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Annamalai Reddiar – Kavadi Chindu – Originator Of Tamil Musical Form

Annamalai Reddiar (1865 – 91 CE) is the originator of a Tamil musical form called Kavadi Chindu. He was born in 1865 at Chennikulam village in Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu. He studied Tamil literature under several scholars.

He composed songs and set them to music. More than three hundred of them are about his patron, Irudalaya Maruthappa Thevar, zamindar of Urrumalai.

Kavadi Chindu songs of Annamalai Reddiar were written to commemorate Thevar’s pilgrimage to the Muruga temple at Kalugumalai, carrying kavadi (wooden structure) on his shoulders. These songs include invocations to Vinayaka and Murugan as well as descriptions of the Kalugumalai temple and its surroundings. The poet portrays the almighty as nayaka (bridegroom) and the human self as nayaki (bride), and describes their initial separation and their final coming together through the efforts of the guru as a mediator or friend. Such expressions of bridal mysticism have their origin in the hymns of the Alwars such as Nammalvar. The language is simple and beautiful. Rules of prosody are strictly followed. Besides the songs, which describe the Kalugumalai hill, the temple and the lake, there are compositions that convey the anguish of the heroine’s mother. The anxiety of the heroine at her separation from her Lord, which even turns into anger, constitutes the theme of another song. The verses are set to classical Carnatic ragas (melodies) and talas (rhythmic cycles).

Although Kavadi Chindu comes under the folk music form, it is often sung at the end of the classical music concerts. The eminent Tamil patriot-poet Subramania Bharati has composed some beautiful kavadi chindu songs on the model set by Annamalai Reddiar.

Annamalai Reddiar also wrote other works such as Virai talapuranam, Virai Navanita Krishnashtami Padikam and Gomati Andadi. He passed away at the early age of twenty six.