Thursday, 24 August 2017

News Today 24th Aug 2017

Plea to save rare temple musical instruments

Chennai: What kept ringing in one’s ears after a lecture by violin duo M Lalitha and M Nandini as part of the Chennai Maadham Festival organised by the Chennai 2000 Plus Trust here on Wednesday was their plaintive cry to save rare musical instruments used in temples.
The siblings, well-known violinists in music circles, had been granted a project by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, to do research on rare and vanishing instruments. Though that was just a year’s project, once they started on the mission, they could not put the brakes on their enthusiasm.
“We started out on the government project but later found that there was so much more to do. So, we are continuing the research out of our own passion. Now, every time we visit a temple, instead of heading for the sanctum sanctorum our eyes seek out the musical instrument player to get some information about the instrument and its history,” laughs Lalitha.
The audio-visual PowerPoint presentation at Tamil Valagam brought to light the importance of music in temple worship. “In fact, the rituals in a temple are believed to be incomplete without the accompaniment of a musical instrument,” explains Nandini.
They dealt with four kinds of instruments – stringed, wind, percussion and ones that are metallic and need to be struck – like the cymbals.
There were interesting names like Ekkalam, Bari Mani, Kidikatti, Makudam, Gettuvadhyam, Davandai, Brahma Talam, Damaram, Danga, Nagar, Tutti, Tiruchinnam and many more.
According to the sisters, they found during their research that covered almost 250 temple instruments, it is possible to save some instruments as they are still played during rituals. In other temples they are there but there is no one to play them as the skill has not been passed on to the next generation. In some other temples, there are no instruments and the ones that are available have to be repaired. The sad part is nobody knows how to do it.
The researchers also found private trusts taking an interest to preserve some instruments, as in the case of Srirangam where a business family ensures that all the rare instruments are played regularly during rituals.
Their plea is for the government to take steps to save the surviving instruments and ensure they are taken to the coming generations.

Some of the rare instruments mentioned by Lalitha and Nandini make for interesting read:
Ekkalam: Wind instrument. Though made of copper, Srirangam temple has twin Ekkalams made of silver. It is still played in Thanjavur Big Temple.
Bari Mani: Two bells attached to two ends of a pole. The walking rhythm of the person carrying it, creates the musical sound.
Tutti: Tamilnadu’s answer to the bagpipe. But there is none to play it now.
Thudumbu: A percussion instrument peculiar to the Coimbatore belt.
Danga: A couple of percussion instruments tied to either side of a horse. This is still played in Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal temple on special occasions.

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