|Tamil folk music and songs are globally famous for their unique style and rhythm. The day-to-day life of village people and every phase of their life is accompanied by folk music. One such musical art form is thappattam.
Thappattam is a folk dance performed with the thappu, a drum that is used by the suppressed Dalit class people of Tamil Nadu. Thappattam is the most vibrant and attractive form of dance in the state. The rhythm and drumbeats vary and the drums make different sounds during the festivals as well as during burial ceremonies.
Thappattam has gained much attention in recent years, and it is being used by modern theater practitioners in social festivals, educational institutions, formative dance, cultural nights, and many other programs.
Thappattam was called paraiattam in the ancient Sangam literature of Tamil Nadu. The word parai refers to the thappu, a drum used in olden days for the declaration and the announcement of the messages of the Chola kings and Pandya kings to the public.
Parai was one of the percussion instruments used for worship through penances. It was declared by both the Saivites (followers of Lord Shiva) and the Vaishnavites (followers of Lord Vishnu) during the Bhakthi cult.
The famous work of Tamil literature Silapathigaaram mentions parai and its striking rhythm.
Shri Andal, who is considered to be the counterpart of Meera, refers to parai in many stanzas of her literary work Thirupavai.
Thappattam is a form of folk dance accompanied by compelling music. It is said that among the traditional instruments, the thappu was the first instrument to be developed by the Tamilian. It was used initially by ancient Tamilians for rescuing themselves from animal attacks.
Thappattam has the uniqueness of being a dance form with a person who acts both as the dancer and the instrumentalist. These performances are offered during temple festivals and other functions. The performances last for many hours when performed in temples.
Men wear outfits like dhotis, whereas the women wear saris, and they have light make-up over their faces. The performers dance in unison in an effortless fashion, changing their movements according to the drumbeats.
There are many people who developed this dance art form.
In recent days, Pushpavanam Kuppusamy and his wife, Anitha Kuppuswamy, have played an important role in the development of the folk music.
There was a fear of extinction of this art because of casteism among the people. However, thappattam has gained more popularity recently due to Chennai Sangamam cultural festival organized in the Tamil Nadu state capital of Chennai. Artists from different parts of the state provide colorful entries that display the traditional dance, culture, and arts of their own region.
Different art forms such as thappattam, poikkal kuthirai aatam, karagattam, puliattam, kalaripayitru, mayilattam, and oilaattam have been performed in beaches, streets, and open parts of the city of Chennai – attracting crowds and spreading the cultural essence. Other events such as martial arts, classical dance, classical music, drama/theater, and street plays are also performed along with the folk music and dance.
On the occasion of Chithirai Thirunal, the students of Tamil University performed thappattam portraying the protection of natural resources and the fertility of the earth.
Some of the institutions offering training in thappattam are as follows:
1. The Department of Art and Culture, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, organizes summer camps for children offering courses on folk dance forms such as silambam, varmakalai, karagattam, thappattam, mayilattam, and kavadyattam.