Panchavadyam comes from Gods own country,Kerala,the land of beaches and coconut trees.Panchavadyam means five instruments of music which is a Kerala temple art form.The five instruments are:
While the first four are percussion instruments,the last one Kombu is a wind instrument.
The word Timila is considered to have evolved out of the word timi (fish). Hence Timila body structure resembles that of a fish.It is a glass shaped percussion instrument made of polished jackwood with length of 2 feet and diameter of 5 inches at the mouth. It is suspended on the shoulder and playing is done with both palms. Only one side of the Timila is played. The most peculiar aspect of Timila is that both palms are used equally to play it and individual fingers are not used at all.
This is a drum made out of jackfruit tree played on both sides-the right side supposed to resemble Shiva and the left side Parvati respectively. Hence it is called Devavaadyam as it is associated with the cosmic dance of Shiva.The shape of Maddalam is just like that of a Mridangam. It is tied round the waist for playing and kept in horizontal position and played with both hands.
This is a mettalic instrument resembling cymbals made of bronze and used in pairs. It is about 7 inches in diameter and has a hemispherical depression in the middle. A string is entered through the hole provided in the centre.The other end of the string is tied to a knot to avoid slipping off. The player holds one disc each in both the hands and plays by clinging them together. Thus a resonance is generated.
This is also a glass shaped drum similar to the damaru. While damaru is played with extension fields on chords connected to it, Idakkh is played with a stick. It is never kept in the ground and always hung preferably on the left shoulder by means of a strap. It is very rich in total sound variations.
This is a wind instrument of arc shape and is a kind of trumpet. Kombu in Malayalam means a horn. Hence it is in the shape of a horn modified in an arc structure. It is thus C shaped made out of bell metal. Since there are no holes or stops in the Kombu for producing various notes, it is used as a Laya vadya. For playing a Kombu, the lips have to be kept rounded to blow properly. First it starts with normal blowing and then it is tuned by controlled blowing. To gain higher octave, harder blowing is done.
Features and formation of playing:
It is difficult to estimate the time when Panchavadyam originated. Formally this was part of the royal processions but in course of time it became an indespensible factor in temple rituals and festivals. Panchavadyam is thus played in all temples of Kerala but the best and outstanding one is that of Trissur Puram at Vadukkunnathan temple in Trissur, Kerala. Though panchavadyam originated in temples of Kerala for festivals and other temple celebrations, it is now popularly played for inaugurations, openings and starting of new projects and ventures and also for reception of guests and dignitaries. Kerala Kalamandalam, a Deemed University of Art and Culture situated in Cheruthuruthy in Trissur district of Kerala is a major institute that gives coaching and training for this art.
Depending on the number of artists performing and also the duration that is taken for performance, there is a fixed proportion regarding the number of instruments used in Panchavadyam. For an average Panchavadyam there are 3 Timilas,1 Maddalam, 2 Ilathalams,1 Idakha and 2 Kombus. For a full fledged Panchavadyam of an extended playing period, there are 15 Timilas, 7 Maddalams,15 Ilathalams, 2 Idakhas and 15 Kombus.
Panchavadyam is started by the Timila player. Once he starts his performance, all other instruments except Kombu joins him. After playing a fixed playing schedule the Kombu player comes in. The major player of panchavadyam is the Timila artist who takes the central position behind whom are the other Ilathalam artists. In front of them stands the Maddalam players and behind them are the Kombu players. There are normally two Idakka players who stand on the two sides of the formation.The panchavadyam has a specific pattern of rhythmical progression, normally in the ascending order with 14 beats called Adanta pattern which is again made up of repeat Chempata pattern of 8 beats. The rhythmical oscillation of the performance keeps on getting half at each of the 5 stages till the last stage when oscillation stops.