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Invocatory items of Bharatanatyam Margam - Thodayamangalam, Mallari and Pushpanjali 
28th-Sep-2011 08:39 pm

Invocatory items of Bharatanatyam Margam


As a musical composition, Thodaya Mangalam is a set of songs, composed by saints like  Sri Badhradri Ramadasa Swami Sri Annamacharya, and Sri Vijayagopala Swamigal and compiled like a garland by Marudhanallur Sathguru   Swamigal.

The songs in Thodaya Mangalam are in praise of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and Lord Srinivasa, (various forms and names of Lord Maha Vishnu) and composed in sanskrit and telugu in ghana ragas like Naatai, Aarabi, Madhyamaavathi, Saaveri, and Panthuvarali.

It is sung as "Aahvana Keerthanam" (songs to welcome the Lord with mangalam) in the beginning of Sampradhaya Bhajan.

Thodaya Mangalam is sung before dance kutcheri as well. They believe that Today Mangalam has some purifying and auspicious effect, thus it is necessary to sing it to provide pure devotinal atmosphere for successful performance.

In Vazhuvur style Thodaya Mangalam is used as the first item in praise of Lord Gnyana Sabeshar of Vazhuvoor. Also it was used in Bhagavata Mela Natakam.

Thodayamangalam is accompanied by melaprapti*: nattuvanar, vocalist, orchestra members (flute, mridangam, kanjeera, ghatam), who also sings OM besides playing.

*Melaprapti is rhythmic recital. In olden days each performance was started with it.


The word "Mallari" may be translated as "wrestling with the Lord" i.e., before the idol is set on the There or the chariot the priests should "wrestle" with him to make him up and sit under the palanquin.

Mallari is a passage of Sollukattus set to certain Raga (usually Nattai, Gambhira Nattai) and Thalam. It is executed in three speeds, in chaturasra or tisra nadai.

Mallari as musical composition is played on the Nagaswaram, at the beginning of the procession called Purappadu. The music of Mallari, usually played in raga Nata, is said to indicate the commencement of the particular worship in a temple. It is also said that it was Ramaswami Dikshitar who sytematised the Mallari, which is still played at Tiruvarur. It is the Bari Nayanam (a type of Nagaswaram), the pride of Tiruvarur, that is played during these occasions.

Like the tradition during the temple rituals, there also prevailed a special pattern for temple processions, the most important being the rendition of Mallari. During processions, whenever Deeparadhana was performed, the Nadaswaram and the Tavil played as an ensemble - a rendering based on Tillana in raga Gambheeranata. This is called Mallari. This practice continues even today.</span>

Each performance weaves a unique type of Mallari. During the Siva Tandava (the frezied dance of Lord Siva), his anklets gave rise to the Jati-s,"Tha dhi Tom Nam". This formed the basis of jatis for several percussion instruments like Mridangam. Further sounds emanating while striking the two hands on the mridangam produced "Dhim Dhim, Tham Tham". This forms the basis of the Mallari presentation, wherein the performer intertwines the Alarippu and the special jatis of the Tavil, "Kunda kundagu -Diruta Kundagu", to the raga Gambheeranata.

There are five types of Mallari:

- Teertha Mallari - while the Tirumanjanam is brought

- Taligai Mallari - while the Naivedyam is brought

- Kumbha Mallari - while giving the Poornakumbham

- Taer Mallari - when the deity is taken up for procession

- Purapattu Mallari - when the procession of the deity starts

Mallari is majorly played in Gambira Nattai as the raga stands for the Veera rasa. There are two major types of Mallari - Chinna Mallari and Periya Mallari. While Chinna Mallari can be played on all days, Periya Mallari should be played only on specific days.

One significant Mallari is Triputa tala Mallari, based on seven beats either as "Takita takadhimi" (3 + 4) or "Takadhimi takita" (4 + 3).

Taer Mallari which has 5 beats is repeatedly handled on the procession days. No other Mallari is handled during the procession day.

Except a few like Triputa Mallari and Taer Mallari, Taligai and other Mallaris do not have any specific tala structure (beats). These would depend on the performer's creativity.


In Chola time Pushpanjali was performed during procession of the idols and during the festivals as convocation. Dancers were standing and facing main deity in temple or went around the temple in pradakshanam and carried flowers.

Pushpanjali is mentioned in Agamaragam* and in Panchamarabu.

Pushpanjali was performed with or after Kumbha Harati ceremony** as preventive and propitiatory item as part of Devadiyar service at the temples.

*Agamaragam - i think they refer to Agamas, where offering of flowers is mentioned as the part of ritualistic worship.

** Kumbha Harati is very special ritual of removing black eye (drishti) performed only by Devadiyarhal (Devadasi). They waved big idol lamp looking like a pot in front of the idol, the king or their patron. They were considered as auspicious women (Nityasumangali) as they were married to God thus would never become widows.

S Sharada Teacher notices, that 'pushpanjali, kautuvam and todayamangalam originate from other Art forms and do not belong to the original Bharatanatyam repertoire. If these items are performed, they should be simple.'

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