Odhuvars are the temple singers offering the songs of the Thevaram and Thiruvasagam in praise of Lord Siva. Such musical offerings are made during the part of the daily puja when the Deity is being dressed and the sanctum curtains are closed. In ancient periods, there were at least two to three odhuvars available at each Siva temple, but now their numbers have dwindled drastically because of the impoverished state of the temples.
Recently, S. Jayakumar, a trained classical musician from Kalakshetra Foundation, founded Prastara to support odhuvars across Tamil Nadu. Their mission is to preserve the tradition and spread the singing of sacred Thevaram hymns as musical offerings during Lord Siva’s worship in and around every festival and during the daily rituals. During the pandemic, they paid the monthly salary to many odhuvars, who had no revenue, as the temples were closed.
He explains, “In the last few centuries, the patronage for odhuvars has been minimal. Thankfully, the tradition has remained alive, but it needs more support.”