The talking drums

We used to love vacation time at Pallavur, where our maternal tharavad was located. All the cousins were around then and that meant lots and lots of merriment. Cricket was still to reach us, football and other games like seven stones were the main pastimes, spending whole days in the hot sun (no, we did not use sun screens!), till of course a lady with the loudest voice screamed food time from the kitchen area, accompanied with dire threats if we did not come right away.

Holidays usually coincided with the Ulsavams, be it Aaratu or Vilakku, in our huge Siva temple and during these a Thayambaka or Panchavadyam session took prominence. We kiddies were always there, hanging around, managing to squeeze past the bare bodied dhoti clad men to be up close and personal to the drummers (The air had the sweet smell of the Agarbathis and Kalabhom).

The sounds still remain in the head; I can pick up the starting Thayambaka beat anytime. We children used to have ‘at home’ sessions later, on a biscuit tin tied to our necks and a couple of sticks passing off as Chenda kols. The trick was finding a stick with the right curve, After some mastery, the hunt went on for a Kanjiram tree, it was mentioned by somebody that real Chenda sticks were whetted out from Kanjiram branches. We did find a tree, but it was so big and the branches so high that the whole idea was summarily dropped. Even the most daredevil amongst us (me?) could not find a way to climb that tall one. After playtime and a bath in the pond (can you imagine that! Some 10 of us splashing away to our hearts content and screaming our heads off), it was drumming on the dinner table, of course an action perfected to irritate all and sundry. Ah I remember it all…. When I try telling these things to my son, he sniggers…he says, “Oh! What losers, you played with biscuit tins & sticks”??

I remember the drummers; they were the heroes in our village. The brothers Manian, Appu and Kunjukuttan were a class unto their own, the Pallavur brothers or the Pallavur trinity as they were fondly called, held a percussion audience in rhapsody. For a tiny village nesting somewhere around the Western Ghats with a population of a few hundreds (those days), this was our claim to fame, three Chenda stalwarts who made it to concerts around the world and who worked magic with their drum sticks, ah! They could get their drums to talk, believe me!!

I still remember Appu marar, a long gold chain round his neck. Kunjukuttan was the stockier one, his Chenda rested on his potbelly. I can’t picture Manian though; his memory has faded away like someday the others would too. But the drums continue to beat at every festival, the very same beats that were once played by the brothers; and people still remember and talk about the lost trinity…like it was yesterday..

Picture - Guru Pallavoor Appu Marar preparing for Keli Classical Rhythm Festival 2001 Thayambaka, Mumbai -Picture courtesy Prithvi Theatre


Reshmi said...

Heard a lot abt Pallavur brothers..:)..u r really lucky to have seen them and for being brought up in a place of their fame..n it was such a treat to read tht post..

Also the biscuit tin chenda reminded me of the vellaka vandi, 2 vellakkas connected with a small eerkil, which we used to pull around with a chakkunool..:)

Maddy said...

thanks, some more pallavur stories follow, and yes, i sometimes wonder what it takes to make a child happy and how relative it is..i was happy with my biscuit tin at that time, but a kid today gets bored after a few hours of playing a Rs 3000 PSP game!! Why?

I agree, an adult is probably different & complicated, but are children also becoming complicated souls? they should not be.

thanks again for the note and keep writing about all those interesting people you come across

Anonymous said...


Just chanced upon ur blog and could relate it to everything you had written. I am also from Pallavur and enjoy going to the temple, playing in the ambalakolam, and listening to the panchavadhyam!

Good post!

Anonymous said...

Who is this anonymous person!!!I am also from pallavur..I'm missing pallavur alot..I wat to play in ambalakkulam,i want to go thrippallavurappan temple and then to.......I'm missing pallavur very much.

My name is Sivakami Pallavur Subramanian(Kalan Family)

Do u know me!!!!

Maddy said...

have no idea who the anonymous person is, thanks for dropping by, sivakami - there are more pallavur related blogs in my site if u search around...i must admit that i do not know u, i myself am from ullattil. come again for a read...

Anonymous said...

I know some people from Ullattil..
Manoj Uncle,GopiUncle,Namita,Meera,
Jothi Uncle....Hope u may b knowing someone from Kizhakke Gramam(East Village).My father was a friend of Ullattil Gopi!!!!!

Anonymous said...

manoj is my brother, jyothi my cousin, gopi an uncle...where are u located?

