Thrissur Pooram attracts Panchavadyam and Pandimelam fans from far and wide.

‘Madathil Varavu' ceremony by the Thiruvambady contingent features Pachavadyam. Master thimila player Annamanada Parameswara Marar has been at the helm of the Madathil Varavu Panchavadyam for long.

The thimila enjoys pride of place in Panchavadyam, an ensemble of five instruments. The other instruments in it are maddalam, kombu, kuzhal and ilathalam. The warming-up session comprises thalavattam by thimila players.

Seventeen players each of thimila, kombu and ilathalam, 10 maddalam players and four idakka players stand in two sections at the head of the procession. Panchavadyam begins as the thimila pramani (leader) strikes the first beat. Then, the pramani and the thimila player standing next to him set the time. It is called Kaalam Nirathal.

Once the tempo is set, the artiste standing on the other side of the Pramani starts thalavattam. This is taken up and completed by both sections of thimila. After one or two kalashams, the procession moves forward. At Naduvilal Pandal, the idakalam gives way to murukiya idakalam.

Next comes pathinja thriputa. As it proceeds to the second thriputa, the procession, now with 15 elephants, would have reached Naikanal.

Here, Panchavadyam concludes with the thimila idachil. Only the thimila and thalam are sounded.

Panchavadyam artistes will hand over the baton to a band of artistes led by Kizhakoottu Aniyan Marar. When a procession including the Pandimelam reaches the Sree Moola Sthanam, the music reaches a crescendo.

The musical show by the Paramekkavu contingent begins inside the temple at 11 a.m. with Paani. Melam in chempada tala with 16 aksharakaalam follows. The chempada ends with an eight- aksharakala kalasham. Later, Pandimelam begins with kuttipperukkal, the warming-up session.

It begins at a slow pace, vilamba kaalam with 14- aksharakaalam.

All eyes will be glued to the commanding presence of Peruvanam Kuttan Marar, the leader of the group.

The front row of Idanthala chendas will have 15 artistes and behind them go the rest, 90 valanthala chendas for ottathaalam. In other Poorams, there are only 45. The proportion is 1:3. Similarly for kombu, kuzhal and ilathaalam too, the number of artistes featured at Thrissur Pooram is higher than that at other Poorams. Till the team reaches Ilanjithara in a procession, the Melam continues to be in a slow pace, the kalashams interspersed with alternate kombu and kuzhal to accentuate the resonance of the percussion.

Ilanjithala Melam derives its name from the Ilanji tree under which the Melam is performed. In the place of the grand old tree that fell a few years ago now stands a sapling that presides over the function. Here, the Melam progresses to “ thurannu pidikkal”, in which the tempo is faster. This is gradually taken over by the “ adichu kalasham” or eduthu kalasham where after each kalasham the closed syllable is silenced.

A variation called “ thakruthakrutha” follows. This is prolonged to accommodate more kalashams as per the discretion of the Pramani.

The next pace is i dakalam. The first stage of idakalam will have the thakruthakrutha in its kalasham and the second phase will have urulakol in ekatalam. This stage is also called muttinmel chenda kayatiya kalam since the artist bends forward to the chenda.

There is a turn as the urulakol disappears and it is a seven- aksharakalam beat. Then, the leader signals for the faster kuzhanjumarinja ghattam, the last stage of Pandimelam. Ilanjithala Melam ends with theerukalasham.

Later, Pancharimelam leads the procession of the deity to the southern gate for the Kudamattam ceremony.

K.P. Uma

Thrissur Pooram presents the quintessential PandiMelam and Panchavadyam.