The maddalam or madhalam is a drum made out of the wood of the jackfruit tree. It has two sides for playing, made out of leather, and has different kind of sounds on each side. The maddalam is a heavy instrument which is hung around the waist of the person playing, and the player stands all the while to perform.

The maddalam is a vital instrument in traditional Kerala percussion ensembles like Panchavadyam, Keli and Kathakali orchestra.

Maddalam is considered as a DevaVadyam as it resembles Lord Shiva and Lord Parvathi by its sound. It is believed that, Maddalam by its structure, really resembles the “ShivaSakthi” swaroopa, in which the right hand side of the Maddalam resembles Shiva and the left hand side resembles Parvathi. A detailed study on evolution, history, construction, maintenance, and present day Maddalam, can be seen in the one and only one literature on Maddalam done by Kalamandalam Sankara Warrier in his book “Maddalam Enna MangalaVadyam”.

Literature on Maddalam

Kalamandalam Sankara Warrier, famous maddalam maestro has published a book on Maddalam, “Maddalam Enna Mangala Vaadyam” in 2003 with the help of Kerala Kalamandalam. This is the only comprehensive guide to the playing and understanding of this instrument. Also, maddalam finds prominent mention in a book “Thaalangal, Thaalavadyangal” by A.S.N. Nambisan.

Masters of Maddalam

Prominent among today’s maddalam exponents (in Panchavadyam) are Thrikkur Rajan, Cherpulassery Sivan, Thichur Vasu Varrier, Edappal Appunni Nair, Kunisseri Chandran, Chirakkala Sankara Marar, Pulappatta Balakrishnan (Kundalassery Thankamani), Kalamandalam Sankara Warrier, Kundalassery Krishnankutty, Sadanam Ramachandran, Kallekkulangara Krishna Varrier, Thrippalamunda Nataraja Varrier, Odakkali Sankaramani Marar, Chottanikkara Surendran, Kongad Sukumaran, Eravath Appu Marar, Kalamandalam Sasi, Eloor Arun Deva Warrier, Peruvanam Haridas, Panangattukara Prakasan and Sadanam Bharatharajan, Kundalassery Manu, Kundalassery Ratheesh, Kundalassery Hari. Kathakali has its maddalam maestros like Kalamandalam Narayanan Nambisan, Kalanilayam Eachara Varrier, Kalanilayam Babu, Kottakkal Ravi, Kalamandalam Ramadas, Kalamandalam Gopikuttan, Sadanam Sreedharan, Sadanam Rajan and Sadanam Devadas among others.

Noted maddalam exponents of yore include Thiruvillwamala Venkichan Swami, Vellattanhoor Raman Nambisan, Punnathur Madhavan Nair, Kadavallur Sankunni Nair, Aravindakshan, Kavungal Maniyan Panikkar, Kachamkurichi Achuthan Nair,Mancheri Raman Nair,kalloor Chather Panicker and Pulamanthol Gopalakrishnan. In Kathakali maddalam, Kalamandalam Appukutty Poduval was a noted artiste. Among the Kathakali Maddalam artists Kalamandalam Sankara Warrier is an acclaimed percussionist (Kathakali, Maddalam), who has contributed greatly to the world of Indian Arts and Culture. Sankara Warrier has given the maddalam a new dimension. His excellence has known no cultural or regional boundaries. Apart from performing in India, he has traveled extensively and performed in USA, UK, etc., thus contributing significantly in putting the Maddalam on the global map.