The Panchamukha Vadyam- Ancient Musical Instrument

Did you know that an ancient musical instrument is still being played everyday at the Thiruvarur Thyagaraja temple? It is called the Panchamukha Vadyam. The musician in the Thiruvarur temple who is skilled in playing this instrument is a descendant of Tambiyappa, one of the disciples of the Composer, Muthuswami Dikshitar. While I haven’t had the fortune of listening to it, I believe each of the five faces of this instrument produces a distinct sound. The five drums represent the five faces of Lord Shiva, Isanam, Satyojatam, Vamadevam, Tatpurusam, Agoram, in simpler words, Creation, Preservation, Destruction, Concealing Grace and Revealing Grace.

Obviously only a trained musician can  play this instrument. In ancient India this instrument was also called Kudamuzha.







This musical instrument is displayed as an exhibit at the Chennai Museum along with other musical instruments.

There is a sculpture in Chidambaram Nataraja temple depicting a Shiva Gana (the dwarves, from Shiva Loka) playing this instrument.

If you are in Chennai, as part of the Chennai Beautification Drive the Corporation has erected beautiful statues of dancers and a musician playing the Panchamukha Vadyam. Constructed at the junctions of Ramakrishna Mutt Road and Broadies Castle Road, as well as Kamarajar Salai and Link Road, near the Corporation Playground and across from the Government Music College in Adyar, Chennai. Don’t miss, if you are driving past.

Read my detailed blog on Thiruvarur Thyagaraja Temple 

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