South Indian Carnatic music may be the most complex percussive rhythm system of any form of classical music.