The discussion on ‘Pallavi and its Norms’ was helmed by well-known musicologist B.M. Sundaram, with valuable inputs from a panel of eminent musicians – P.S. Narayanaswami, R. Vedavalli, B. Krishnamurthy and Chengalpet Ranganathan Among the issues discussed were the following.

Definition of pallavi: Pallavi, best described as the acme of manodharma sangeetham, is an amalgam of pada, laya and vinyasam.

Origin and evolution: Pallavi’s origins are rooted in the Melam tradition perpetuated by nagaswaram and thavil vidwans, wherein, as per the paddhathi, specific ragas and musical forms were prescribed for each day of the temple utsavams. Under royal patronage, pallavi skills were regarded as the measure of a musician’s vidwat, with kings and zamindars encouraging samasthana vidwans to participate in pallavi competitions and display their expertise. Subsequently, pallavis became part of kutcheri repertoire. Thus did the pallavi find its way from temple processions to the proscenium.

Luminaries who contributed to pallavi evolution: Among the earliest exponents, Ammachatram Kannusami Pillai and Mamundiya Pillai were revered pioneers, followed by Pallavi Doraisami Iyer, Pallavi Gopala Iyer and Pallavi Sesha Iyer to name just a few. Chinglepet Ranganathan particularly credited violin maestro Lalgudi G. Jayaraman with introducing the chatusra tisram concept, which he demonstrated to Alathur Subba Iyer before their concert, the latter vidwan being so impressed that he incorporated it in his programme.

Ideal sahitya structure: Economy in sahitya is advisable - few words, adequately spaced, avoiding clutter. Only when such intervening spaces are present between sahitya syllables can there be room to fill these spaces with music, to explore and establish raga bhava. Often, the pallavi of a kriti is adopted as sahitya.

Into how many parts is a pallavi divided? Two sections – ‘Purvangam’ and ‘Uttarangam’, the dividing mark being the ‘Padagarbham’ or ‘Arudhi.’

On which beat of the tala should the ‘arudhi’ land? The unanimous opinion was in favour of arudhi landing on the thattu (beat) for aesthetic considerations as well as for convenience, irrespective of eduppu (starting point). However, as pallavi is a purely creative exercise, it is not governed by rigid rules or shastras. Therefore, its structure cannot be regimented. Yet, the best path to follow would be that defined by the wisdom of the greats.

Significance and types of tanam: Tanam is a unique feature of veena vocabulary, adopted as a prelude to pallavi, by vocalists and other instrumentalists. It provides a predominantly madhyama kala foil to the pallavi which can assume different kalas. Ideally, the syllables ‘Anantham Aanandam’ should be articulated during tanam elaboration and mridangam accompaniment is an option, best left to the artist’s discretion.

Citing stalwarts, B.M. Sundaram stressed that pallavi should be handled not merely as an intellectual exercise but should transcend laya ‘vishayam’ and ‘vishamam’ to merge with melody and touch the heart.