Palghat Mani Iyer

Palghat Mani Iyer

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Category: Music

Palghat Mani Iyer Profile

  • Name:
  • Palghat Mani Iyer
  • Father:
  • T. R. Sesha Bhagavathar

Palghat Mani Iyer Biography

Palghat Mani Iyer was a leading mridangam player from Palakkad, Kerala. An exponent percussionist in the second half of the 20th century, he was the first mridangam artist to receive the prestigious Sangeetha Kalanidhi and the third civilian honour Padmabhushan awards. He is also a recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in the year 1956. Noted mridangam artist K. V. Narayanaswamy was his disciple, who married Iyer’s cousin, Annapoorni. Iyer started in an era when mridangam was ruled by the trio - Dakshinamurthy Pillai, Nagercoil S.Ganesa Iyer and Alaganambi Pillai. Iyer’s innovative ideas, techniques and distinct style made him dominate over the three.


He was born in the year 1912, in Kalpathi - an early Tamil Brahmin settlement (agraharam) in the Palakkad District of Kerala state. Received initial training from Chaatapuram Subbaiyer at the age of 9 and Kalpathy Viswanatha Iyer, he received advanced training from Thanjavur Vaidyanatha Iyer. He also learnt to play for Harikatha pieces from his father T. R. Sesha Bhagavathar who was also a musician. After studies he accompanied the famous Carnatic vocalist Chembai Vaidanatha Bagavathar in music concerts at Chennai which made him indeed popular. He made his first performance at the age of 14, and Chennai indeed made him a popular artist. He also played mridangam for all leading vocalists of his time. During his early days he also accompanied Palghat Rama Bhagavatar and Ennappadam Venkatrama Bhagavatar.


Among his disciples, Palghat R. Raghu became very prominent later. Noted Carnatic musician Lalitha Sivakumar is his daughter and famous vocalist Nithyasree Mahadevan, also known as a playback singer is his granddaughter. Palghat Mani Iyer's phenomenal achievement and contribution has influenced all the mridangam players who succeeded him. He passed away in 1981 aged 69.

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Updated: March 12, 2016

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