October 7, 2017
US-based International Tamil University recently honoured Parai artist Panaiyur P. Raja with doctoral degree for his excellence in ‘Thappaattam’ and traditional Tamil music.
Forty-eight-year old Panaiyur P. Raja from Panaiyur, near Madurai, has been playing Parai (a traditional drum instrument) for over 34 years and he has performed over 1000 stages.
Speaking to The Covai Post, Raja said this was the first time in the world doctoral award has been given to a Parai artist. “This is one of the biggest achievements in my life,” he said.
A recipient of Kalaimamani award from the Tamil Nadu Government in 2004 and Kalaivendhan award in 2006, he started learning the instrument at the age of 14 from Muniyandi.
A lover of various forms of ancient Tamil arts and culture, Raja has performed Parai, Silambam, Oyilattam and Karagattam in various places including Dubai, Muscat and Australia. He has also played Parai in eight Tamil movies.
“Parai is a form of traditional Tamil culture. It started from ancient Tamil days when the kings used the instrument to spread a message. It was called ‘Parai Satruvadhu’. People think performing Parai is thappattam. It is actually called ‘Thappai Aattam’. Unfortunately people connect Parai instrument with lower class society. It is wrong. Most of the Parai artists are very poor. They don’t even have proper clothes to wear. And many of them are alcoholics. We are now spreading awareness among them to maintain discipline and promote the Tamil culture through the instrument,” he said.
According to him, many students from various schools and colleges are coming forward to learn Parai with great interest and enthusiasm.