Panchari Melam is a percussion ensemble, canonically lasting more than four hours, performed during temple festivals in Kerala, India. Panchari Melam (or, simply, panchari), is one of the major forms of chenda melam (ethnic drum ensemble), and is the best-known and most popular kshetram vadyam (temple percussion) genre. Panchari melam, comprising instruments like chenda, ilathalam, kombu and kuzhal, is performed during virtually every temple festival in central Kerala, where it is arguably presented in the most classical manner. Panchari, however, is also traditionally performed, with a touch of subtle regional difference, in north (Malabar) and south-central Kerala (Kochi). Of late, its charm has led to its performance even in deep-south Kerala temples. Panchari is a six-beat thaalam (taal) with equivalents like Roopakam in south Indian Carnatic music and Ek taal in the northern Hindustani classical. Another chenda melam which comes close to panchari in prominence and grammatical soundness, is Pandi Melam, performed outside temple precincts in general. Other chenda melams, though less popular, are chempata, adanta, anchatanta, dhruvam, chempha, dhruvam, navam, kalpam and ekadasam. Though there are expressional differences between the panchari and the above-mentioned melams (other than pandi), the description of the former is proto-typical for the rest of them.
Panchari melam is performed either in its elaborate form (during annual temple festivals) or in its sketchy detail (to accompany the daily or weekly temple rituals). Either ways, they are performed only within the walls of the temple.
The ensemble starts at the main entrance to the inner part of the temple, slowly circling the shrine clockwise while playing. A panchari melam has five stages, each of them based on beats totalling 96, 48, 24, 12 and six respectively.
The semi-circular procession, with caparisoned elephants totalling between three to fifteen generally), is led by the deity of the temple kept on tusker in the centre. (In a pure ritualistic case, the idol is carried by the Namboodiri priest himself). The deity faces the musical ensemble and devotees/melam buffs, the latter surrounding the musicians and following the progress of the melam.
Major Venues of Panchari Melam
Panchari melam, in its grand classical form, is staged during temple festivals in and around Thrissur district. kerala's no1 pancharimelam is held at Irinjalakuda Koodalmanikyam Temple and also at thripunithura sree poornathrayeesa temple which falls in Eranakulam District. Another major panchari melam venues are at Araatupuzha temple in Thrissur, Peruvanam and Kuttenallur. But the last one hold the record duration of melam lasting four hours. A list of Panchari in Thrissur Dist- in and around Cherpu. 1. Kuttanelloor 2. Thaikkattussery 3. Ollur Edakkunni 4. Cherpu Bhagavati 5. Chatthakkudam 6. Kadalassery 7. Peruvanam 8. Araattupuzha 9. Thriprayar 10. Irinjalakkuda 11. Pothani 12. Chelurkavu 13. Avitathur 14. Ayankavu
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