We are Madhura Mridanga

Madhura Mridanga is a product of Research and Development jointly conducted by Centre for Traditional Education and Vidwan Dr. Varadarangaji. 

After compiling a spirited article in May 2011, titled as “Our Sankirtana Tainted with Blood of Slaughter” that was published in various websites, we were remorseful that no solution has been struck in spite of meeting various people and planning things to fulfill the instruction of Guru and Srila Prabhupada in this regard. His Holiness Bhakti Raghava Maharaj who is a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada instructed us to come out with a solution for cow protection in all areas including Mridangas as desired by Srila Prabhupada.

His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada had instructed that in the Sankirtana movement, the use of leather is to be avoided and “alternatives such as plastic, etc., could be used”. Especially, when it comes to Mridanga, Srila Prabhupada instructed that leather can be used, “but NOT by killing cows, but from naturally dead cows. THAT IS OUR PRINCIPLE”.

Offering to His Holiness Bhakti Raghava Maharaj

Offering Madhura Mridanga to His Holiness Bhakti Raghava Maharaj, circa 2019

Dr Varadaranganji, brain behind Madhura Mridanga

Along with renowned Vidwan Sri Varadanganji

Listen to Srila Prabhupada categorically stating that it is “OUR PRINCIPLE” NOT to use leather obtained from slaughterhouse but from naturally dead cows for our Mridangas (Khols). Srila Prabhupada also states that “alternatives such as plastic should be used” instead of leather. [Conversation with Prof. Gombrich, 1973, Stockholm, Sweden.]

HG Govinda Dasi (ACBSP), recalls the following interaction with Srila Prabhupada, that directly supports that Srila Prabhupada was clearly against the idea of cow slaughter based Mridangas. In other words, one cannot and should not justify use of cow slaughter based Mridangas in the name of service.

A devotee sculptor came to visit Prabhupada in Hawaii. This devotee had helped me make some Deities, and at this time Prabhupada wanted him to make some Panchatattva Deities. Prabhupada explained at great length how he wanted the Deities made. After the conversation, this devotee asked Prabhupada if it was okay for his wife to kill silkworms to make silk.

After he left, Srila Prabhupada said, “These Western boys are so creative! Next they will be asking me if they can kill cows to make Mridangas!”

Remembering Srila Prabhupada – HG Govinda Dasi Mataji

By mercy of Sri Krsna, we had a chance exchange of email with Smt. Diana Ratnagar, Chairperson of “Beauty without Cruelty” who in turn directed him to Dr. Varadaranganji. It was a dream come true to meet a Vidvan in Carnatic Vocal, but a scientist and a great human being at heart. A very unique combination, all in one person. 

Rest, what happened could be guessed. Back and forth of constant testing, trials and discussions ensued over many months. As a result of which, we now have “Madhura Mridanga” a 100% Ahimsa Khol with superb sound quality!

Central to the mission of sankirtana movement is the resounding sweetness of mridanga & kartala as espoused in the daily prayer of Gaura arati in thousands of temples across the world – “shankha baje ghanta baje madhura mridanga baje”- the name of the product should resonate with emotions of devotion in devotees.

But such divine purpose should be fulfilled with Mridanga made from the leather obtained from naturally dead cows. If this is not available, then alternative methods such as use of synthetic materials should be used.

In other words, religion should not become the cause for sinful practices as grave as cow slaughter. Annually around 6000 to 10000 Khols made of leather are sold all over the world directly causing the killing of at least 3000 to 5000 cows! And these Khols do not last longer than 2 years and at most upto 8 years with single hand use. Apart from that, the rugged usage in the Sankirtana movement make it all the more difficult to maintain such a fragile instrument. 

This was exactly the reason for Srila Prabhupada had instructed his disciple Sri Ishana Das to explore making Mridanga with American technology. Srila Prabhupada stressed on this Mridanga making project (along with Kartala making, Saree making and Doll making) so much so that even in his last days of his manifest pastime, in 1977 from the bed, Srila Prabhupada had sumonned Sri Ishana Das from USA to enquire and encourage him about Mridanga making project.

In this humble endeavour to fulfill Srila Prabhupada, in service of Gomata which are dear to Lord Krishna, we are offering Madhura Mridanga, a Made-in-India product.

We endeavor to consistently maintain our quality assurance a zero defect manufacturing process. We are also implementing industry best practices in Customer Care Support.

