Ponnammal was a musician who broke gender stereotypes in classical music, and was the first woman to sing at the Navarathri Mandapam.
Thiruvananthapuram: Legendary Carnatic musician and Padma Shri awardee Parassala B Ponnammal, who enthralled classical music lovers for the last eight decades with her incredible concerts, passed away at her home in Valiyasala here on 21 June, family sources said.
She was 96 and was suffering from age-related ailments for some time, they said.
A Carnatic veteran, Ponnammal was a musician who broke gender stereotypes in classical music and became the first woman student to enroll in the historic Swathi Thirunal College of Music during the 1940s.
She completed the courses — Gana Bhushanam and Gana Praveena — there at the top of her class, before beginning her career as a music teacher at the Cottonhill Girls’s School.
Ponnammal also made history by becoming the first woman faculty of the Swathi Thirunal College, and the first ever woman principal of the famous RLV College of Music and Fine Arts, Tripunithura.
Breaking the centuries-old tradition of male dominance, she also became the first woman to sing at the Navarathri Mandapam, as part of the Navratri celebrations at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in 2006.
‘Guruvayur Puresa Suprabhatham’, ‘Trisivapuresa Suprabhatahm’, ‘Ulsava Prabhandam’, ‘Navarathri Kriti’,’Meenambika Sthothram’, and compositions of Irayamman Thampi were among her famous vocal renditions.
Besides conducting countless concerts during her eight decades-long musical journey, she also moulded a handful of excellent musicians by making them her disciples.
Besides the Padma Shri in 2017, Ponnammal was also a recipient of several notable honours, including the Lifetime Achievement Award instituted by Chennai Fine Arts, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Swathi Sangeetha Puraskaram, Sree Guruvayurappan Chembai Puraskaram, among others.
She is survived by her sons, D Mahadevan and D Subramanian. Her husband Devanayakam Iyer and a son and daughter died before she passed away.
Condoling her death and hailing her contributions to the word of music, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Ponnammal had been a symbol of traditional serenity in Carnatic music. He also remembered how the legendary musician had performed at the Navarahtri Mandapam by defying tradition.
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