Idakka, the instrument that is indispensable in Kerala’s temple music

The rhythmic beats of Idakka puts one into a trance as the music follows its beat pattern


Deva Vadyam

Idakka is one of the most revered percussion instruments in Kerala temples. They call it as Deva Vadyam. Before it was part of most temples, but today the number is significantly less. In the temple rituals, usually performed during the daily pujas or as an accompaniment to Sopanam music. The artist or performer renders it outside the sanctum sanctorum of various temples in Kerala, and during the Athazha puja in temples. The artist stands near the steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum and sings Sopanam to the accompaniment of idakka.

Usually the first song is in praise of the presiding deity of the temple. After this other kirtanas and ashtapadis will follow. Idakka is a wooden drum with four strings and is about 8 inches long. It is made from karungali, sandalwood and with wood from the jackfruit tree. The instrument is in the shape of an hourglass. You play it with a stick; the pitch of the instrument changes by pressing the lacing in the middle.

The material and the sound

The main body is Kuttyi, which is about half-an-inch thick. Its thin in the center and wide towards the end. Small nails connects to both the faces of the idakka and strings holds on to these nails. And the stick that we play Idakka is made out of bamboo, tamarind wood or chappanga.

You normally play this instrument only in a standing posture. The instrument is hung on the left shoulder and the stick is held in the right hand. The artist tightens and loosens the cloth tied around the instrument in order to increase or decrease the pitch. Idakka is a rare combination of melody and rhythm. It allows the artist to come up with rhythmic patterns and tonal variations.


Some of the dance forms which uses Idakka for their music involve Koodiyattam, Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Krishnanattam etc.

According to research ‘The Role of Music in the Temples of Northern Kerala’ Idakka has a divine connection. Its two faces represent the sun and the moon, while the two strings at the edge represent jeevatma and paramatma, the four jeevakols — the Vedas, the Tholkachcha refers to Nagaraja, the six holes depict the six Sastras and the 64 Podipukkals represent the 64 art forms.


Enjoy the Idakka training video from Kerala Kalamandalam.

Mayesh Babu