Know your instruments: Nadaswaram – Divine, graceful

Nadaswaram is one of the most popular classical musical instruments of south India.

Nadaswaram is considered to be very auspicious, and it is a key musical instrument played in almost all Hindu weddings and temples of south India. It is part of the family of instruments known as a Mangala Vadyam.

Nadaswaram contains three parts: kuzhal, thimiru and anasu. Traditionally, the body of the instrument is made out of a tree called aacha although nowadays bamboo, sandalwood, copper, brass and ivory are also used.

The top portion has a metal staple (called mel anaichu) into which is inserted a small metallic cylinder (called kendai) which carries the mouthpiece made of reed.

Nadaswaram has a range of two-and-a-half octaves like the flute. Due to its intense volume and strength, it is basically an outdoor instrument and much more suited for open spaces than for closed indoor concert situations.

Nadaswaram vidwan T N Rajarathinam Pillai acted as a nadaswaram player in a wedding sequence in the film Miss Malini (1936), playing Todi and rendering a song in Rithigaula. In Kalamegham (1940), written by Bharathidasan and directed by Ellis Dungan, he acted as a nadaswaram playing hero.

Another leading nadaswaram vidwan, Namagiripettai Krishnan, played off screen, while the credit titles ran on the screen in the movie Town Bus (1955).

The song Singara Velane Deva in Konjum Salangai came in the combo of S Janaki’s voice and the nadaswaram rendition of Karukurichi Arunachalam.

No one can forget the blockbuster Thillana Mohanambal, a romantic story of a nadaswaram player, Sikkil Shanmukhasundaram with a Bharatanatyam dancer, Mohana, played by Sivaji Ganesan and Padmini. Popular nadaswaram duo M P N Sethuraman and M P N Ponnusamy from Madurai played for the film.



Thiruvavadudurai Rajarathinam Pillai
Dr Thiruvengadu Subramania Pillai
Thiruvizhimizhalai Subrahmanya Pillai
Thiruveezhimizhalai Brothers
Keeranur Brothers
Thiruvidaimaruthur P S Veerusami Pillai
Dharumapuram A Govindarajan
Namagiripettai Krishnan
Karukurichi Arunachalam
Sheik Chinna Moulana
Sheik Mahaboob Subhani
Sembanarkovil Brothers

NT Bureau