‘Kottipadi Seva’ Scales New Heights
The man stood for Sopana Sangeetham through his Kottipadi Seva and Bhajanam | By Renju R
On Aug 23, 2011


Trivandrum played host to a great artist on July 16. He was here to present a musical concert at Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan. He is a man, who has given a new vocal style to Sopana Sangeetham by singing his own songs according to the occasions and calls it ‘ Kottipadi Seva’. The man is none other than Njeralathu Harigovindan, who has raised a few eye brows with his new and unconventional style. One of the six sons of the maestro Njeralathu Rama  Pothuval, the well known name in the field of Sopana Sangeetham, Govindan’s talent is hereditary.  

Hari has a very beautiful memory about Thiruvananthapuram. He recollects that his first appearance with an idakka accidently happened here. He had played the role of  an idakka player in an Onam play directed by artist Dayandan.  He was 17 years old then and he had used his father's ídakka for the performance.



Hari’s father Ramapoduval did not encourage his children to follow in his footsteps. So Hari did not have enough exposure to Sopana Sangeetham. Sopana Sangeetham was usually only sung in temples during Pooja, near the holy stairs named Sopanam leading into the sanctum sanctorum housing the deity. It is meant to help devotees focus  their attention on God. Traditionally, the Marar or Pothuval castes of Ambalavasi community are the singers of Sopana Sangeetham.

Hari’s father made this music form  social, by singing  it outside the temple too, something for which he faced stiff opposition. The difficulties that he had to face by worshipping this music compelled him to take the decision to keep his children away from this art form.

Unfortunetly Hari had to follow the artistic path of his father. He tells Yentha, “I started to sing 3 months after my father’s death. My first stage performance was at the Malappuram district Edappal Devi Temple Sangeethosavam. I only had to sing a couple of songs then. But soon, the number of stages increased and there was no way other than studying music. So I started to learn the lines of the songs. I have grown up listening to my father sing.  So I try to sing in the same tune.”

During this period, Hari received media attention for being prohibited from singing inside temples since his father belonged to the Pothuval cast, while his mother belonged to the Nair community.’

However Hari had several stages inside and outside Kerala, set to showcase his talent. Hari claims that what he sings is not the real Sopana Sangeetham because he is not singing in front of the Sopanam in the temple and that he has not been formally trained  in this music. In his words, “It is Kottipadi Seva  with the support of Idakka. I  established my own  style of doing  it. So there is no constraint to sing the song. I worship Nada that rises  above all  limitations.”


During stage performances, Hari usually sings verses from the Geetha Govind or Ashtapadi by the poet Jayadeva, devotional songs praising gods and goddesses, poetry, his own songs about nature and communal harmony etc. In his opinion,  “Art is for peace in life and not to defeat anybody. Only if the artist enjoys his music, it is possible for him to convey it to the audience.” Hari continues, “It is art that has to be the intoxicant.”

In order to concentrate on his music, he resigned from his teaching profession in January 2005. In his research he has found that there are 60,000 temples in Kerala but less than 60 Sopana Sangeetham artists. He is afraid that gradually the traditional form of Sopana Sangeetham will disappear. So he has recorded the songs sung by traditional singers and archived it for the coming generation. The artists are also not very keen on passing on this art form to their children.



In doing his bit for promoting Sopana Sangeetham, Hari has started a Kalashramam in Njeralam and a Sopana Sageetham Website to promote the art. Using this site, people all over the world will be able to get information about Sopana Sangeetham and the artists behind it. He also includes other folklore artists in his programmes.

Besides music, Hari has proved his talent in acting. He has acted in a Malayalam tele film named ‘Anubhavangal’ by M G Sasi. In the film ‘Adayaalangal’ he appeared as an actor and play back singer. In 1996, Hari won the Narayanunni Nambi Puraskaram and in 2004, he won the ‘Boston World Youth Cultural Award’. Without the boundary of cast, creed, religion or language Hari Govindan’s ‘Kottipadiseva’ is reaching out to a wide audience.


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ഹരിഗോവിന്ദന്റെ പാട്ടുകള്‍ എനിക്കൊത്തിരി ഇഷ്ടമാണ്
T.c.v.satheesan, on Apr 17, 2012 07:44:52 PM
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