It has been 500 years now since the disarming mellifluous percussion music and robust voice of ‘panchari melam’, a kind of percussion ensemble performed in five ‘kalams’ (tempos), across the temples in the state, have become part of the art history of Kerala. The ‘panchari melam’, known for its tonal grace and mathematical progression of beats in different styles and the legacy of its birthplace Urakam in Thrissur, will turn 500 years on Sunday. According to old-timers, Urakam Devi temple, located amidst idyllic surroundings in the cultural capital, has played a key role in the development of ‘panchari melam’, which later became an integral part of art culture in the state and has been a source of inspiration for percussion music buffs of the land. According to Pandarathil Kuttan Marar, being a collective ensemble, the ‘panchari melam’ continued for centuries as a service to the presiding deity of temples rather than a prevalent form of artistic expression. As per the available history, the melam in its complete form was first performed in front of Urakam Devi. Later, it was in the beginning of 20th century that it became a popular art form with musicians and listeners giving more attention to this genre of temple music, he said. According to Kodambath Gopinath, chairman of the celebration committee, legend has it that Mazhamangalam Narayanan Namboothiri (1525-1595), the author of ‘Bhasha Naishadham’ chambu - an ancient form of poetry in both prose and verse - and an ardent devotee of Urakam Ammathiruvadi, had conceptualized the idea of ‘panchari melam’. Later, Pandarathil Rama Marar, a chenda exponent, arranged the melam in five different tempos and presented before the deity, playing each and every notes with precise philosophical implications. As part of the 500th anniversary celebrations, the temple authorities has decided to honour Chenda legends Thrippekkulam Achutha Marar and Pandarathil Kuttan Marar, who have been leading the ‘panchari melam’ at the Urakam temple festival for the past 14 years, on Sunday. A book authored by chenda maestro Kallekkulangara Achuthankutty Marar, ‘Aksharakalam,’will be released on the occasion.Besides, a traditional ‘panchari melam’, comprising instruments like chenda, ilathalam, kombu and kuzhal,in five tempos will be staged, by 250 odd artists led by percussion maestros from the central Kerala, before the deity on Sunday, marking the 500th anniversary of ‘panchari melam’. Aksharakalam Mazhamangalam- Pandarathil Smrithi, a programme to celebrate the occasion, will also be held at the temple on Sunday.