This time our destination was Tiruvarur to perform for the Trinity music festival, which again was held at the residence of Muthuswamy Dikshitar. We presented the compositions of Dikshitar on the occasion, after which we visited the well-known Tyagaraja temple.
Tiruvarur has a rich history for using rare musical instruments and it was no wonder when we saw the rare panchamukha vadyam, Bari nayanam and Kodukotti there. These instruments come under the category of the avanaddha vadyas. According to Professor P. Sambamurthy, Kidikatti or Kodukotti is an ancient instrument, which looks like a flower pot, is made out of the Jackfruit wood. It is narrow towards the bottom and both the faces are joined in the middle. The bigger one comes with the dimension of 1-12” in length and 8” in diameter, which is covered with the cow’s skin and it is about 8-10 inches in length and 6 in diameter for the smaller one, which is covered with either the cow’s skin or that of a goat. Both heads emanate different sounds.
Each face of the instrument is played in a different way. The bigger one is played with a stick slightly bent at the corner and the smaller instrument is played with a slender bamboo stick. Twigs of Tamarind trees are also used to play the instrument after processing it, which involves soaking the stick in water and drying it on fire. This instrument was once used as an accompaniment to the nagaswaram. During Tiruvarur Ther festival, it is played along with the Bari Nayanam. Appar has mentioned about this instrument in the Thevaram verses and it is said to be one among the 18 instruments that are played in temples.
Kodukotti has various descriptions and stands as a dance form performed by Lord Siva, an instrument or a kind of time measure. Navukkarasar has used the word Kodukotti to denote a percussion instrument when he says Kodukottaha Vantu and denotes a tala when he says Kodukottu Talam Udaiyar.
This instrument plays an important role in folk music and its related art forms such as Poi Kal Kudhirai dance, where this is played along with Urmi, another ancient instrument and by the tribal fortune teller (Boom Boom Mattukaaran). There are evidences that talk about the use of this instrument during one of the rituals performed in Villupuram.
Now playing this instrument in temples is fast disappearing so are the various art forms associated with this instrument. Efforts need to be taken to save this ancient art form from sinking into oblivion.
(The writers are eminent violinists)