Giving ‘mizhavu’ its due
Brothers P.K. Unnikrishnan and P.K. Harish gave a memorable gift to their father, P.K. Narayanan Nambiar, on his 81st birthday. At the Puzhikunnam Sreekrishna Temple Hall in Ottappalam, the siblings performed ‘thayambaka’ on mizhavu for the first time. Usually, ‘thayambaka’ is performed on chenda.
Nambiar, a Padmasree winner, is a master in mizhavu, the background instrument of Koodiyattam. Mizhavu has profuse references in epics as the instrument used to accompany the ‘Thandava Nritha’ (cosmic dance) of Lord Shiva. The instrument is made of earth or lead, in the shape of a pot, with the hide of calf stretched at the top. For quite a long time, this was an unknown accompaniment to Koodiyattam and was hardly taken notice of by the temple audience.
But, Nambiar realised the immense possibilities of mizhavu. After many years of training, he developed it into a separate genre of percussion instrument. The maestro structured ‘thayambaka’ on mizhavu.
Nambiar, son of the patriarch of Koodiyattam, the late Mani Madhava Chakyar, began performing on the instrument in 1948 and later popularised it on countless stages. He tutored his children and disciples, keeping the tradition alive.
Unnikrishnan and Harish experimented on mizhavu, while taking care to keep the ritualistic and pristine charms of the instrument intact. It took years of ‘sadhana’ to perform ‘thayambaka’ on mizhavu.
Nambiar’s nephews Shreejit, grandchildren Sharat Narayanan and Abhilash Narayanan too performed at the programme.
Unnikrishnan is a high school teacher at Kuzhalmannam and Harish is a graphic designer. He is also a performing Koodiyattam artiste. Both are keen to follow in the footsteps of their grandfather Mani Madhava Chakyar.
G. Prabhakaran for THE HINDU