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Underside of the parai, alongside percussion sticks

The parai is a frame drum about 35 centimeters in diameter. It consists of a shallow ring of wood, covered on one side with a stretched cow hide that is glued to the wooden frame. The preferred wood is neem wood although other types may be used. The shell is made up of three separate pieces of wood each in the shape of an arc. These pieces are held together by three metal plates. The parai is played with two sticks: one long, thin flat bamboo stick (approx. 28 cm) called 'Sindu/ Sundu Kuchi'[1] and a short, thick stick called 'Adi Kucchi'[1] that can be made from any variety of wood (approx. 18 cm)


Video of a boy's parai recital
Parai attam

The parai is slung by a strap over one shoulder (weak/off hand side) and is held vertically by pushing it towards the performer's body. This simple harness allows the drummer to play while standing, walking, or dancing Parai Attam[2]

The Parai is played entirely with two sticks- Adi kuchi (Tamil:அடி குச்சி) and Sundu Kuchi (Tamil:சுண்டு குச்சி).There are three fundamental strokes from which all of the rhythmic patterns are derived;[3] striking the center of the drum with the shorter stick held in the strong/dominant hand; "slapping" the center of the drum with the long stick held in the weak/off hand; and striking the drum with both sticks, the dominant immediately followed by the off. The short stick (adikuchi) is loosely held between the thumb and three other fingers: index, middle, and ring of the dominant hand. It is held vertically upright, positioned near the lower rim of the drum. The off hand which holds the long stick rests on the upper part of the frame. This stick is positioned at an angle pointed downward. The base of the stick is gripped by the thumb and index fingers and balanced between the middle and ring fingers. The long stick is moved back and forth using the ring finger and thumb respectively

Just before the commencement of every performance, drummers will heat the Parai,[4] holding them extremely close to a small bonfire, so that the heat absorbs the moisture in the drum heads and tightens them considerably. After heating, the drums produce a high pitched loud cracking sound when struck.[5]


  • Otthaiyadi (Tamil: ஒத்தையடி)
  • Thenmangu (Tamil: தென்மாங்கு)
  • Samiaatam (Tamil: சாமியாட்டம்)
  • Thullal (Tamil: துள்ளல்)
  • Uyirppu (Tamil: உயிர்ப்பு)


Parai is the mother of all musical instruments. It is one of the earliest percussion instruments and also it is written in Tholkaapiam mentioning Parai as a standard musical instrument on many occasions. Parai means "To speak or to communicate" and is a relic of anthropological remains of progressive human civilization. Initially, humans lived in the caves of hills as hunter-gatherers. Parai was invented with an excess of bull or cow skin with ring help of wood ring in sangam literature, there is enough evidence to point out Parai as an instrument of royal stature. It was performed in the royal courts of Sangam rulers. Devaram, the devotional hymns composed by highly revered Saiva saints on Lord Shiva around the 6th century AD, has references to Parai being played inside the temple sanctum.[6] It was only later called “Thappu” (meaning inauspicious) to derogate Tamil arts during the 14th century AD Vijayanagara rule of Tamil land

Parai is already got a acceptance in North America due to the coordinated efforts of the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America FeTNA and professional parai trainers from Tamil Nadu. Thanks to the hard work of Lawrence Annathurai and his team Kayal Raj, Bala Murugesan and Robert Doss for pioneering this art form in Australia, the Tamils of Australia are catching up with North Americans, and the rest of the world will soon follow suit


  • Ariparai
  • Areriparai
  • Uvagaiparai
  • Saaparai or Sakaatuparai
  • Vettiyanparai
  • Neytharparai
  • Pampai
  • Meenkotparai
  • Maruthanilaparai
  • Kallavadam
  • Kuravaiparai
  • Thadaru
  • Kurumparai
  • Kodukotti
  • Kotparai
  • Thamuku
  • Nisaalam
  • Soosikam
  • Thakkai
  • Thadaari
  • Parathappattai
  • Thalaiparai
  • Padalai
  • Pandaramelam
  • Panriparai
  • Murasu, Veparai
  • Poosatrunnumai
  • Murugiyam
  • Veriyaatuparai
  • Veeranam
  • Panchamasatham

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "உலகம் முழுக்க பறை ஒலிக்கட்டும்!". Vikatan. 1 January 2015. Retrieved 11 September 2016.(in Tamil)
  2. ^ Priya (6 January 2022). "Parai Attam is a Special Type of Dance in Tamil". Latest News & Information. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  3. ^ Retrieved 3 July 2022. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Anantharam, Chitradeepa (16 January 2018). "Striving to 'parai' relevant to young audiences". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  5. ^ "Parai Attam Folk Dance, Origin, History, Information, Style". Gosahin - Explore Unexplored Destinations. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  6. ^ "The parai: Then and now, the instrument plays a key role in anti-caste struggle". The News Minute. 21 August 2021. Retrieved 3 July 2022.

External links[edit]