With the disintegration of feudalism, Carnatic music, once confined to the precincts of temples and royal durbar halls, stepped out and started filling concert halls.
While some music forms such as Mallari, inextricably linked with the rituals of temples and festivals, are still in vogue, others such as Odam, Yecharikkai and Odakkuru have more or less disappeared.
“Odam is composed for the purpose of the float festival of both Shaivite and Vaishnavite temples while Odakkuru is performed only in Shiva temples,” said nagaswaram player Achalpuram Chinnathambia Pillai, an expert in traditional temple music forms.
Odam is normally played in a combination of Punnagavarali and Abheri ragas. It continues to be played at the Triplicane Parthasarathy temple even today.
“We start with Punnagavarali set to khanda gati and switch to Abheri. Then we change to tisra nadai before returning to Punnagavarali. The pace of playing is increased after every round,” said nagaswaram player Injikudi E.M. Subramaniam.
Odakkuru, a corruption of Udarkuru (human body), is rendered on the day of the Pitchandavar festival, especially at the Chidambaram Nataraja temple.
“Set to Nadanamakriya, the music explains the meaninglessness of the human body,” said musicologist B.M. Sundaram.
Yecharikkai is also played in Vishnu temples when the deity is taken inside the sanctorum after the procession. In earlier times, the devadasis of the temple would perform the ritual of warding off the evil eye after which the nagaswaram player would play this musical form.
“Yecharikkai is played in Saveri set to tisra nadai,” said Mr. Subramaniam. Mr. Chinnathambia Pillai said it could also be played in Yadukula Kambhoji and Ahiri.
“There is also the kathavadippu paatu in Neelambari after placing the deity in a special room (palliarai). But in many temples, these rituals are no longer followed,” said Mr. Subramaniam.