(Last Updated on : 26/09/2012)
Panar, according to anthologies of Sangam, were wandering minstrels and their movement was a familiar sight during the time of development of music in Tamil Nadu
. Panan is one who sings. The males (panar) are Senniyar, Vairiyar, Seyriyar, Matarikar and Innisaikkaran. Female practitioners are Patini, Virali, Pattimatariki and Patal Makalir.
Musical Life of Panar
Nachchinarkkiniyar, the commentator, classifies Panar as Isaippanar (vocalists) and Yazhpanar (instrumentalists). They were patronized by Ventar, chieftains, the elite and commoners. There are references to some well-dressed affluent Panar. But most of them are described as poor and ill-clad. They catered to the tastes of inhabitants of different physiographic regions (tinais) by using tunes and instruments identified with each region.
A pulavar (composer) helped the panar. No pulavar qualifies himself as a panan or musicologist. Along with Kaniyan and Tudiyan, a panan is placed at the lowest rung of the social order. Among the ranks of pulavar are included brahmans, higher-castemen and rulers. Panar played ambassadorial and ministerial roles too. Tolkappiyam describes panars as the servants of the state. They helped communication between lovers (as a messenger of good will). The elite counted them as one of the members of the family. Strained relationships were softened by the rendering of 'Mullaippan' (melody). The head of a family who had fallen victim to the viles of 'parattaiyar' (prostitutes) was often retrieved. Among patterns there were mendicants too. Kuttar, Kotiyar, Vairiyar, Kannular and Santikkuttar were varieties of panar. A professional group of panar, praised the achievements of their patrons and woke them up early in the morning from bed. They were Akalvar, Pukalvar, Akavunar and Sutar.
The initial occupation in war was cattle lifting (Anirai Kavarutal). Panar sounded musical instruments in cattle-lifting. At the end of the day's battle, wolves and vultures hovering around the dead bodies of soldiers were kept away by the sound of drums by the panar. Soldiers seriously injured in battle were comforted by the music played by panar. Panar played Vilari (melody) which had the potential of keeping vultures away.
Rituals Followed by Panar
The panar worshipped Lord Shiva
, Tirumal, Kanurai deivam and musical instruments. They believed that deities (male/female) resided in the instruments. Their faith in the auspiciousness of time and place was impeccable. They claimed magical powers and assured people that the baneful effects of stars and ill omens could be warded off by their music. The panar and Tudiyar played special musical instruments surcharged with magical power. With the advent of panan, music was heard at all places of daily life. A new mode of music distribution is ushered in which brings changes in social organization.
Music in daily life became inseparable from the lived time in which it was active. Panan created music, carried it with him and completely organized its circulation within society. The consumers of music, however, belonged to every social class. The same musical message made the rounds. Written music (notation) had not appeared. Panan played from memory on unvaried selections of melodies. While waking up royal patrons, his music served as the essential function of circulation of information, which probably also served as political propaganda. The circulation of music was neither elitist nor monopolistic of creativity.