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The nādasvaram (Hindi: नादस्वरम; Malayalam: നാദസ്വരം; Telugu: నాదస్వరం), nāgasvaram (Hindi: नागस्वरम), nātacuvaram ([1]Tamil: நாதசுவரம்), nāyanam (Tamil: நாயனம்), nāgasvara (Kannada: ನಾಗಸ್ವರ), or variously spelled as nadaswaram, nadhaswaram, nagaswaram, nataswaram and nathaswaram, is a double reed wind instrument from South India . It is used as a traditional classical instrument in Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala.

This instrument is "among the world's loudest non-brass acoustic instruments".[1] It is a wind instrument partially similar to the North Indian shehnai but much longer, with a hardwood body and a large flaring bell made of wood or metal.

In South Indian culture, the nadaswaram is considered to be very auspicious, and it is a key musical instrument played in almost all Hindu weddings and temples of the South Indian tradition.[2] It is part of the family of instruments known as mangala vadyam[3] (lit. mangala ["auspicious"], vadya ["instrument"]). The instrument is usually played in pairs, and accompanied by a pair of drums called thavil;[4] it can also be accompanied with a drone from a similar oboe called the ottu.[5]


Nadaswaram is referred in many ancient Tamil texts. Silappatikaram refers to an instrument called "vangiyam".[citation needed] The structure of this instrument matches that of Nadaswaram.[citation needed] Since there are seven holes played with seven fingers this was also called as "Ezhil". This instrument, too, is widely played in Tamil Nadu and popular among the Tamil Diaspora.[citation needed]


The nadaswaram contains three parts namely, kuzhal, thimiru, and anasu.[clarification needed]

It is a double reed instrument with a conical bore which gradually enlarges toward the lower end. The top portion has a metal staple (mel anaichu) into which is inserted a small metallic cylinder (kendai) which carries the mouthpiece made of reed. Besides spare reeds, a small ivory or horn needle is attached to the instrument, and used to clear the reed of saliva and other debris and allows free passage of air. A metallic bell (keezh anaichu) forms the bottom end of the instrument.

Traditionally the body of the nadaswaram is made out of a tree called aacha (Tamil ஆச்சா; Hindi अंजन), although nowadays bamboo, sandalwood, copper, brass, ebony and ivory are also used. For wooden instruments, old wood is considered the best, and sometimes wood salvaged from demolished old houses is used.[6]

The nadaswaram has seven finger-holes, and five additional holes drilled at the bottom which can be stopped with wax to modify the tone.[7] The nadaswaram has a range of two and a half octaves, similar to the Indian bansuri flute, which also has a similar fingering. Unlike the flute where semi and quarter tones are produced by the partial opening and closing of the finger holes, in the nadaswaram they are produced by adjusting the pressure and strength of the air-flow into the pipe. Due to its intense volume and strength it is largely an outdoor instrument and much more suited for open spaces than for indoor concerts.


Some of the greatest early nadaswaramists include

American composers such as Lewis Spratlan[9] have expressed admiration for the nadaswaram, and a few jazz musicians have taken up the instrument: Charlie Mariano (b. 1923) is one of the few non-Indians able to play the instrument,[10] having studied it while living in India. Vinny Golia, J. D. Parran, and William Parker have performed and recorded with the instrument.[11] The German saxophonist Roland Schaeffer also plays it,[12][unreliable source?] having studied from 1981 to 1985 with Karupaia Pillai.

In popular culture[edit]

Among the Tamil movies, two released in the 1960s, namely Konjum Salangai(1962) starring Gemini Ganesan and Thillana Mohanambal(1968) starring Sivaji Ganesan, featured nadaswaram playing characters. For the Konjum Salankai movie, Karukurichi Arunasalam Pillai provided the nadaswaram music. Madurai Sethuraman and Ponnusamy brothers were employed for the nadaswaram playing duo characters Sivaji Ganesan and A.V.M. Rajan for the Thillana Mohanambal movie director AP Nagarajan dedicated this movie to legend karukurichi arunachalam

See also[edit]


  1. "Reality show India's Got Talent - Khoj 2 winners to sing for Obama". India Today. 31 October 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  2. Light Isaac (1967). Theory of Indian music. Printed at Shyam Printers. p. 156. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  3. Vijaya Ghose; Jaya Ramanathan; Renuka N. Khandekar (1992). Tirtha, the treasury of Indian expressions. CMC Ltd. p. 201. ISBN 978-81-900267-0-3. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  4. Percussioner International Audio Magazine. Sal Sofia Industries, Inc. 1984. p. 38. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  5. Ragini Devi (1990). Dance Dialects Of India. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 222–. ISBN 978-81-208-0674-0. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  6. "Indian Instruments : Nadaswaram | Indian Music : Getting to know a little more about Indian music, musicians and instruments". 22 November 2011. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  7. O. Gosvami (1 January 1961). The story of Indian music: its growth and synthesis. Scholarly Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-403-01567-2. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  8. Andankoil AV Selvarathnam Pillai B. Kolappan (15 December 2010). "Arts / Music : An art that's still awaiting its due". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  9. Sampath, Revathi (16 March 2008). "Nadaswaram". India Currents. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  10. Ian Carr; Digby Fairweather; Brian Priestley (2004). Jazz: The Essential Companion to Artists and Albums. Rough Guides. pp. 99–. ISBN 978-1-84353-256-9. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  11. "The William Parker Sessionography". 2014.
  12. Saxophone Journal. Dorn Publications. 1988. p. 46. Retrieved 25 December 2012.

External links[edit]

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