Kerala’s cultural heritage is a perfect blend of the various traditions from its glorious past. Peruvemba village, located around 15 km away from Palakkad town, is a place that contributes a major share of this cultural heritage. Peruvemba is famous for being the place where the ancient craft of making percussion instruments is preserved. It is also known for its handlooms and authentic handicrafts. This village is sure to interest anyone who has a liking for traditional handicrafts and/or is a lover of music.
The Percussion Village of Kerala
Kerala’s art forms have a long history and a rich past. And music, especially the rhythm of percussion instruments, is an integral part of these performances; be it classical art forms, temple art forms, or traditional art forms. But while the audience enjoys the performance and compliments the artists, few recognize the effort that the skilled craftsmen put into the making of the instruments that creates “music to our ears”.
Peruvemba is the hub of classical percussion instruments in Kerala. For more than 200 years, the artisans of this village have engaged in the making and supply of percussion instruments. And as each generation picked up the art from the generation before them, the village went on to be known as the percussion village of Kerala.
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From finding the right type of wood to make the body to tuning the instrument, the art of instrument making has numerous steps that are difficult and time-consuming. For example, the surface of the instruments is made with the dried skin of cows, buffalo, and female goats. Frequent unseasonal showers make the drying of skin difficult, and this is one of the many challenges these artisans face. But despite these hardships, the artisans of Peruvemba do not stray from their traditional ways. To them, this ancient craft is not just a way to earn money, but also a divine skill that is proudly passed on from one generation to the next.
Today, more than 70 families continue this tradition. Classical percussion instruments like Chenda, Madhalam, Mridhangam, Idakka, and Thabala are the main instruments made by the people of Peruvemba. You might see Chendas made in other places, but the crafting of instruments like Madhalam, Mridhangam, and Idakka need special skills that are monopolised by the artisans of Peruvemba.
Handloom village in Peruvemba
Another aspect that makes the Peruvemba village prominent on the heritage map of Kerala is its handlooms. Weavers in Peruvamba, Kallanchira, and the surrounding areas are experts in making authentic handloom clothes.
Many people who live in these parts make their livelihood from the handloom sector. And their ancestry and the history of their craft can be traced back by centuries. Their ancestors were part of a weaving community in Karnataka. The then Maharaja invited them to Palakkad. They migrated and set up many handloom centres. But as subsequent generations shifted from weaving, the number of such centres decreased.
Cooperative societies that exist in Peruvemba help the weavers to a great extent. They facilitate the provision of raw materials, act as the marketplace for sales and satisfy business-related other needs of weavers. Traditional Kerala Kasavu sarees, set mundu, dhoti, and colour sarees are the major products crafted by the weavers of Peruvemba. With renewed interest in handlooms, the sector is slowly regaining its past glory.
Be it is percussion instruments or handlooms, the skill of the craftspeople of Peruvemba village is awe-inspiring, and that’s what makes this place one of the most valuable heritage spots of Kerala.