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Safeguarding a legacy

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Sole practitioner: P.K. Gopala Vadhyar practises the Thanjavur tradition of Sama Vedic chanting.
Sole practitioner: P.K. Gopala Vadhyar practises the Thanjavur tradition of Sama Vedic chanting.

G.S. PAUL

P.K. Gopala Vadhyar’s chanting of Sama Veda was documented by Puducode Kendra of Bharatha Vidya Bhavan and presented to the National Archives.

P.K. Gopala Vadhyar of Puducode village, Palakkad district, is the lone repository of the Thanjavur tradition of Sama Vedic chanting that is noted for its purity and antiquity. His chanting of Sama Veda was documented by Puducode Kendra of Bharatha Vidya Bhavan recently and presented to the National Archives.

Of the myriad ‘sakhas’ (branches) of rendition extant throughout the country in the past, only Ranayana, Jaimini and Kuthuma are in vogue today. Ranayana is practised by Brahmins who live around the area between Mangalore and Bombay. Jaimini is the one practised by Namboodiris of Kerala. Kuthuma was followed by Brahmins settled in Thanjavur until 400 years ago when that area was occupied by the Maratha kings. Under their rule, a novel style known as Ramanna paadhom evolved.

Kuthuma School

Surprisingly, the Kuthuma School that disappeared in Thanjavur surfaced in Kerala. The ruler of Palakkad was instrumental for this. He invited Brahmins from Thanjavur to perform certain religious rites. Puducode, with the famous Annapurneswari Temple at its heart, turned out to be a significant settlement. The Brahmins brought along with them the rich Kuthuma tradition that flourished here.

The credit for ferreting out the Puducode School goes to L.S. Rajagopal of Thrissur who has done extensive research in the varied styles of Saman chanting.

Rajagopal was surprised to see that the ‘Saman chants’ published by American scholar Wayne Howard did not contain the Puducode style of rendition. On examining the recording of Gopal Vadhyar sent by Rajagopal, Howard was surprised to realise its uniqueness. He, along with Rajagopal, published two research papers in the journal of Indian Musicological Society and invited the world’s attention to the Vedic scholars of Puducode. Puducode thus became the cynosure of all eyes in the realm of Vedic tradition.

Said Gopal Vadhyar: “So far we could record only 10 hours of chanting that included Navagrahasamani, Punyahasamani, Purushasuktham, Rudrasamani, Chamakasamani, Udakashanti, Abhisravanam, Pratisarasamani, Agneyam, Bahuswami, Ekaswami and Bruhati.”

Gopala Vadhyar has been practising Saman chanting, which he learnt from his father, Ramachandra Vadhyar, from the age of 15.


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