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The current Scenario of Leather Mridangas being manufactured

  • 99.9% of Leather Mridangas are made from leather are obtained from slaughtered cows.
  • Leather is more than a byproduct of killing. In fact, the leather business is more lucrative. That makes the meat market as a byproduct and leather as the main business. Cows are ferried regularly in Mayapur (boats) and border area for slaughter.
  • From one cow on an average 2-4 mridangas can be made.
  • Around 8,000 – 10,000 Leather Mridangas or Khols are sold annually all over the world. If we take a count of all different types of mridangas made, the number is very huge! In other words, an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 cows and calves are killed annually just for the sake of catering to the Mridanga market all over the world!
  • Only leather of cows sounds best for Khols/ Mridangas. Not that of buffalo or goat, etc. Hence cows are routinely killed for leather to be used in Mridangas. In fact for the large side (left side) of the Khol is made exclusively from Calf and the small side (right side) is made exclusively from the skin obtained from the neck region of a cow [Please note that the term ‘cow’ includes cows, bulls and bullocks].
  • Leather Mridangas are mostly made from a mould made of mud. Rest are made from brass or fibre. But the heads are still made from leather.
  • The disadvantages of leather khols are that they are Not Durable, the Pitch varies drastically with variation in temperature, they are Not Tunable, they are Very Fragile and Very difficult to maintain (to keep it safe from animals and insects which destroy leather, apart from the fungus that catches the leather in regions with heavy rainfall).
  • On average, one leather mridanga with a mud body DOES NOT last long for more than 2 years if it is handled by multiple players (which is the case in a temple or a congregational centre).

What makes Madhura Mridanga different?

  • It is durable – half-life is 20 years. Does not break unless dropped from above 10 feet on a stone.
  • It is tunable within minutes. It can be tuned to a wide range of semitones.
  • It is Bio-safe, made from plastic used for implantable materials.
  • It is weather-proof & rust-proof In other words, it does not vary with changes in humidity and atmospheric temperature .
  • It is light weighted and hence easy to carry for longer duration during sankirtana
  • It is liked by expert players. The sound quality is better than the average leather Mridangas available.
  • With every Madhura Mridanga sold, at least ONE Cow and ONE Calf will be saved from slaughter.
  • The Karane or syahi  (the black part) is chemically bonded. Hence there is no wear and tear of this part for many years to come even with daily rigorous usage. 
  • The heads are made from Bio-safe material – Polypropylene and polyester films. There is no chance of laceration or bleaching because the polymer is a single molecule material. Vegetable colors are also used making it safe on the skin.

“Our Sankirtana Tainted with Blood of Slaughter”

By  Bharat Chandra Dasa

19th May 2011

I remember, in my first few days in ISKCON, I had asked someone about how mridangas were made and where were they made.  Clearly, I was not satisfied with the answer and always thought, one fine day, I will get into the details. Surely enough, I now know, our performance of sankirtan all over the world is tainted with the blood of slaughter!



Navadwip to Mayapur via boat crossing Ganga is a beautiful short trip.  My recent shift to serve at dham was filled with these beautiful scenes until I came across something ghastly!  Beautiful Cows and Bulls were transferred in the same boat in one such trip I took in broad daylight.  A bit amazed, I asked the neighbour sitting next to me, as to where the cows were being taken?  The neighbour replied naively, “for slaughter”!  I asked where? He replied – “near yogapitha”!By now, my mouth was wide open and heart beating strongly.  I exclaimed -“Oh Krishna, how can this be allowed in dham!”.  The neighbour replied -“Huh! how do you think your mrdanga is made?”

Next, my enquiry with the Mrdanga manufacturers got it confirmed.  It is a huge export business!  There is a huge demand for mrdangas all over the world, be it due to ISKCON or others, the cows are slaughtered mercilessly so that we get mrdangas to play!  All this in the dham!  And now, it is happening right in Vrindavan too for the same reason!  These mrdanga makers are doing a booming business throughout the year and there is a huge, huge supply-demand gap!


Prabhupāda: Now suppose somebody is not awakened to the standard of God consciousness, then he may follow religion but it is a waste of time. That is our… we don’t want official religiousness, that is called, you know Sanskrit? Dharma dhvajī..

…Simply just to have a flag, I belong to this religion, that’s all. But if I ask him, “what do you know about religion?” He cannot explain, what is God he cannot explain. Simply he has a flag,” I am Hindu, I am Muslim, I am Christian,” and they fight one another. But actually one who is God conscious where there is question of fight? Everyone is brother, God is the supreme father and we are sons:

sarva-yoniu kaunteya sambhavanti mūrtaya yāḥ

tāsāṁ mahad yoni brahma aha bīja-prada pitā

(BG 14.4)

That is God consciousness and as the Christian people, they are killing poor animals. If he has at all God consciousness why he should kill? And especially in the Christian religion it is stated, “thou shalt not kill.”

