Special temple repertoire
The present day practice of presenting Varnams, Keertanas, Javalis,Tillanas in Nadaswaram concerts is of recent origin, perhaps 60-70 years. Earlier, concerts at the temples were significantly different. Ragas were rendered with their full embellishments/laya structure and appropriate to the presiding deity.
The Nitya Pooja or daily prayers normally comprised 6-8rituals. Each time an appropriate raga was rendered on the Nadaswaram. This wasthe tradition and continues even today.
The expert on Agama Sastra Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar, has laid down a detailed structure for Nadaswaram recitals at the temples.
The first pooja, Tiruvanandal, is performed between 5 am and 6 am to wake up the Gods. During such times, ragas like Bhoopalam, Bowli, Malayamarutam are played.
During the 7 am Vila Pooja, ragas like Bilahari,Kedaram are rendered.
Around 8 am ragas like Dhanyasi, Saveri, Aaaveri, and around 10 am ragas like Surati, Mukhari, Manirangu are played.
At noon, during the UcchikalaPooja Mukhari, Poornachandrika, Mandari and similar ragas are played.
At 8 in the night during the Ardhajama pooja, ragas like Sankarabharanam,Bhairavi, Kambhoji, and at the 10 pm Palliarai pooja, ragas like Anandabhairavi, Neelambari are handled.
Thus it is a very scientifically laid down structure which was not only appealing but in keeping with the time of the day. The village folk could easily identify the time without clocks merely by listening to the ragas and the songs. Devotees would also be able to know which pooja was being performed.This evidences the fine-tuned prayer scheme prevalent in south Indian temples.
The playing of ragas is keeping with the temple rituals.
Rendering of Mallari, Pancha Nadai, Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi etc during the procession of the deities were the traditions prevalent over many years. In recent times, Madurai Sri Ponnuswamy Pillai, Tiruveezhimalai brothers, Tiruppambaram brothers and Sri Karaikurichi Arunachalam contributed to the change in the concert format from the earlier raga-oriented approach to the present format of handling ofVarnams, Kritis, Keertanas, Tillanas etc.