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A Nadasvaram with seevali
Double reed wind
Other namesNagasvaram
Classification Wind instruments

The nadaswaram[note 1][note 2] (Tamil: நாதசுவரம், nādḥasvaram) is a double reed wind instrument from South India.[1] It is used as a traditional classical instrument in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala[2] and in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka.

This instrument is "among the world's loudest non-brass acoustic instruments".[3] 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 nadasvaram 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.[4] It is part of the family of instruments known as mangala vadyam[5] (lit. mangala "auspicious", vadya "instrument"). The instrument is usually played in pairs, and accompanied by a pair of drums called thavil;[6] it can also be accompanied with a drone from a similar oboe, called the ottu.[7]



The nadasvaram is referred to in many ancient Tamil texts. The Cilappatikaram refers to an instrument called the "vangiyam".[citation needed] The structure of this instrument matches that of a nadasvaram.[citation needed] Since there are seven holes played with seven fingers, this was also called as the "eḻil". This instrument, too, is played in Tamil Nadu, and is popular among the Tamil diaspora.[8]


A young man plays the Nadaswaram.

The nadasvaram contains three parts namely, kuḻal, 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 (keeḻ anaichu) forms the bottom end of the instrument.

Traditionally the body of the nadasvaram 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.[9]

The nadasvaram has seven finger-holes, and five additional holes drilled at the bottom which can be stopped with wax to modify the tone.[10] The nadasvaram 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 nadasvaram 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 nadasvaram players include:

  • Thirumarukal Nadesa Pillai
  • T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai (1898–1956)
  • Thiruvengadu Subramania Pillai,
  • Vedaranyam Vedamoorthy
  • Karukurichi Arunachalam (1921–1964)
  • Kulikkarai P Rajendran Pillai(1970–2019)
  • Thirucherai Sivasubramanian Pillai
  • Thiruvarur S Latchappa Pillai
  • Acharyapuram Chinnathambillai (b. 1928)
  • Kulikkarai Pichaiyappa
  • M.S. Ponnuthayi (1928–2012)
  • Kizhvelur N.G. Ganesan
  • Andankoil A V Selvarathnam Pillai
  • Thiruvizha Jayashankar (b. 1940)
  • Brother teams of Keeranur and Thiruveezhimizhalai,
  • Semponnarkoil Brothers S R G Sambandam and Rajanna.
  • Dharumapuram S. Abiramisundaram Pillai and his son Dharumapuram A Govindarajan[11]
  • Sheik Chinna Moulana (1924 - 1999)
  • Gosaveedu shaik Hassan sahieb (1928–2021)
  • Sheik Mahaboob Subhani
  • Kaleeshabi Mahaboob
  • Namagiripettai Krishnan (1924–2001)
  • Madurai M.P.N. Sethuraman (1928–2000)
  • M.P.N. Ponnuswamy (1932–2023)
  • Ponnusamy brothers
  • Alaveddy N.K. Pathmanathan
  • Mambalan M.K.S. Shiva
  • S. R. D. Vaidyanathan (1929–2013)
  • Seshampatti T Sivalingam
  • Domada Chittabbayi (1930–2002)
  • Injikudi E.M. Subramaniam
  • Umapathy Kandasamy (1950–2017)
  • U.E.Palanivel, Chennai
  • Kundala Kambar, Nagercoil (1965)
  • Sankarapandia Kambar, Tirunelveli
  • Tiruvalaputtur T K Venupilla
  • Kulikkarai Brothers K.M Daksaha Moorthi Pillai & K.M Ganeshan Pillai
  • Pattamangalam, Selvaraj
  • Kudanthai Brothers Dr Srinivasan Kaliyamoorthy,Mr Shanmuganathan Kaliyamoorthy

American composers such as Lewis Spratlan[12] have expressed admiration for the nadasvaram, and a few jazz musicians have taken up the instrument: Charlie Mariano (1923–2009) was one of the few non-Indians able to play the instrument,[13] having studied it while living in India. Vinny Golia, J. D. Parran, and William Parker have performed and recorded with the instrument.[14] The German saxophonist Roland Schaeffer also plays it,[15][unreliable source?] having studied from 1981 to 1985 with Karupaia Pillai.


Among the Tamil movies, two released in the 1960s, namely Konjum Salangai(1962) starring Gemini Ganesan and Thillana Mohanambal(1968) starring Sivaji Ganesan, featured nadasvaram playing characters. For the Konjum Salankai movie, Karukurichi Arunasalam Pillai provided the nadasvaram music. Madurai Sethuraman and Ponnusamy brothers were employed for the nadasvaram 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



  1. ^ Malayalam: നാദസ്വരം; Kannada: ನಾದಸ್ವರ; Tamil: நாதசுவரம், நாயனம்; Telugu: నాదస్వరం
  2. ^ Variously spelled as nadaswaram, nadhaswaram, nagaswaram, nataswaram, and nathaswaram.
  1. ^ University, Vijaya Ramaswamy, Jawaharlal Nehru (25 August 2017). Historical Dictionary of the Tamils. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 161. ISBN 978-1-5381-0686-0.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Venkatasubramanian, T. K. (2010). Music as History in Tamilnadu. Primus Books. p. 50. ISBN 978-93-80607-06-1.
  3. ^ "Reality show India's Got Talent - Khoj 2 winners to sing for Obama". India Today. 31 October 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  4. ^ Light Isaac (1967). Theory of Indian music. Printed at Shyam Printers. p. 156. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Percussioner International Audio Magazine. Sal Sofia Industries, Inc. 1984. p. 38. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  7. ^ Ragini Devi (1990). Dance Dialects Of India. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 222–. ISBN 978-81-208-0674-0. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  8. ^ Nayagam, Xavier S. Thani (1964). Tamil Culture. Academy of Tamil Culture. p. 210.
  9. ^ "Indian Instruments : Nadaswaram | Indian Music : Getting to know a little more about Indian music, musicians and instruments". aboutindianmusic.com. 22 November 2011. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Sampath, Revathi (16 March 2008). "Nadaswaram". India Currents. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "The William Parker Sessionography". 2014.
  15. ^ Saxophone Journal. Dorn Publications. 1988. p. 46. Retrieved 25 December 2012.