Then last night that gentleman was asking me… that… “Thou shalt not kill, whom?” Oh no, where there is no question of whom. If you ask whom, at least you should not kill your father and mother. So, cow is the mother, according to Vedic understanding, cow is the mother because we are drinking milk. Cow supplies us milk therefore she is mother…

Prof. Gombrich: Hm.

Prabhupāda: Not go-hatyā.

Prof. Gombrich: Hm.

Prabhupāda: This is very sinful you see if one is religious, how he can become sinful? Do you think sinful man can become religious?

This is going on, in the name of religion they are covered in sin. That is the, I mean to say, the cause of religious degradation; veda viruddha kārya kare, veda mukhe mane, Caitanya Mahāprabhu says. They act against the Vedic principle but advertised himself, “I am Vedic, I believe in the Vedas.” These nonsense things are going on. Christian going against the Christian principle but he is proud of becoming a Christian, all like that really.

In Buddha religion also, the president Dai Nippon & Co. who prints our books I asked him that you are Buddhist do you eat meat? He said, “yes.” (Laughs) “yes, I am sorry I eat.” These things are going on no religion will allow meat-eating, even Mohammedans they allow only one death, Bakri Eid. You have studied Mohammedan religion?

Prof. Gombrich: Hm.

Prabhupāda: Yes, so in Jewish religion also they allow meat eating after offering sacrifice, not from the slaughterhouse.

But they are regularly maintaining slaughterhouse these sinful activities are going on. So our movement we have got restriction anyone who comes to be serious student he must give up four sinful conditions. Illicit sex, meat eating, intoxication and gambling, all our students first of all they must agree to this principle then I accept him as my student.

Prof. Gombrich: Do you allow the use of leather?

Prabhupāda: Eh?

Prof. Gombrich: Do you allow the use of leather?

Prabhupāda: Leather?

Prof. Gombrich: Yes, leather.

Prabhupāda: No.

Prabhupāda: We avoid it. All our shoes are not made of leather, we don’t agree. Nowadays there are so many plastic and other things are available everywhere. Leather is not prohibited because leather you can get from the dead animal.

Prof. Gombrich: Hm.

Prabhupāda: So when an animal is dead, a cow this class of men is called and he takes out the dead animal. So he eats the meat and saves the bones and horns and hoofs and takes out the skin, makes shoes. So all these things he gets for nothing. So after all the animal will die, let him wait for that period, why you should kill any living animal?

Prof. Gombrich: Do you use leather in your drums?

Prabhupāda: Eh?

Prof. Gombrich: What about the drums?

Prabhupāda: Yes, yes the dead body.

Prof. Gombrich: Yes.

Prabhupāda: When the cow is dead that leather can be used.

Prof. Gombrich: Yes so you have leather drums.

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Prof. Gombrich: Yes.

Prabhupāda: Leather has there so many use but that leather is collected after the death of the animal, not by killing.

Prof. Gombrich: No.

Prabhupāda: Yes…yes that is our principle, yes.

Prof. Gombrich: Thank you very much.

Prabhupāda: Hare Kṛṣṇa. Jaya. (end)

        Room Conversation, Stockholm (London), Sept 12, 1973; “Sin in the name of religion”, Published in BTG Aug 1986

Animal killing in the name of yajna (sacrifice) was going on and I understand is going on now too.  This time, in the name of sankirtan yajna. Lord Buddha appeared precisely to stop this sin in the name of religion.

PRABHUPADA: Yes. About Lord Buddha is also mentioned in the sastra that Lord Buddha will appear in Gaya Pradesh, in the province of Gaya, and his business will be to cheat the atheists…He promulgated this philosophy, ahimsa, when there was the unnecessary killing of animals. According to Vedas, an animal can be killed in sacrifice. That also to give a new life. But people misinterpreted and they began to kill animals like anything with the evidence of…, “In the Vedas animal killing is sanctioned.” So Lord Buddha appeared, just being compassionate to the poor animals. Sadaya-hrdaya-darsita-pasu-ghatamSadaya. He became very compassionate, that “All these poor animals are being killed unnecessarily.” So he promulgated a new type of religion –ahimsa paramo dharmah. “Don’t commit violence. If I pinch your body, you feel pain. You should not pinch others.”That is his religion. So, but, he… Because others, they will argue, “Oh, in the Vedas…” As I told you, that Vedas is the evidence, so “Here is…Animal killing is ordered. How you are stopping it?” Therefore he said, “I don’t care for your Vedas.”

Room conversation, April 7, 1972, Melbourne


Sankirtan is the most sacred form of connecting to all-merciful.  But, that is possible only if we become merciful to our own father and mother.

