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Sopanam is a form of Indian classical music developed in the temples of Kerala in the wake of the increasing popularity of the Jayadeva's 'Gita Govinda' or 'Ashtapathi'. Sopanasangitham is sung by the side of the steps (Sopanam) of Temple, with the accompaniment of the drum called 'Idakka'. The sopanasangitam in its traditional form is seen at its best among the Marars and Poduvals, who were hereditary Ambalavasi Brahmins engaged to do the same.

Kerala has shared the general musical culture of peninsular India from the earliest times. South Indian music is generally known as Carnatic music because of its common features. Each region of the south has its own culture. Kerala's music is known as Sopanam. Sangeetam (Music) appears to have acquired its name from the 'Sopanam' which means 'Sanctum Sanctorum' of the temple. Its essential features were born out of a happy blending of the Vedic, the folk and tribal music of the region.

The characteristic features of this music are, simple structure and peculiar forms of expression.

The structure of the Sopanam music is believed to reflect the experience of the devotee in ascending the heights of devotion. Sopanam music developed and became popular through the practice of singing invocatory songs in front of the 'Kalam' of Kali (floor drawing of Kali) and later on at the sanctum of the temple. There are a few powerful schools connected with the temples like Pazhoor, Tiumandhamkunnu, Guruvayoor, Ramamangalam. In these temples, this music had been hereditarily practiced by temple singers. Neralattu Rama Poduval of Tirumandhamkunnu bani, Janardhanan Nedungadi of Guruvayoor, Damodara Marar belonging to the Mudiyettu bant of Pazhoor are some of the most effective experts.

Sopanam music as it is practiced in different schools, maintains its rustic nuances with the feeling of devotion as its basic quality. From the temple sanctum this music has taken many diversions and grown as dance music in Ashtapadiyattam; the mould of which was later adopted by Krishnanattam, devotional music in Kalam pattu and dramatic music in Mudiyettu and Kathakali. In spite of its ramified developments, it failed to become pure concert music.

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

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