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Preservation of

Temple Musical Traditions

Further Details


Prastara's initiatives are divided into three main verticals: Projects, Outreach, and Events.

With Projects, the work involves documentation and preservation of intangible and tangible cultural heritage using various mediums. Outreach activities are targeted at educational institutions, where the aim is to provide the students with education on history and heritage through field-trips, lectures, workshops, and talks; and the general public through heritage walks. Through Events, we look at engaging the general public on a larger scale to create awareness on specific themes.

  • Reviving and Restoring Musical Traditions in the Temples of Tamilnadu - An Intangible Heritage Preservation Project
    We at Prastara, started to raise funds for the temple musicians including Nadaswaram, Tavil players and Odhuvars during the global COVID pandemic in the year 2020-2021. To ensure sustainability and livelihood of these artists, Prastara started to work towards appointing these musicians in the temples of Tamilnadu starting from April 2021. Many ancient temples in Tamilnadu built in the times of Pallavas, Cholas & Pandyas had historically been the epicenter of music, dance , and drama as part of their daily rituals and festival times. The Agamic texts codify the importance of dance and music in rituals and these artists were appointed by kings and patronized by them. These traditions are slowly becoming obsolete due to many reasons. Prastara is tirelessly working towards reviving and restoring these traditions in temples by appointing artistes in these temples. Their monthly remuneration is paid by Prastara. As of 1st August 2023, Prastara has appointed musicians in seven temples across Tamilnadu. To know more and support our initiative, please click here. Learn about Araiyar Sevai, a temple musical tradition in temples of Tamilnadu.
  • Cave Temples of South India
    Development of early south Indian Art and Architecture can be studied through the cave temples and the cultures surrounding the temples. The documentation of the flourish of Jainism can be clearly seen through the depiction in these cave temples. This project documented the confluence of different cultures, the evolution of temple architecture and agamic scriptures through video and photo mediums.
  • Nagaswaram and Tavil Traditions of South India
    In South Indian musical traditions, Nagaswaram, reed wind instrument and Tavil, double headed percussion instrument, are considered the Raja Vadya i.e. the King of instruments from the ancient times. Historically associated with Temple rituals and festivals, they are also considered auspicious and sacred and hence played in public ceremonies. The repertoires are widely reputed for their profound musicality and intricate rhythmic patterns. This project will intensively document various paddhatis of Nagaswaram and Tavil through South India and Sri Lanka. See the first video documentary here
  • Kumbakonam Revisited
    Kumbakonam Revisited focuses on marking and documenting historically significant sites and practices through the ages, in this region. This cultural mapping project will document the history of built heritage and the traditions practiced around it, to capture the imprints of various dynasties. This project will release short video documentaries on each of the selected site and important personnels involved in the development to this region.
  • Agraharams of Tamil Nadu
    Amongst the many architectural idiosyncrasies in South India are Agraharams situated in Tamil Nadu. The settlement of the Brahmin community usually around the temple premises has a distinct architecture and spatial organization. This project will trace the antiquity of agraharams in Tamil Nadu and their influences in cultural history. This project also aims to restore the agraharams and maintain its significance in South Indian cultural history.
  • Fundraising to Support Temple Musicians
    The current global uncertainty is having a ripple effect in all our lives. We are all collectively going through an unprecedented crisis. As with every other field, the musicians, specifically Nadaswaram, Thavil artistes, and Odhuvars who are associated with various temples in South India are facing huge difficulties to make their ends meet. They rely on income from the temples and their meagre salaries (ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000 per month),do not provide them with opportunities for savings. Due to the lockdown across the country, their other sources of income, which comes from performing in weddings and other public events, have also dried up. We have been identifying and collating the details of these temple artistes across various temples in Tamil Nadu. We seeks support from art connoisseurs, art patrons and the public to help these artistes tide through these difficult times. To contribute: Prastara Charitable Trust State Bank of India Adyar SME Branch, Chennai Current A/c No. 33646223076 IFSC Code : SBIN0013361
  • Educational Field Trips
    Our first initiative to conduct field trips for educational institutions for free of cost, started with Swetharanya Swami Devasthanam Girls High School, Thiruvengadu in Tamil Nadu during March 2011. Since then Prastara has conducted field trips for about 2000 students in various government schools and colleges.
  • Heritage Walks
    From the old-world charm of Triplicane, to exploring the ancient learning centre of Thiruvotriyur, from the stories and sculptures at Egmore museum to solving the puzzles of Pallavas in Mamallapuram. We have been reaching out to about 1000 heritage enthusiasts in Chennai, Thanjavur, Pondicherry, etc over the years. Some of these were conducted in collaboration with various reputed organisations like Sahapedia (2018-2019), INTACH Pondicherry (2013), INTACH Thanjavur (2012) to name a few.
  • Talks and Workshops in Educational Institutions
    To engage with the students at schools, we have been conducting talks and workshops with two main objectives. One, to make them aware and undrestand the local history and heitage and two, to showacse the diverse culture beyond their local boundaries. We have used the mediums of story-telling, movie screening, painting and pottery workshops to educate on diverse topics ranging from flora & fauna to craft making.
  • Cauvery Clean-Up Campaign
    Prastara, in collaboration with Festival of Sacred Music, Tiruvaiyaru curated and conducted by Prakriti Foundation, undertook th Cauvery Clean-Up campaign from 2014 to 2017. The campaign was developed as a community exercise, involving students from various schools and colleges. Spanning over three days, the initiative also involved a heritage walk for the students. In the 4 years of the initiative, we have had around 2500 students participate. The objective with this campaign was to inculcate in the people, a sense of ownership for their place.
  • Learning Mathematics through Lucid Verses - Talk by Prof. K. Ramasubramanian
    Prof. K. Ramasubramanian of IIT Bombay presented a talk titled ‘Learning Mathematics through Lucid Verses’ on 14th July 2018 at Tattvaloka Auditorium in Chennai. His talk covered India’s rich mathematical heritage which runs back to several millennia. He provided a glimpse of the origin and development of mathematics in India, starting from the emergence of counting to the discovery of the fundamentals of infinitesimal calculus in Kerala around the 14th century. He spoke about the tradition of transmission of knowledge from one generation to the other. He focussed on the knowledge systems that have been couched in the form of metrical verses, since it would be far easier to commit poetry to memory than prose. You can view the entire talk here.
  • Immortal Poetry in Stone – Lecture by Dr. R. Nagaswamy
    Prastara had the opportunity to video document a lecture by Padma Bhushan Dr. R. Nagaswamy titled "Immortal Poetry in Stone' as part of his Tamil Arts Academy Lecture Series. This lecture took place in 2018 and can be viewed here.
  • Contributions of the Cholas to South India – Lecture by Dr. Chitra Madhavan
    One of the very first lectures conducted by Prastara was delivered by Dr. Chitra Madhavan on the Contributions of the Cholas to South India. The lecture, which took place in Chennai in 2014, covered the contributions of the Cholas to temple art, architecture, irrigation, literature, religion,philosophy and many other spheres.
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