The playing technique is complex and involves extensive use of the fingers and palms in various configurations to create a wide variety of different sounds and rhythms, reflected in mnemonic syllables (bol).
In the Hindustani style tabla is played in two ways: band bol and khula bol.
The baya tabla is a bit bigger and deep kettledrum shaped, about 20 centimetres (~8 in) in diameter and 25 centimetres (~10 in) in height.
Each is made of hollowed out wood or clay or brass, the daya drum laced with hoops, thongs and wooden dowels on its sides.
Various Hindu and Jain temples, such as the Eklingaji in Jaipur, Rajasthan show stone carvings of a person playing tabla-like small pair of drums.
Small drums were popular during the Yadava rule (1210 to 1247) in the south, at the time when Sangita Ratnakara was written by Sarangadeva.
However, the ultimate origin of the musical instrument is contested by scholars, some tracing it to West Asia, others tracing it to the evolution of indigenous musical instruments of the Indian subcontinent.
This version states that this musical instrument acquired a new Arabic name during the Islamic rule, but it is an evolution of the ancient Indian puskara drums.
In the sense of classical music it is termed "tali" and "khali".
It is one of the main qawali instrument used by Sufi musicians of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.
There are Hindu temple carvings of double hand drums resembling the tabla that date back to 500 BCE.
The tabla uses a "complex finger tip and hand percussive" technique played from the top unlike the Pakhawaj and mridangam which mainly use the full palm, and are sideways in motion and are more limited in terms of sound complexity.