The 3rd Century BC marks the first stage of history in which South Indian music was given a definite form and status. Two types of poetic compositions emerged based on set themes and specific situations:
Aham – love poetry: Based on man-woman love maturing in wedded life; dealt with sentiments of human love
Puram – non-love poetry: Based on the heroic milieu of war and court life; gave descriptions of war and other heroic accomplishments of the kings
The natural objects or things peculiar to each regional landscape and lifestyle formed the background of these poems
All Aham verses were classified into:
kurinji – union in love
palai – separation in love
marudam – wife sulkings
mullai – wifely virtue and forbearance
neidal – lamentation by the wife
The aham poets of the Sangam period served as a model for the Tamil poets of the succeeding centuries. They used the aham variety as a vehicle to express their devotion and love for Lord Shiva, Muruga and Krishna. Thus the songs couched in divine love became the dominant mode of expression in music, dance and literature.
There was a parallel development of royal romantic poetry along with Bhakti poetry. The songs composed in praise of the deities and kings evoked shringara rasa in all its aspects.
This concept of madura bhakti or the thalaivan-thalaivi concept is also seen in Tamil works such as Andal’s Nachiar Thirumozhi, Divyaprabandam of other Azhwars, Manickavasagar’s Thirukkovai, Thiruvasagam and other works which stressed that the path of devotion to Lord and righteous living led on to make one’s life worthwhile and ultimately to attain salvation. The characters Thalaivan, Thalaivi and Thozhi stand respectively for the Iraivan Paramatma, Bhaktan Jivatma and the Guru who leads the Bhakta on to the path of mukti.
The seeds of Bhakti margam that was sown by some of the noble souls during the 6th century AD germinated into the Bhakti movement in the succeeding centuries. This originated in the Tamil Desam and spread beyond its boundaries and gave birth to Bhakti isai (devotional music) in various languages in India. Hundreds of literary conventions had been knitted around the theme of divine love, borrowed by poets for expressing the various moods and mental states of their love for the almighty. From that time, a padam came to denote a musical monologue which resembles a kirtana in structure and propagates the sentiment of love for God through innumerable aspects of Thalaivan -Thalaivi kaadhal (love).
In his book ‘Musical Tradition of Tamil Nadu,’ M Arunachalam clearly states that the father of the particular type of poetry – Tamil Padam, is Muthuthandavar (1525 – 1625 AD). 24 of his padams are available in print and notation. Papavinasa Mudaliar (1650 – 1725) lived just after Muthuthandavar and is popular for his Nindastuti padams. The tradition of Muthuthandavar was followed by Marimutha Pillai (1712-1787 AD) who was also popular for his Nindastuti style, Kavi Kunjara Bharati (1810-1896 AD) and later by Vaideeswarankoil Subbarama Iyer (latter part of the 19th century) and Ghanam Krishna Iyer, who lived during King Amarasimha’s period (1787-1798) and a host of other Tamil padam composers who emulated their predecessors and their padams.
Muthuthandavar and Marimutha Pillai sang in praise of Lord Shiva. Subbarama Iyer and a few others sang on Lord Muruga and some others on various deities and patrons. What was a social art earlier developed into a temple art in the times of the Chola kings who fostered the art by giving liberal grants. Three distinct classes of artists, though from the same family, were responsible for the development of music and dance – the dancer called the thallipendu in the Chola inscription, the nattuvanar or the dance master, the melakkarar or the nadaswara vidwan. The custodians of the two arts – music and dance – in the Sangam period virtually disappeared from the Pandya naadu and were reborn as the thallipendu and melakkarar in the Chola nadu. Thus they evolved themselves into what we now call melakkarar or nadaswara vidwans. After this transition in name and form and the place of performance, Tamil isai has been developing continuously through the centuries down to 20th century.