Birds through my lens said...

i am also from pallavur..!!

pallavur perinchery..!!

know anyone from there..!!

came to know that onnam vilaku was grand and good asusual.. missed it this time..!! :-(

Maddy said...

hello dilip, nice knowing you. thanks for visiting. yes, i heard from my mother & brother that the vilakku went well. it has been ages since i spent more than a week in pallavur, hence it is mainly memories that remain for me. I visit almost every year though. and yes, i know peruncheri veedu.

Anonymous said...


i also hail from pallavur and my tharavadu is perincheri.i know only vijayan uncle in person from ullatil house. my house is in the thekkae grammam.

appreciate your effort on this write up.

hope to meet you at pallavur itself sometime.


Harish128 said...

Hello sir,

I have come back to this write-up so many times.. cos kunju kutta marar is my valiyachan and he was very close to me. though i dont have formal training in vadyams i have always enjoyed listening to each one of them.. and consider fortunate to get those opportunities. I have taken the libery to market ur write-up at: Hope u wont mind.

Thanks for writing this.


Maddy said...

hi harish,

thanks, i have no objections whatsoever, since that blog, i wrote a few more with Pallavur in mind, you can check them out on the blog - something to remind you of our small village..check them out,

the label 'Pallavur chronicles' is mostly fiction based on Pallavur, i will be doing some more of those in time..

there is a yahoo group called 'thayambaka' which i joined, but it appeared dormant.

be in touch


Maddy said...

harish & others
do any of you know Pallavur Sreedharan?
he is mentioned often & performs in

"Pulse: A STOMP Odyssey," and can be found on google- I have listened to his drumming as well..

It doesn't tell a story, per se; there's no dialogue, and the focus is on performance, not exposition. It features more than a dozen diverse performing troupes, from the colorfully arrayed American Indian Dance Theater and South Africa's rubber-work-booted Bayeza Cultural Dancers to the starkly intense Japanese Kodo Ensemble and India's elephant-bedecked Pallavur Sreedharan and Peruvanam Kuttan Marrar bands.

Anonymous said...

ya I know him pretty well.. he is my cousin

Anonymous said...

I'm also from kizhekke gramam as shivakami has mentioned.. may be she is not based there now. My father is balakrishnan and mother, radha was a teacher and vice-principal with chinmaya school. they are still there.. i am now put up in boston, ma.

Aathira Perinchery said...

I am from Pallavur perinchery as well..have heard of all these different houses, but hardly know anyone!Maddy, your notes make me nostalgic about home(am in B'lore, doing my M.Sc)and i really enjoy reading them..Harish,your mom, Radha teacher taught me math, when I used to be struggling with algebra(way back in 1997)! sure u know N.Ramachandra grandad..

Aathira Perinchery said...

I am from Pallavur perinchery as well..have heard of all these different houses, but hardly know anyone!Harish,your mom, Radha teacher taught me math, when I used to be struggling with algebra(way back in 1997)! sure u know N.Ramachandra grandad..

Aathira Perinchery said...

I am from Pallavur perinchery as well..have heard of all these different houses, but hardly know anyone!Harish,your mom, Radha teacher taught me math, when I used to be struggling with algebra(way back in 1997)! sure u know N.Ramachandra grandad..

Maddy said...

Hi Aathira..Unlike you people I have not lived and studied in Pallavur. We used to spend most vacations in my maternal house and some years back, after my dad passed away,mom moved to Pallavur.. and my brother lives there too. I visit Pallavur almost every year and I am very attached to Pallavur as you can see. There is so much more coming out as articles & keep reading!! and yes, I have heard of NR Menon.

Anonymous said...

Hi Maddy,
Iam Vinod nair and stays in pallavur Thekke gramam.Though pallavur is not our desam we have been staying there since 1981.I studied in chinmaya vidyalaya from 1981 to 1989.Iam in Blore right now.I know ullatil Vijayan uncle and karunakaretta personally.I use to read your articles about pallavur and felt some nostalgic moments whenever I use to read.

Maddy said...

hey vinod - like you, i have coem across so many people from pallavur on this page - Nice of you to drop by & leave a comment. I will try & do some more articles & keep it going...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Maddy for response.Really appreciate you for the efforts put in and time spend literally for bringing Pallavur into the light from the darkness.
Iam sure you will be able to give more about pallavur and people like us really enjoy to read and discuss with others.

