Watch video: A. Sangeetha and A. Srimathi play the mridangam at the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam in Tamil Nadu's Kanchipuram district

The mridangam is a barrel-shaped, double-headed drum with one head larger than the other, used in Carnatic (south Indian) music.

Not often do you see women playing the mridangam , but at Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam in rural Tamil Nadu, two 14-year-old girls play it with ease and elan. A. Sangeetha takes the lead and A. Srimathi follows with equal skill.

The Gurukulam is a residential school in Punjarasantangal village of Kanchipuram district. Here, students are trained in Kattaikkuttu, a rural theatre form practiced in the state, along with a regular school education up to Class 12. In addition to Kattaikkuttu singing, acting and make-up, all the students learn to play an instrument.

Namita Waikar is a writer, translator, and the managing editor of PARI. She is a partner in a chemistry databases firm, and has worked as a biochemist and a software project manager.

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