Other Instruments


It is vital, especially for an artist, to understand the use of other instruments in concerts and ensembles. This section focuses on providing some background information on the makeup and playing technique of these beautiful instruments which have been categorised according to the accounts of the Silappathikaram, one of the five Great Epics of Sangam Tamil literary tradition.

The Silappathikaram tells of the young merchant Kovalan’s marriage to the virtuous Kannaki (Kannagi), his love for the courtesan Mathavi, and his consequent ruin and exile in Mathurai, where he is unjustly executed after trying to sell his wife’s anklet to a wicked goldsmith who had stolen the queen’s anklet and charged Kovalan with the theft. The widow Kannaki comes to Mathurai, proves Kovalan’s innocence, and then burns Mathurai to the ground.

The Silappathikaram is a poetic rendition with details of Tamil culture, Tamil arts of dance and Tamil music. It categorises music into five sections, Tholkaruvi (Percussion), Thulaikaruvi (Wind), Narambukaruvi (Strings), Kanchakaruvi (Metallic) and Midattrukaruvi (Vocals).

Some of these categories detailed in the Silappathikaram are also detailed in the, Bharatha Muni’s Natiya Sastra, an ancient treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music.


The instruments have been categorised according to four of the five instrument categories as detailed in the Silappathikaram. Konnakol amongst other vocals have been categorised separately.


1) Tholkaruvi (Percussion)



2) Thulaikaruvi (Wind)



3) Narambukaruvi (Strings)



4) Kanchakaruvi (Metals)



5) Midattrukaruvi (Vocals)


Midattrukaruvi is derived from two distinctive Tamil words, “Midattru”, meaning throat and “Karuvi” meaning instruments. This category is therefore applies to all sounds produced by the throat, as it’s the Tamil equivalent to vocals. Konnkol, although incorporates rhythmic vocabulary, belongs to this category.