Aathira Perinchery said...

Hi, I'm in Pallavur right now, spending time at home..Maddy, my grandparents know you and my uncle, N.Mukunda Valsalan was your classmate at REC, Calicut.Do you remember him?

Aathira Perinchery said...

Hi, I'm at Pallavur right now..spending time at grandparents know you, and say that you are my uncle, N.Mukunda Valsalan's classmate at REC Calicut..

Maddy said...

hi Aathira..
well well, are you Asha's daughter? or Nisha's? or did i get all the names wrong? of course i remember your grandpa. go on the aiylur road past kizhakketara and in those days probably the 4th house on the left after appunni nair's...yes, Mukund was my senior in college. is he in cochin these days?

Unknown said... dad is also from Pallavur- M Janardhanan. He has been in Bombay all along. Do any of u know him or keep in touch with him. He is very friendly with most of the Ullatil family & visits Pallavur very often. His sister still stays there. He will be visiting Pallavur for the Navratri festival this year also....Roopa

Maddy said...

Thanks roopa for dropping by, I cant recall Mr janardhanan, but let me check with my brother to refresh my memory..

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. So many people from Pallavur (and Perinchery too).

I remember Vijayan Nair from Ullatil house. He used to walk with a cane and looked very Aristocratic.

My sister was a good friend of Sheela Chechi from Ulattil house.

Radha Teacher taught me Math at Chinmaya School too.

Keep posting about Pallavur.

Sudhir Perinchery, Austin, TX, USA

Unknown said...

Hi....i am pleased to find this site where i have seen so many people from pallavur perinchery house. my late father is from perinchery house. His name is Chandrashekaran perinchery. I have some memories of pallavur. i used to visit there when i was a kid. Was lucky enough to be there for valiayattu long back. I remember a vijayettan from ullatil house...but i am not sure if i im thinking of the right person spoken here. i used to visit them and they used to feed me 'chakka varatiyadhu' hmmmm nice days...

Latha Chungath, WY, USA

Maddy said...

Sudhir - Unfortunately my uncle Vijayan nair passed away a couple of months back..Sheela is right here in USA

latha - I think you remembered right - yes we had a lot of jackfruit trees and my grandma and mother made a lot of chakka varattiyathu...yumm..

I will pen some more on pallavur - keep in touch

Maddy said...

Hi all - there is a new blog on the drumming trinity of pallavur - check it out

Anonymous said...

hi I am santhosh perinchery from puthen kalam, kulapura house.Hope sudhir perinchery remember me. I am settled at pallavur. Truly a nice place to live in. The memories does remind me of the good old days spent with some of you guys.

Unknown said...

Hi...I am also from pallavur perinchery bunglow family...Nice to see all your comments reg this beautiful village..Luckily was there during utsavam..Absolutely superb experience...

Murali V

Unknown said...

hi maddy..this is vira....i am nt frm pallavoor basically bt i did study till 12th n chinmaya nd am doin my final mbbs n chennai.....wonderful place nd i miss it as of nw..anyway thanx fr postin d blog....

Unknown said...

and one more thing maddy...sry,forgot to say in my previous comment....i searched wikipedia for the pallavur brothers and was surprised and at the same time pained to see that no 1 has created 1....and i thought of doing 1...but i guess u can do it better since u know them well...plz give it a try bro...thank u

Unknown said...

Hi, I too am from Pallavur. My original Tharavad house (Unikkat House) was located near the present YJVS (Yuvajana Vayana Sala) and near the 'Thachuzhy Pond'. It does not exist any more. I stayed there till 1962 when I moved to Bengaluru and then onto Delhi where I am now settled with my family. Incidentallly, I happen to be a classmate of famous Late Kunjukuttan Marar. My father was late P.Gopala Menon (Puzhankara house, Vadakkancherry, Trichur Dt.) and my mother was late P.U(nikkat) Kavery Amma. My elder brothers are :
1)Late P.U.Peethambaran,
2) P.U.Gopinathan (alias Unni)
3) P.U.Nand Kumar.
I am proud to be from this wonderfully planned village with all its simplicity.
- P.U.Narayanan Kutty
Mob : 91-11-98197 90815

Deepika said...

Namaskaram Pallvur !!!!

I am Deepika Perinchery from Bangalore.
My mom is Sathi Perinchery & dad is Narayanakutty Kandeth..both from Pallavur !!!!1
Good to ready about our nadu, today is Mahashivrathiri and I was thinking of our great temple.. and happy to read all these blogs about Palluavur.

