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Preservation of Temple Musical Traditions

Updated: May 14, 2021

The entire country has been facing the brunt of the second wave of the pandemic. This time around, the wave is nothing less than a tsunami and it is our duty to ensure that we all follow the protocols to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We shouldn’t think twice to get vaccinated as it is the only way to fight against this virus.


The art and culture sector has been hit just like every other. Over the last year, we have been constantly speaking with artistes and artisans and trying our best to provide support to them to face challenging times.


In our attempt to keep preservation at the core, we decided to look at a model supporting the donation drive we did last year. While ad-hoc financial support provides immediate relief, long-term sustainability is challenging. Keeping this in mind, since the Tamil New Year last month, we have appointed two musicians (a Nadaswaram and Tavil artiste) in a Sivan Temple at Segal Madappuram which comes in the Thiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu. Their monthly remuneration is being provided by Prastara. This is our first step into this model, and with the support of our well-wishers and patrons, we are also looking at replicating this model not just across various temples in Tamil Nadu but also appointing Odhuvars in temples that have none.


As you may be aware, music has been an integral part of temple rituals for many centuries. It is part of the day-to-day activities. Nadaswaram and Tavil are known as the Mangala Vadhyam and Raja Vadhayam. It is no surprise that the temples of Tamil Nadu, they are considered to be the most important aspect of daily rituals.


Sustaining Temple Musical Traditions - Nadaswaram Artiste

The agamic and other ritual texts speak in detail about the musical offerings to be made in temples. The ragas to be played during each part of the day are also codified. Many temples do have a unique musical tradition played by the artistes in the temples.


We also come across many musical compositions that are meant for Nadaswaram and Tavil. Mallari, Rakthi, Odakooru are some of the compositions that are exclusive to Nadaswaram and Tavil.


Mallari is a unique composition and there are many types of this composition. Thaligai Mallari is played when the food from the temple kitchen is brought to the sanctum for offering, Ther Mallari is played when the processional metal image of the deity is taken on the chariot.


Such exquisite compositions and traditions were preserved by the musicians at the temples and these compositions were being played on a daily basis and during the temple festivals. These musicians were patronized by the temples and were the employees of the temple.

These traditions, which are centuries old, have changed drastically in the last six to seven decades. Reasons for this change are many; ranging from macro-environmental to socio-cultural, resulting in many traditions of the temples being forgotten. Economics has played a huge role in this change and though many temples have every intention of continuing these traditions, lack of funds becomes the sole deterrent.


At Prastara, our attempt at preserving these traditions go hand-in-hand with supporting and enhancing the ecosystem within which these traditions can thrive. Traditions are very much part of the culture we create, hence seeing them in isolation does not help in creating long-term sustainability.


We pray that the almighty guide us in our endeavors.


Written by

S Jayakumar

(Founder Trustee)


If you wish to support us in our initiative, you can reach out to us at jayakumar@prastara.in or +91 9884013485. Donations can be sent through bank transfer to the below account: Prastara Charitable Trust  | State Bank of India | Adyar SME Branch, Chennai Current A/c No. 33646223076 IFSC Code: SBIN0013361.

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