Panchari Melam is a percussion ensemble, performed during temple festivals in Kerala, India. It is one of the major forms of chenda melam. it is the best-known and most popular kshetram vadyam. This comprising instruments like chenda, ilathalam, kombu and kuzhal, is performed during every temple festival in central Kerala. where it is arguably presented in the most classical manner.
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.
Different types of melams
It is a six-beat thaalam (taal) with equivalents like Roopakam in south Indian Carnatic music and Daadra 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.
Performance of pancharimelam
It 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 Panchari Melam represents “Satthva Guna”, and elevates listeners to higher pedestals.
The ensemble starts at the main entrance to the inner part of the temple, slowly circling the shrine clockwise. A panchari melam has five stages, each of them based on beats totalling 96, 48, 24, 12 and 6 respectively. The first phase of the Panchari Melam, called the Pathikaalam.I
The semi-circular procession, with elephants totalling between three and fifteen. It is led by the deity of the temple kept on tusker in the centre.