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Nada Gana Arasi (Life & Times of Madurai M.S.Ponnuthai)


From the moment she was born to the moment she passed away, Madurai Sripathy Ponnuthai captivated family members and friends alike through her expertise as a nadaswaram artiste and the first woman instrumentalist in what has traditionally been a male bastion.

In south Indian culture the nadaswaram is considered a holy instrument, and is therefore played mostly at joyous occasions, such as at a temple festival or at a wedding. It is very rare for a woman to play this instrument and take it to such high levels. The late MS Ponnuthai was the first woman to ever play it at many temples and shrines

Sadly, in 1972, her husband passed away. After this bitter event, her career encountered a few problems. A music critic wrote that a holy instrument was being played by an unholy woman, simply because she was a widow. But her career was in full swing, so even criticism on such a sensitive issue could not stop her. The amount of energy that she derived from her passion, as she grew older, was said to be a gift from God himself! Her concerts lasted for over ten hours, in some instances from 10 pm to 6 am.

Her charity also went towards supporting musicians; from low socio economic backgrounds with financial aid. Eventually, the very common disease with nadaswaram players, chronic ulcer, caught up with her. She died in January 2012. However, her legacy carries on through her grandson P.Vikneshwaran.