Stone Nadaswaram - a rare musical instrument at a Kumbakonam temple

Stone nadaswaram,Kumbeswarar temple,Kumbakonam.The Hindu. com
When you heard of the news that Carnatic music was played with a stone instrument, it would be a surprising scoop  for you to talk about it because such events rarely occur.  A couple of months ago at a Kumbakonam temple in Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu, a temple Asthana Nadaswara Vidhwan played on the stone Nadeswaram (Kal Nadaswaram) with considerable ease and surprised the audience. . 

Among the musical instruments of Tamil Nadu, Nadaswaram, is often associated with auspicious events and divinity. Hence, during temple festivals and also at weddings or any other auspicious ceremonies, this unique and ancient instrument is widely being used and the tradition continues even today without any brake whatsoever.  

Nadaswaram, a South-Indian version of Shehnai  is large in size and has a simple double reed rather than the more complex quadruple reed. Normally played in pairs, it  is accompanied by  pair of drums called Thavil (in tamil).

Consisting of three parts - kuzhal, thimiru, and anasu.  the body of Nadaswaram is traditionally made from a tree called as aacha timber
( Hardwickia binata ). This being a  double reed instrument with a conical bore which gradually enlarges toward the lower end, it is usually made of a type of ebony. The top part has a metal staple into which a small metallic cylinder is inserted that is to carry the mouthpiece made of reed. The Nadaswaram has seven finger-holes besides additional seven holes called  controllers. It has a range of two and a half octaves like the flute.`
As this instrument is played by fingering holes and blowing controlled air into the mouthpiece, it produces  intense volume, hence it is an outdoor  instrument and much more suited for open spaces than for closed indoor concert situations.

Adhikumbeswarar temple,

Seldom do we come across a nadaswaram made of stone. Sri Adhikumbeswaraswamy temple in the temple town of Kumbakonam is a famous one dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple  has been around since  Chola times of the 7th century and was widely expanded by Nayaks during the 15-17th centuries. This temple of great beauty has a unique wind instrument called  Kal Nadaswaram that weighs roughly three kilos and is 2.5 ft long. It has been around this temple for about 100 years. To play this granite  Nadaswaram, the player may feel cumbersome as he has to carefully hold the heavy instrument that weighs six times the weight of an ordinary instrument and at the same time concentrate on the Raga, right fingering  and blowing controlled air, with heavy force, into the instrument - all in unison. It is not that easy, unless one has good practice. In the case of of courseKal nadaswaram the bottom part (the Anaas) and the  mouth side (Seevali holder) are made of metal - brass whereas  the body part is a granite pipe.

The music lovers of Kumbakonam on 30 Sept. 2017 had a rare chance of listening to the kal Nadaswaram concert  being played by the Asthana nadaswaram vidwan of Sri Adhikumbeswaraswamy temple on the occasion of  Saraswathi Puja. He  played the instrument along with Thiruvalankadu Sakthivel on Thavil right  before the deity of Saraswati.
This great feat was done at this temple after a
long gap of 15 long years. In the earlier days, Kunchithapatham Pillai, former nadaswara vidwan of the temple played the stone nadaswaram during the Mahamaham festival time.

For some time musically inclined local  people had been demanding the temple Devasthanam to arrange for a small nadaswaram concert, using the kal nadaswaran owned by the temple.


The instrument was also called "Ezhil" because there are seven holes that are played with seven fingers.