The literal meaning of kartal is the palm of the hand. Kartal is pronounced as kartaal combining kar meaning hand and taali which refers to clapping of the hands while singing.
In Sikhism the word kartal is used to mean a kind percussion rhythm instrument having pairs of jingling metal disks, or cymbals. A kartal is played in the manner of a tambourine by being struck or shaken against the palm of the hand.
The frame of the kartal is commonly carved from wood. Pairs of metal desks are inset in rows similarly to those of a tambourine. Some kartal are fashioned in pairs to be held in each hand and clapped together. Another kind of kartal resembles two swords joined at the base in the manner of tweezers. The outer part of the swords are set with metal disks. The inner part of the two swords are shaken or clapped together from the open end to produce sound.