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Cancer Posts : 79
Join date : 2010-11-22
Age : 44
Location : Chennai, India

PostSubject: More on Tamil Music   Wed Dec 01, 2010 2:05 am


Music had attained a very high status during this period. One of the works, Nanmanikkadigai talks of the importance of the proper setting of Pann for the musical composition.

There is a particular reference in Tirikadugam that a person who does not know about Pann cannot appreciate Yazh. In fact, the reference quotes that there is no point in listening to yazh when one does not know anything about Pann. A reference in Sirupanchamulam says that Pannisai must sound good and people should acknowledge it. Pann sounds beautiful to the ear and that too when sung by ladies, it sounds better. Thus there is a reference where ladies have been likened to Panns in the work, Eladi. There are many references to different Panns in the work, Tinaimalai. The sound emanating from the bees when they sit on flowers is equated to Sadari Pann. The sound of bee approaching a Jasmine flower makes a sound of joy and this sound is likened to Pann, Gandharam. There are also references to Panns like Sevvazhi, Vilari and Palai in this work. There are very few references to the instruments in this work. There are references to yazh and comparison of yazh with an infant’s voice. There are references to Sevvazhiyazh, Makkolyazh, Vilariyazh, and Palaiyazh and so on in Tinaimalai. It is also mentioned that the yazh was played in the morning and evening and that the Panns played were different. There are references to flute (Tinkuzhal) in Aintinai. It is also mentioned that yazh, Kuzhal and Muzhavu were played together. There are many references that talks about the melody of flute and its comparison to bees’ humming tone.

Among the percussion instruments, the Parai seems to have been very popular. It was used for conveying messages to the people. The Parai had a loud sound and this was considered to be very auspicious. The Sapparai, presently called “Uzhundangottu” was used for during death ceremonies. The Murasu, which was used predominantly in the battlefield, occupied a very respectable status. The sound of Murasu is compared to the sound of the waterfalls. The book, Kalavazhi narpadu, hails Murasu as Olimurasu, Mamurasu and Idimurasu. Kalavazhi Narpadu refers to Muzha, which was also considered to be an important instrument. It is mentioned that this instrument was tuned to a particular pitch. The Muzhavu did not have a loud vibrating sound. Tudi was another instrument that was similar to the present day Udukkai. This was supposed to have 2 sides but only the right side was used and played upon. Among the musician, only the Panars have been mentioned often. It is mentioned that they sang and played Sevvazhi, Vilari and Palai Panns. The Panars also acted as messengers between the hero, who had an affair with another lady and the heroine.


This is the foremost of Tamil works, which has a wealth of information on music and dance that prevailed during that period. This was written by Ilango somewhere about the first half of 2nd century AD. This book has 6 chapters on music – Arangetru Kadai, Kanal Vari, Venir Kadai, Vettuvavari, Kunrakuravai and Aychiyarkuravai. The 2 commentaries on Silappadikaram, that of Adiyarkkunallar and Arumpadavurai, give a lot of information on music, dance and literature contained in this book.

The king, Senguttuvan, seems to have been a great patron of music and dance. Recreation in turns of feasts, festivals, music and dance had no dearth. The men and women folk seemed to have taken part without inhibition.

The ancient Tamils recognized and used the scheme of 22 srutis. The terms alagu and mattirai were used as equivalents to srutis. Adiyarkunallar, in his commentary to the Aychiyarkkuravai, the 7th Canto of Silappadikaram gives the number of Srutis and how they were allotted among 7 swaras. The Pann thus arranged was Sempalai. The ancient Tamils also knew how to derive new Panns by the process of modal shift of tonic and by the process of reallocating the srutis of the swaras. An example of this can be seen in Arangetrukadai, where the basic arrangement of 22 srutis under 7 swaras of Pann Mercharupalai was changed, a new Pann was derived.

The 7 swaras were called “Narambu” or by names, Kural, Tuttam, Kaikilai, Uzhai, Ili, Vilari and Taram. There are illustrations where the 7 notes are equated to Krishna, Balarama, Nappinai and so on and also to the Constellations, Taurus, Pisces etc, in the system of Vattapalai. The concept of modern Samvaditva has also been mentioned as Kural-Ili relationship where the intervals between the 2 notes are mentioned to be eight steps of swarasthanas and 13 srutis. The scheme of 7 major modes and this enlarging in to the scheme of 103 Panns is also mentioned. There is a reference to the concepts of Vadi, Samvadi, Anuvadi and Vivadi in Venirkadai. It is mentioned that Madhavi played on yazh paying attention to Inai, Kilai, Pagai and Natpu (which are Tamil words for Vadi, etc). There are references to how a Pann should be sung with proper articulation of sound and modulating the voice in different ways, which have been specified. The four different ways by which ancient Tamils derived and arranged their musical scales is given as Vattapalai, Chaturapalai, Trigonapalai and Ayapalai. From Ayapalai, 14 palais have been derived, while 7 “Perumpanns” or major Panns and five minor Panns (Sirupalai) have been derived. The Suddha scale of ancient Tamils was known as Sempalai or Vattapalai and this approximates to the present day Harikamboji mela. In the evolution of notes, Taram (Nishadam) was supposed to have originated first and a reference to this found in Arangetrukadai. The pann was further divided into Tirams (Janya ragas). A Raga having less than 7 swaras was called Tiram. A Pann is equated to a Sampurna raga as Tirattiram. Of the five major Panns Kurinji, Mullai, Palai, Marudam and Neidal, four were called “Perum Panns” and Neidal Pann was called Tiranil yazh because it had no derivative Panns and Tirams to its credit. The classification of Panns in to four Jatis, Ahanilai, Puranilai, Arugiyal and Perungiyal, has been suggested in the Venir Kadai of Silappadikaram. There is a reference to Madhavi playing Sagodayazh with 14 strings. Tala was then known as Seer, Pani and Thooku. There is a mention in Arangetrukadai of the yazh, Kuzhal and drummer being played to Tala. According to Adiyarkkunallar, Seer or Pani is a combination of 4 Angas, Kottu, Asai, Tukku & Alavu.


KOTTU – The beating of the one hand by the other. Has half the value of Matra.

ASAI - Raising or waving the hand after the beat value is one Matra.

TUKKU – Both beat and the wave together. Has 2 matras.

ALAVU - waiting for 3 matras after beat. Has 3 matras.

According to the commentator, Pani refers to different Talas like Pancha talas, Sixteen Talas, Forty-one Tala and the eleven talas. These Talas are said to belong to Ahakuttu. There is a reference to Madhavi dancing to Maltatala and ending in Eka tala, in Arangetrukadai. The word Tukku is said to be of 7 kinds, Sendukku, Madalitukku, Tunibutukku, Koyirtukku, Nivapputukku, Azhagitukku and Neduntukku. Tukku is also a variety of time measures consisting of two matras. The tempo of a song was known by the name miporul. It was also known as Iyakkam (present day Nadai). This is said to be of 4 kinds, Mudalnadai, Varam, Kudai and Tiral. Of these, Mudalnadai is slow tempo and is equivalent to Vilambita laya. Varnam is medium tempo and Madhya laya. Kudai is fast tempo and corresponds to Druta laya, which enhances the beauty of sahitya. The last, Tiral, means very fast tempo.

Courtesy :

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