Muthuthandavar – The Father of Tamil Padams
Muthuthandavar was born in Sirkazhi, also the birthplace of Thirugnanasambandar, and belonged to the family of musicians described above. He sang in praise of Lord Nataraja, influenced by his study of Thiruvasagam. Thandavar’s padams have been popular from the latter half of the 17th century. He has composed 14 padams addressed by the Thalaivi to the Thalaivan, 6 to the comrade or Thozhar, 3 padams by the Thozhar to the Thalaivi and 1 is a Yesal padam. There is one more padam which makes a reference to his receiving golden coins from Lord Nataraja on the golden steps leading to the Chitsabhai. Yesal padam is a song imparting the motive of ridicule or parihasam of the deity referring to some of the legends in the puranas. This padam is in saurashtra raga – Thirumutho Pandalin Keezh. It is not in kirtana form but is couched in four couplets. In each couplet, the lovesick maiden asks a question to her mother in the first part to which her mother replies in the second part. “Oh mother! Who is this person proceeding here under a pearl canopy worshipped by Lord Brahma and other celestials?” Her mother replies: “This is your Lord Nataraja dancing in the perambalam for the Bhaktha doing penance.” Muthuthandavar’s Yesal padam is probably a unique specimen.
In the modern period, a padam denotes a highly descriptive piece with music of a very high order embracing minor embellishments and graces. All Telugu padams are rendered in a very, very slow tempo while the Tamil padams are sung in a slightly faster tempo, sometimes in an intermediate speed also. A detailed description of the raga is made possible by the use of subtle nuances and variations figuring in the music of the padams. The different sets of sangathis found in the kritis are absent in the padams but the gaps provided in the sahitya are filled up with long karvais and intricate gamakas.
Many padams are in identical varnamettus and this has led to the standardization of certain melodies in Carnatic music. The great composers were very much captivated by these tunes and have adopted them in their compositions. Kshetragna’s padam “Evvade,” Govindasamayya’s “Malini vinave,” Sabhapathaya’s “Darijucu,” Ghanam Krishna Iyer’s “Tanakku taane,” Thyagaraja Swami’s “Manasu svaadinamai,” Muthuswami Dikshitar’s “Akshaya linga vibho” and Papanasam Sivan’s “Mahalakshmi jaganmaata” and some others are all in identical tunes.
What abilities must a padam singer possess?
To sing padams correctly and with bhava, a musician should have:
good raga gnanam
good grasp of the vilamba laya or slow tempo and
ability to clearly pronounce the sahitya
Subtle inflections as a pronunciation of a particular sequence of vowels and weight of tone at heavy places are essential for the correct rendering of padam singing which takes fresh shape with each new singing
Placement of padams in concerts
Padams are sung in the latter half of concerts as the voice would have become mellow by that time.
Some popular Tamil padam composers:
Kavi Kunjara Bharathi
Ghanam Krishna Iyer
Vaideeswarankoil Subbarama Iyer
Mazhavai Chidambara Bharathi
Padams – while dancing
PADAM – a broad spaced item in dance concert for the complete exhibition of dancer’s depth of interpretation of abhinaya and his/her maturity in dance.
Padam bestows aesthetic pleasure on the listener with good exposition of melodic structure of raga finely blended with verbal structures of lyrics. More often episodes are woven round the mythological god Krishna (other deities not excluded), on human kings to please whom the lyrics has been composed.
Padams set in Vilambita Laya (slow tempo) accordingly where dancers render padams which excel in its purpose.
Aspects to be remembered during padam performance are:
1. Kavyartha – idea conveyed by composition entirely.
2. Vakyartha – meaning of each line.
3. Padartha – meaning of each word.
Most of the padams have been composed in vipralamba shringara (separation of love) as the rasanubhava is more than in samboga shringara (union of love). “Na Vina Vipralambena Shingaraha Pushtim Ashnute” means without separation the romantic sentiment does not develop.
That is how most of Kshetrayya padams are in shringara rasa and he is well called the Shringara Kavi.
This article is already published on narthaki.com