500 years back Chand Kazi stopped Lord Chaitanya’s party doing sankirtana, broke their mrdangas and threatened them.  When Lord Chaitanya with his disobedience movement met with Chand Kazi, the Lord first asked Chand Kazi, why are you killing your own father and mother?

“Now, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, first of all, inquired that the Muhammadan magistrate… They established their relation as the uncle and nephew. Caitanya Mahaprabhu became the nephew, and the Kazi, the magistrate, he became the uncle. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu addressed the uncle, “My dear uncle, why you are killing your father and mother?” So the uncle replied, “What is that? I am killing our father and mother?” “Yes. Because the cow is your mother. She gives milk. And the bull, he helps you in the agricultural fields. He produces grain. So just like father and mother—mother supplies milk and father brings grain—so they are your father and mother. How you are killing your father and mother?”

Lecture, New York, Aug 9, 1966

Now, the scenes have changed.  Chand Kazi’s followers shall ask us – “Why are YOU killing your own father and mother so that you can do your sankirtan?”  Looks like they have all the good reason to stop us this time!


PUSTA KRSNA: What we’ve been doing with the dead cows is burying them, there’s no…, everything’s wasted. Srila Prabhupada is proposing that why not the butcher take, we give free, he simply returns us the skin of the cow, and with the cowhide, we properly tan it, we can make mrdanga heads for the khol, and shoes, straps, whatever may be needed. The idea being that in the Western countries especially, people are accustomed to eating animals, animal flesh. So we have no objection.

PRABHUPADA: If you want to eat, let the father and mother die, then eat.(laughter) Who has an objection?

PUSTA KRSNA: It’s so reasonable.

PRABHUPADA: Oh, yes. Because a class of men will demand to eat the flesh. You cannot stop it. So we are giving free: you eat. And from the economic point of view, we require the skin for our mrdanga making. So give us the skin. That’s all.

 June 29, 1976, New Vrindavan, Room conversation

Two students Bhakta Sujal and Bhakta Laxmipati from Mayapur have started a project called – “Ahimsa Mrdanga” for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada. Their business is a very successful one today.  Little did we realise, at that time, that their attendance at the Varnasrama College course at Sahyadri Krishna Balaram Ksetra could become so potential.

In discussion with Bhakta Sujal, I understood that in fact it is not very difficult to establish Ahimsa Mrdanga units wherever we have goshala.  We can even manufacture mrdangas in every state, maybe every district by tying up with farmers or goshalas.   One person can be emlployed to flay the skin of a naturally dead cow and tan them.  Few persons can be employed to make mrdangas.  This simple model can change the scene and pave way for cow protection.

Such courses must be established.  Srila Prabhupada wanted that we must get into ahimsa mrdanga making.

“There is no need of sending the artisan to U.S.A. better send our disciples from here and learn the art there. In this connection manufacturing, the mrdanga shells, as well as the skin work on it, is very essential. If possible our men may learn how to make karatalas also. At Navadvipa, there are many artisans for this purpose. The summary is that our men must learn these four things: doll making,mrdanga making, karatala making and if possible making saris.”

    Letter to Jayapataka, Bhavananda – Los Angeles, May 9, 1973

Prabhupada also preferred alternatives if leather from naturally dead cows are not available. Hence, as part of the effort in this front, we have come up with a synthetic Khol called “Madhura Mridanga” which is 100% vegan, has superb sound quality, durable with half life of 20 years, weather-proof, painless to the hands, light weight and comes with 3 years warranty!

Visit: www.madhuramridanga.com  or  https://www.cteindia.org/madhura-mridanga-khol/


It’s a market-based economy!  The consumer is the king!  In our conditioning to “use and throw” things, mrdangas are no less.

In a small centre that I stayed in South India, I saw, we shifted to new mrdanga almost every six months.  Some got damaged while being transported from Mayapur and then were discarded.  Many got damaged due to negligence in their maintenance or rough handling.  Few got eaten by rats where we stored them.  The karma of every cow that was slaughtered for those mrdangas which were underused or misused or abused definitely shall hover us.

Each mrdanga that we handle, a cow has sacrificed her life for it.  We must stop using himsa mrdanga and on the other side, whatever is being used now, must be used with great care and attention.

Srila Prabhupada himself exemplified the care and respect he offered this expansion of Lord Balaram.

