Why it’s a big deal to see a female nadaswaram player

In South India, any wedding is incomplete without the sound of the Nadaswaram – one of the most popular wind instruments in southern India. Counted among the ‘mangala vadhyam’, or auspicious instruments, the Nadaswaram is the world’s loudest non-brass acoustic instrument (according to Wikipedia).

For centuries, the auspicious moment at weddings and other such occasions have been heralded by the sound of the nadaswaram and its accompanying percussion instruments, all played by men in spotless white dhotis and angavastrams. What a surprise it was, therefore, to see, at a recent wedding I attended, a woman playing the nadaswaram!

A female nadaswaram player is an unusual sight in India

Draped in a simple saree, she held the nadaswaram to her lips, and out came the music we have been so used to hearing. We wouldn’t even have noticed the player, so used are we to the music, if it hadn’t been for her.

A woman playing the instrument might not seem like such a big deal in this time and age, but in a patriarchal society, to play an instrument which has been the prerogative of men for ages, is indeed a big deal. It is the sort of thing that reinforces my belief in tradition, and gives some hope to our culture, that it too shall survive the passage of time and change.

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About the author

Anuradha Shankar
Anuradha Shankar is from Mumbai, India. She has a Masters degree in Physics but prefers to describe herself as a Housewife, Mother, Traveller, Bookworm and aspiring Freelance writer.
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