Unknown said...

Dear Deepika,
Thank u for ur mail.
I cannot place ur mom (Sathi/ Perincheri) and Narayanan Kutty/ KandethS.) probably due to their being quite young (I am 65yrs).
Ask them whether they, by chance, know me or not.

I am in New Delhi. (I was earlier working with Lufthansa German Airlines/New Delhi). Now, after retirement from this airline, I am still working as a Faculty (i.e. Instructor)in Bird Academy/Nw Delhi, where I am tedachinjg students about the 'technicaliies of how to clculate air-fares and how to isue air-tickets'.

I had left Pallavoor in 1962, after passing SSLC from Seetha Ram High School/Kunissery.

I then went to Bangalore (now Bengaluru/Karnataka)where I remained for about two years. During this period, I had worked also worked with HALfor about a year in HAL.

Thereafter, in 1964, I came to Delhi to join my three elder brothers.

In 1966, I joined Lufthansa, and I retired from there in 2000 voluntarily, and took to teaching.

My wife is from Mudappallur (Palakkad Dt.,/Kerala). V have two sions - elder one (Nishant menon) is now married, and is working in San Francisco / Clifornia / USA, where his wife (Aarti) is also employed in HSBC Bank.

My second son (Prashant Menon, now aged 27+) is unmarried as yet, and is working with Sapient Corporation (an IT Co.) in Bengaluru.

I and my wife r living at

C-24/F, (Vatika Apptts.)
(D.D.A. - M.I.G Flats),
(Near Mtal Forgings)
New Delhi-110064.
Tel. (91)(11)25139484
Mob : (91) (11) 98107 90815

My office address :
Bird Academy,.
L - 40, Outer Circle,
(Near Odeon Cinema Thater & Minto Road beginning),
Connaught Place,
New Delhi-110001.
Tel.(91)(11)43527842/Extn 24.

That much about me.

- N(arayanan) Kutty
14 FEB 2010.

Maddy said...

Hi all..

happy to see that this has become some kind of a central point for Pallavur. Anyway there is another blog in this collection on the Pallavur brothers

Pls check this if you have not seen it so far

Anonymous said...

Dear Maddy,
Iam Vijaya Gopalan Nair grandson of late Kallu Amma ,son of Kochamani Amma Perinchery Puthanpura.You must be knowing my uncles Gopi and Bala.How are you and your family.

I have scribbled a few lines about the Pallavur temple in my blog just created.
I also have very fond memories about Pallavur where I have spent considerable number of years of my childhood and adolescence.I would always enjoy the thayambakas of the three great marars.i enjoyed the navarathiri festivals, summer ulsavam with its kathakali,ottanthullaland chakyar koothu.To see a movie we had to go to the make-shift thatched cinema in Kunissery.Then came Prabha.Before that we used to go to Alathur swathi.Who can forget these people.kandethe Kandunni mama,Appunni mama,Koman Nair,Ramankutty mama,Karatte gangetta,kittunni etta,drill mash unni etta,chunderetta,vairavetta,unnikat brothers,motta ramachandran,pakath gopi etta,diwakaretta,sethu etta,Naduvakat sivakumaretta,poyyale chunderetta,perumbra Krishnetta,his father Radha krishnetta with his rifle,Gangetta the first taxi owner of pallavur,the first bus PCT mookan ,Exserviceme bus,Krshnan & Kocha the barbers,kandamoothan the iron smith and humpty number of others.I cant forget all these guys.they are part of the legacy of pallavur.Bye now.affectionately ,vijayan

Maddy said...

Thanks Vijayan..

I remember all of them. you can see mentions of many of these people/activities in the other Pallavur articles here..

Unknown said...

Dear Vijay Gopal Nair,
Ur uncles - Mr.Gopi (Gopieattan, for me) and Bala - are known to me.
In those old days, both Bala and his cousin - Venu - used to sing hindi Songs which were like foreign language for us then. Venu could sing by whistling as well. I and Venu were classmates only for a while. Gopieattan was friend of my elder brother - Unnieatta (Gopinathan). - Pallavoor Unikkat Narayanan Kutty. 11DEC2010.

rishta said...

Gives me immense nostalgia about my maternal place! I too hail from Pallavur, Naduvakat family..Thanks for this write up...