Palakkad - the Thanjavur of Kerala

Palakkad, the granary of Kerala, like Thanjavur of Tamil Nadu, is a nerve centre of Carnatic music, particularly its 96 Agraharams, including Kalpathy.

A host of great musicians lived and inherited the musical tradition here. Some of the present-day Carnatic musicians of repute hail from here.

Chembai, a small, sleepy village at Kotai, 20 km from Palakkad town, is known throughout the country and abroad, as the birthplace of the renowned Chembai Vaidhyanatha Bhagavathar.

Chembai, as he was popularly known, had been the uncrowned monarch of Carnatic music for half a century. Till his death in 1974, he had been one of the shining stars of the music world.

Chembai took Carnatic music to dizzy heights, creating a niche for Palakkad and a new era in the field. He was a good violinist also. One of the great mridangam vidwans hailing from Palakkad was Chathapuram Subba Iyer (Palakkad Subba Iyer). He was the Guru of another maestro, Palakkad Mani Iyer.

Subba Iyer was well known to Carnatic music lovers as an unassuming, competent exponent, who, often, accompanied Palghat Rama Bhagavathar and Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar in their concerts.

Palakkad Mani Iyer, the mystique mridangan artiste, was born in September 1912 at Tiruvilwamala. He initially learned from Chathapuram Subba Iyer. The twin planks on which Mani Iyer based his new mode of playing were first the manner of playing for the Kritis and then the "Thaniaavarthanam" (solo playing). No wonder, Mani Iyer was much sought after by great vocalists till he announced his retirement from the concert scene in the mid-1980s.

Another well-known musician was C.S. Krishna Iyer of Kalpathy. He received the Central and State Sangeet Nataka Akademi awards in 1994 for his contributions to Carantic vocal music.

There is a long list of musicians produced by Palakkad: Manjappara M.D. Ramanathan, M.A. Kalyanakrishna Bhagavathar, and Mukkai Sivaramakrishna Bhagavathar.

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