Thidambu Nirtham

A bit about the ultimate temple dance Thidambu Nirtham, are we doing anything for its survival??? (‘Thidambu’ denotes decorated replica of the deity and ‘Nirtham’ denotes dance)

Thidambu Nritham
Thidambu Nritham

The music or dance world in Kerala does not really know this art form Thidambu Nirtham, which is a temple art form in Malabar. This precious art is unknown to the rest of the world. And it is unfortunate that we have given little importance to this temple art form. The musical instruments which is a part of this dance form carrying deity on head are just very few.

Paani (an accompanying percussion instrument for temple rituals), Chenda(Drum) and Elathalam(pair of cymbals ), hence the beauty of this dance lies in its simplicity. The footsteps of the dancer must rhythmically follow the music. The music from Paani accompanies and invites the dancer to enter to the temple courtyard to begin the dance. The music in fact begins with a fast rhythm and then slows down, again gains pace and slows down….. This format is almost continuous from beginning to end.

Thitambu and the Thitambu Dancer
Thidambu and Thidambu Dancer

Since the dancer has to sync and follow this rhythm by holding deity on head. Both hands are carefully used to make sure and protect the deity to not to fall from your head. This also makes it difficult for any facial expressions in this art form. Hence you cannot expect facial expressions from the dancer.

According to custom, the orchestra of the music for the dance is split in four periods (in rows). In the main rhythms of Thakiladi, Adanta, Chembada and Panchari which the musicians have to follow. And the dance performer has to complement with footsteps. Infact there is very little information about the origin of this art form, even though we can see a lot of similarities with ‘Darsana Bali’ performed in temples of South Karnataka. Hence we can assume that it is originated from the region.

The survival journey…

The survival journey of this art form has been very tough like many other temple art forms or any other traditional form of art.  Thus you can imagine a continuum, at one end of which is an art that shows no obvious foreign influence in its idiom. And at the other end are arts that can transform, evolve, or may be wholly foreign. Thidambu Nirtham being a temple art form which has its roots back to centuries and is deep in rich spiritual and ritualistic theories.

Hence an evolution more than a certain extent is not at all possible in the context. In many cases it depends adequately as defined by a minority who performs and creates it. A cultural regeneration of passing over art to the younger generation is missing in our society. Because traditional art forms depends on cultural regeneration to a great extent. In this regard, the art and music future of the state or country is dependent on the success of the vulnerable!!!


Do check out the video below…

Mayesh Babu