Composers and Musicians

Irayimman Thampi (1782-1856)

Listen to MP3 of selected compositions of Irayimman Thampi:

* KarunaCheyvanEnthu * OmanaThinkalKidavo * PranaNaadhanEnikkuNalkiya *Kamalathikalam * Veera Virada Kumara * Partha Saarathe * Chentha Sayaka Roopa * Enthu Njan Iha *Amba Gauri Giri Kanye * Adimalarina Thanne * Aarodu Cholvene * Karunaam videhi * Enthaho Vallabha

Iravivarman Thampi was the son of Parukkutti Thankachi, daughter of Makairam Thirunal Ravivarma. His father was Kerala Varma Thampuran. Iravivarma was born in 1782 and was popularly known as Irayimman Thampi. Even during his childhood he was scholar in drama, grammer, logic , kaavya and alankara and was eminent in music and literature. However, his greatness in classical music reached its zenith during the reign of Swathi Thirunal. He was one among the eminent men who adorned Swathi Thirunal’s court. Their mutual encouragement had helped them in polishing their potentials .

There existed a healthy competition between them in composing songs in which Thampi was always the winner. Swathi Thirunal’s famous lyrics ‘Panchabanan thannudei.....’ and Thampi’s “Prananadhanenikku Nalkiya.....” were the results of such competitions. This particular work of Thampi is the most beautiful sringarapadam in Malayalam.Thampi has composed 21 Sankeerthanas, five Malayalam Keerthanas, five Varnas, and 22 Padams and one lullaby. He has also created musical works in Sanskrit and Manipravalam. Though he excelled in Bhakthi and Sringara he has proved his eminence in all Bhavas through his various works. He has composed beautiful varnas in Aarabhi, Sankaraabharanam, Neelambari, Bhairavi and Punnagavaraali ragas. Sanskrit Keerthanas in rare ragas, like Irdisha, Manchi and Kakubha deserve special mentions. Irayamman Thampi was also enjoyed an esteemed position among the Kathakali musicians of Kerala. His works include single verses, Keerthanas, Malayala Padams, Varnas, Murajapappana, Subhadraharanam, Thiruvathirappattu, Navarathri Prabhandham, Attakkadhas like Utharaswayamvaram, Keechakavadham, Dakshayaagam, and Kilipattu like Rasakreeda and Vasishtam. ‘Omanathinkal Kidavo’ the lullaby composed by Thampi is a lyric hummed by mothers all over Kerala for generations.

Among excellent works of Thampi are ‘Amba Gauri’ (Aarabhi Varnam), ‘Karuna Cheyvan enthu thaamasam’ (Sri), ‘Paradhevathei’ (Thodi), ‘Kamalathikalam’ (Kambhoji) ‘Pahimaam Girithanaye’ (Saveri), ‘Adimalarina Thanne’ (Mukhari), ‘Neelavarna Pahimam’ (Suruthi), ‘Ehi Baalagopala Krishna’ (Punnagavarali Ragam), and ‘Sambho Gaureesha’ (Kedaaragaula.). He has composed songs on Sree Padmanabha of Thiruvananthapuram, Sree Krishna of Guruvayoor and also Chettumala Devi of Chettumala temple attached to Puthu mana veedu in Karamana in Thiruvananthapuram city. Some of his padas refer to Swathi , his aunt and his sister.
In 1856 Irayamman Thampi died after enjoying the patronage of four Travancore kingsand two queens. Swathi is known to have referred to Thampi as Thampi maman (uncle thampi). Irayimman Thampi had the occasion to write a lullaby for Swathi Thirunal and ironically also wrote a charama sloka for Swathi in 1848.

Irayimman Thampi Puthumana Ammaveedu Memorial for Thampi in Puthumana
A House in Kizhakkemadam ChuttumalaDevitemple  


The bicentinary of Poet-Laureate and musicologist Irayimman Thampi is being celebrated now by the Art-lovers of Kerala. We remember this unique personality with highest regard and esteem. Nobody can forget the sweetest lullaby song composed by him -

Nalla komalathamarappovo
Poovil niranja madhuvo
Nalla poornendu thante nilavo”

(Is it the child of moon, Is it a beautiful lotus flower, Is it the honey filled in the flower,
or is it the moon-light of a full-moon-night ?)

This lullaby was composed by Thampi for the sake of a royal child and that too Sri. Swathi Thirunal. Later when the child became the Maharaja of Travancore Thampi was accredited as his court poet and composer. The Maharaja and Thampi fulfilled the musical aspirations of Kerala at a time. We the successors of that glorious tradition can be definitely proud of the wonderful asset and heritage left behind by those two stalwarts of the last century.

Irayimman Thampi was born on the Pooruruttathy star of the month of Thulam in the Year 958 M. E. This year it fell on the 29th of October. Thampi’s father was Kerala Varma (Kelaru) Thampan of Shertallai Palace, and mother was Parvathi Pilla Thankachi of Puthumana Amma Veedu at Karamana, Trivandrum. Thampi was brought up by his parents at their residence Kizhekke madhom near the Virakupurakotta, the House given to Kelaru Thampan by the illustrious king Dharmaraja Sri. Karthikathirunal. The father himself gave Thampi the basic education. Later Moothat Sankaran IIayath gave him higher learning in various branches of knowledge like grammar, literature etc. Thampi’s aptitude towards music and arts was very deep and under the royal patronage he could develop his various talents. At the age of fourteen, he wrote a poem and dedicated it to the Maharaja.