“A few weeks later the first mrdanga (a long clay drum with a playing head on each end) arrived in San Francisco from India. When I went up to Srila Prabhupada’s apartment and informed him, his eyes opened wide, and in an excited voice, he told me to go down quickly and open the crate. I took the elevator, got out on the ground floor, and was walking toward the front door when Srila Prabhupada appeared. So eager was he to see the mrdanga that he had taken the stairway and had beaten the elevator. He asked us to open the crate, he tore off a piece of the saffron cloth he was wearing, and, leaving only the playing heads exposed, he wrapped the drum with the cloth. Then he said, “This must never come off,” and he began giving detailed instructions on how to play and care for the instrument.”

Foreword by H.H.Mukunda Maharaj, Science of Self Realization

PRABHUPADA: Formerly, when I was in Radha-Damodara temple, there was a khol manufacturer here. Is he here still? He supplied me khol very nice, very big. This khol was taken to Germany or…

AKSAYANANDA: Yes. I think he’s just a repairman though.

PRABHUPADA: Whatever he may be. Yes. We must have very good khol. You have no good khol.

AKSAYANANDA: I had one under repair. I had two under repair with him. But he takes a long time. I am waiting now for repair.

PRABHUPADA: So you can call him.

AKSAYANANDA: Okay. You’d like to meet him?

PRABHUPADA: Yes. If the same man, then I can ask him to prepare some khol.

AKSAYANANDA: Ours get damaged.

HARI-SAURI: The shells or…?

AKSAYANANDA: They break them so easily. They cannot control them. The shell, the skin, anything, always break.

HARI-SAURI: You should make some padded covers for them.

PRABHUPADA: Who is doing that? Everyone is irresponsible.

AKSAYANANDA: Even with that, they break.

HARI-SAURI: But at least it helps the chances they’ll survive.

PRABHUPADA: The one thing is that they neglect that rings. That ring and the strap, if it is… That will never do. As soon as they khol, some rope, bas.

HARI-SAURI: Usually what breaks is that little leather loop, you know, the small loop on each end. That’s what usually breaks. If you want to…

PRABHUPADA: No, if you make it nicely with chain.

AKSAYANANDA: I have made it even nicely with a cord, with a ring, and the proper straps. But they put it like this and like this and they bang it the wrong way. This is my problem. I can’t stop it, no matter what we do.

HARI-SAURI: You just bring them out for arati and then have somebody take them back and they won’t get broken. Hamsaduta was doing that with his mrdangas.

AKSAYANANDA:I was also doing that.

HARI-SAURI: The mrdangas are in there all day long. Any karmi that comes in, they beat the drum and mess around. The little kids go in and they do the same thing. I’ve seen them. You should take them out of the temple. Let them be there for kirtana and then take them away and store them in your room. There’s no kartalas now either because everybody steals them.

PRABHUPADA: These two rooms can be used for keeping.

AKSAYANANDA:Kartalas are locked away every time and the drums were done…That was done until they were broken.

HARI-SAURI: Or you can just put them in that tourist room. Or in the pujari room.

AKSAYANANDA: Yeah, I’ll arrange for that.

PRABHUPADA: Everything depends on organized management. Give some…

Room Conversation, Nov 4, 1976, Vrindavana



Purifying our performance of sankirtana from violence is very much a need that we need to realise.  Srila Prabhupada calls it success!

SRILA PRABHUPADA: There is… And who is making khol?



BHARADVAJA: Oh, khol. Isana. Isana dasa.

SRILA PRABHUPADA: He’s doing nice?

BHARADVAJA: Yes. They are producing many, and they are very, very strong.


BHARADVAJA: They are very strong, and they sound good.

SATADHANYA: They say that you can throw them on the floor and they will not break.

BHARADVAJA: Made for Kali-yuga.

SRILA PRABHUPADA: How many khols he has already prepared?

BHARADVAJA: I don’t know exactly, but I think it was close to about two hundred when I left.

SRILA PRABHUPADA: Where he is making?

BHARADVAJA: Well, they are having most of the part done outside by outside people, professionals, and Isana is assembling, and he’s working very hard.

SRILA PRABHUPADA: It is plastic?

BHARADVAJA: Yes, Completely, everything. And it can be tuned also on the spot. There is a key, and with this key you can tune it up. The heads never break, but if they happen to break they can be immediately replaced within… They can get extra heads and it takes about two minutes to change, to put a new head on.


BHARADVAJA: So Isana has worked very hard to fulfill your order, SrilaPrabhupada.

SRILA PRABHUPADA: Now he’s successful.

Let us organize “ahimsa mrdanga” project to please Srila Prabhupada and become successful!

tathai tathai bajalo khol, ghana ghana tahe jhajera rol,preme dhala dhala sonara anga, carane nupura baje

The mrdangas resounded “tathai, tathai,” the cymbals chimed in time, and Lord Gauranga’s foot bells jingled as His golden form trembled slightly in ecstatic love of God.

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