A string instrument of Kerala, it is played at
Recently, we were in Kerala, our favourite
place, for a concert. Not only does it have discerning audience, but it is also
our grandparents’ home state. And like Tamil Nadu, it has a rich musical
heritage and unique instruments. The two-stringed nandurni or nanduni is one
The nandurni is usually played during
Kalamezhuthu Pattu and Kalam Pattu (kalam means, a drawing, and pattu, a song),
as part of the rituals at the Mannarkad Bhagavathy temple. Kalamezhuthu is the
art of drawing large pictures on the floor using natural coloured powders. The
other varieties of Kalam Pattu are Bhagavathy Pattu, Ayyappan Pattu,
Vettekkorumakan Pattu and Kalam Sarppam Pattu. Nanduni Pattu (also known as
Tottam Pattu) is sung as part of the dance ritual — Karika Thullal, and
describes the killing of Darika by Goddess Bhadrakali.
The nandurni comes under the category of tata
vadyas or chorophones and is played in all Bhagavathy temples. At the Mannarkad
Bhagavathy temple, Thirumandhankunnu temple and in Tharavadus, it is played by
artistes from the Kurup community, while the Mannan community (who also perform
the Bhagavathy Pattu) play this instrument at Kavus. There is a song,
which says that Nanduni is the goddess of Kurumba and should be placed in the
Nandurni has a rectangular hollow body, which
is primarily made from the wood of the jackfruit tree. About five feet long and
six inches wide, it has a projecting tail. Two strings pass over its body
through the bridge and are tied to an iron hook at the top end. This is
tightened to the two pegs at the bottom. The strings are usually made of palm
fibre or sisal.
Of the two strings, the thicker one is used as
drone and the thinner is used to produce different notes by pressing the
strings on the frets, which are tuned to ‘sa’ and ‘pa’.
It also has a 14-inch resonator, on which the
frets, numbering 3 to 5 are fixed.
The strings are strummed by a plectrum made
from buffalo horn. It is usually placed on the lap and held in a vertical
position, with the pegs on top. The left fingers press the frets, as the
artiste strums with the right hand. Nandurni is used both as sruti and laya
vadya during the Kalam Pattu.
At the ancient Sree Veerasthanam Viruttanam Bhagavathy Temple
situated along the borders of Thrissur and Palakkad, the Kalamezhuthu Pattu is
one of the important offerings to Devi.
It starts with the traditional Koorayidal ceremony and is
followed by the Kalam Pattu. The pictures of Devi and Veerabhadran are drawn
daily and is performed in different stages. The first stage involves the
Kalamezhuthu, or the drawing of the deity’s picture, followed by the Kalam
Pattu, where songs related to the deity are rendered to the accompaniment of
This is followed by the Kalam Thullal, after which the kalam
The Kurups believe that the nandurni instrument is a form of
Siva and Sakthi, where Bhadrakali resides in the middle and the two strings are
Anna and Alamba.