Thampi was married to Kalipilla Thankachi and a child was born to that couple on the Anizha star of the month of Kumbha in the year 995 ME. That child later became the real successor of the arrtistic tradition of her father; She is the well-known writer and poetess, musicologist and composer late Kutty kunju Thankachi who contributed much to Malayalam literature Thampi lived at Trivandrum throughout his life and he had the privilage of enjoying the liberal patronage and protect on of four kings Dharmarajar Balarama Varma, Swathi Thirunal and Uthram Thirunal and two Queens Gouri Parvathy Bai and Gouri Lakshmi Bai. Thampi witnessed so many events of the capital and of the royal life on which he composed poems also. The rulers decorated his hand with golden chain-Veerasrinkhala acknowledging the talented poetic craftsmanship and musical power of Thampi. He was often qualified by the rulers as ‘Kavi’ (Poet). Thampi died in the year 1866 at the age of 73. Thampi’s contributions include 1) Kichakavatham Attakatha 2) Utharaswayamvaram Attakatha, 3) Dakshayagam Attakatha 4) Subhadraharanam Kaikottikalippattu 5) Murajapa Pana 6) Navarathri prabandham 7) Omana thinkal kidavo Tharattu 8) Vasishtam killippattu 9) Rasakrida, and 10) Rajasevakramam Manipravalam in addition to a number of verses and songs. The late T. Lakshmanan Pillai says; “Thampi is said to have composed something like 500 pieces, only twenty five of which seem now to be sung ..... he was a gifted poet, the finish and beauty of those compositions are hardly inferio to those of Maharaja Sri Swathi Thirunal. It would appear that His Highness after composing his pieces loved to show them to Thampi and set much value on his appreciation of them.
Thampi wrote Kichaka Vadham Attakatha according to the will of Utharam Thirunal Yuvaraja. The story of Utharaswayamvaram is a continuation of the theme dealt with in Kichaka Vadham. Both depict stories taken from the Mahabharata. Dakshayagam is another attakatha based on Srimad Bhagavatha. All these three Attakathas combine as a mound-trio of the Kathakali literature and this contribution equates him to famous Unnayi Warrier who wrote Nalacharitham Attakatha in the 18th Century, a work which is said to be a unique one in Malayalam. All the three Attakathas of Thampi are beautiful literary and musical pieces as well as visual porductions. Many padas of these poems have won wide appreciation. For example, some of them are cited below.

1 Sasimukhi varika suseele Kichaka Vadham
2 Malini ruchiraguna Salini -do-
3 Harinakshi Janamoulimane -do-
4 Vira virata kumara vibho (kummi) Utharaswayamvaram
5 Jayajaya naga ketana Dakshayagam
6 Kanninakkanandam -do-
7 Puntenvani srinu -do-

The famous Dandake “Kshonindrapatniyute vanim nisamya” is also noted by the readers. Thampi composed a good number of padas and kirtanas also. Some famous pieces are these:
Malayala kirtanas
1 Neelavarna pahimam (surutti - chempata)
2 Pahimamgirithanaye (saveri - chempata)
3 Karunacheyvan enthuthamasam (saveri - chempata)
4 Adimalarinnathanne (Mukhari - chempata)
1 Amba Gouri (Arabhi - Atanta)
2 Manasi parithapam dussaham ayyo (Sankarabharanam - chempata)
1 Aroducholvan Azhalullathellam (indisa - Jhampa)
2 Kamaladikalam Narumalarellam (Kamodari - chempata)
3 Enthujnanihacheyvu (Neelambari - chempata)
4 Prananathanenikkunalkiya (Kamodari - chempata)
All such songs prove the grace verbal felicity and exquisite artistry reflected in the compositions of Thampi. They are full of lyrical charm and musical beauty. Among the musicologists and the composers of Kerala, Thampi gains a high place perhaps next to Sri Swathi Thirunal Maharaja because of his brilliant writings. Not only as a composer of songs but also as an Attakatha writer he has established his reputation on strong basis. The visual effect and the melodious quality of the three Attakathas is well acknowledged by the actors and the Sahridyas. Some of the padas composed by Thampi are employed by the Mohiniyattam dancers and that is much appreciated by the art-lovers. In fact, Thampi’s contribution in that way to the Mohiniyattam style of dancing is also distinguishable. Many pieces from the Attakathas like the famous ‘Kummi’ - “Veeravirata kumara vibho” from the Utharaswayamvaram is often used for the Thiruvathirakali, another Lasya dance of women in Kerala. They cannot rule out the grace of such padas which are really having aesthetic beauty.

Thampi has proved his ability to depict soft rasas like the Sringara, Karuna, Bhakti etc. throughout his creative writings. The well-knit nature of the musical and literary elements in his compositions and the aesthetic charm of their visual effect are the clear evidence for the musterly writings of Thampi. Even the beautiful lullaby piece makes him uniquely immortal. This second century of the versatile genius, Irayimman Thampi proves the undeniable fact that the has left an indelible impression in the minds of the all people in Kerala. It may also be said that it is only on essential matter to collect and compile all the works of Thampi with suitable notes, so that all admirers and art lovers may know and assess the value of Thampi’s contributions to Art and Literature. Undoubtedly we can quatity Thampi as a bright light which shines ever in the cultural arena of Kerala. Thampi’s pioneering contribution to the musical sphere of this land is also of everlasting value.


Here is the list if Irayimman Thampi’s compositions. Await MP3 downloads for all songs, in the second phase of this web site development. [This list excludes songs from Attakathas some of which are sung in Carnatic concerts in Kerala, for intance the beautiful poem in Malahari, Karunaam Vidhehi Mayi Kamalanaabha].


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