Friday, 16 February 2018



A musical instrument that heralds festivals

M. Lalitha and M. NandiniJANUARY 25, 2018

The Gowri kalam or kalai is blown to announce auspicious occasions

One of our favourite destinations is the temple town of Kanchipuram. On one of our visits,, we witnessed the pujas being performed at the Kanchi Math. Our attention was caught by the silver-coloured musical instrument called Gowri Kalam.

It belongs to the category of aerophones or wind instruments, which are further classified into Woodwind and Brass (the classification is not based on the materials that they are made of). Brass instruments are often made of silver, horn, ivory, copper and even wood. Gowri kalam comes under the sub category of Brass instruments.
It resembles a trumpet and is a long, straight, conical instrument made of silver. Certain blown instruments produce melody, while some of them are blown just to announce a particular event and gowri kalam belongs to the latter variety.

For religious ceremonies

The instrument is divided into 2 parts of 3 feet each joined together, thus becoming 6 feet. The upper portion is known as the ‘mel pakkam’ while the lower is called ‘keezh pakkam’. Sometimes this instrument is also made of brass or copper. There is a disc-shaped bell and an integrated mouth piece. Gowri kalam is mainly used in temple processions and religious ceremonies.
This instrument is special to the Kanchi Kamakoti Math, where this is blown in the Math during Deeparadani which is done for the 3 kalams. Many instruments join the periyavas when they go out on camps to various places and gowri kalam is one among them. It is blown (as an alert) whenever he goes out and comes back to the Math and is locally known as an ‘echarikai vadyam.’ The sound can be heard for about 3 km.
In Kanchi Varadar temple, which is one of the most significant holy places for the Vaishnavas, this instrument is referred to as the gowri kalai.
At the Varadar temple, this instrument is of silver and is around 4 and a half to 5 feet long. It is blown by two performers during main utsavams such as Sattrumurai for Manavalamamuni, Desigar, Udayavar or Ramanuja and Perialwar.
Aani Swathi Periazhwar’s Tirunakshatram is celebrated with grandeur at Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal koil. Gowri kalai is played before the purappadu of Lord Varadaraja, who will be on garuda vahanam, and during the procession.
During Chitirai Tiruvadirai for Udayavar sattrumurai, gowri kalam is blown for Madiyadai for Udayavar in the evenings. It is blown when Jeeyar comes and also when he receives the satari.
The writers are well known Carnatic musicians

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