Exploring Vanchipattu Eternal Tunes

The ceremonial celebrations related to the Onam festival in Aranumula, a heritage village in central Travancore, could still be a few months away. But the rhyme and rhythm of boat songs, which are so much part of the fabric of this land, have already begun to echo on its shores.

More than 400 young men in the area have started taking lessons in the distinctive Aranmula style of Vanchipattu in a workshop that progresses here. Organized by the Palliyoda Seva Sanghom – a supreme body of 52 palliyodams (snake boats) participating in the annual water regatta here – in association with the Pathanamathitta district panchayat, the program aims to help young people engage in the age-old tradition.

According to organizers, the workshop aims to open doors of opportunity to confident and curious young singers, some for the very first time. Led by certified Vanchipattu masters and held in three zones, the workshop has participants from all 52 neighborhoods ( karas) who owns a Palliyodam.

“While this land is considered the birthplace of boat songs, there are few opportunities for young people to engage with this tradition. The workshop will introduce them to the fundamentals of this tradition, its unique styles of performance and improvisation, etc. Through intense training over the years, they will all be able to recite hundreds of lines of these songs at any time,” explained Parthasarathy R. Pillai, PSS Secretary.

Starting from interpretations of different songs, the workshop includes various sessions, including the selection of lead singers and the formation of different ensembles based on live performances. “As Vanchipattu becomes a key event in youth festivals at different levels, young people are now keen to know more about this tradition,” Pillai added.

The three-day workshop will end with participants, dressed identically in white dhoti and Melmundu, gathering in front of the Aranmula Parthasarathy temple here on Sunday morning and performing the songs in praise of the main deity with enthusiasm. The hour-long performance will be followed by the distribution of certificates and congratulations from the Vachipattu masters.

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