Parassala B Ponnammal
Parassala B Ponnammal Sriram Venkitachalam/ Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

Carnatic vocalist Parassala B Ponnammal passes away at 96

Thiruvananthapuram, June 21, 2021

Veteran Carnatic vocalist Parassala B Ponnammal passed away at her residence here today, family sources said.

She was 96.

Ponnammal was a hugely respected figure in the state capital and had quite a few firsts to her credit.

Born to Mahadeva Iyer and Bhagavathy Ammal in a Kerala Iyer family in 1924 in Parassala in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala, Ponnammal began learning music from early childhood.

She was the first female student to enrol in the then newly started Swathi Thirunal College of Music in Thiruvananthapuram during the early 1940s and passed out from there with first rank in the "Gana Bushanam" and "Gana Praveena" courses.

She later trained under several renowned Carnatic vocalists such as Panasam Sivan, Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.

Ponnammal began her career as a music teacher at the Cotton Hill Girls High School in Thiruvnanthapuram. Later she became the first female member of the teaching faculty in her alma mater.

She was also the first woman principal of the RLV College of Music and Fine Arts at Tripunithura near Kochi.

In September 2006, she etched another unique record when she sang at the Navaratri Mandapam here, breaking a 300-year-old tradition which forbade women from performing at or attending the Navaratri Celebrations of the famed Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple here. That was made possible by Rama Varma of the Travancore royal family.

She had also performed at concerts across India and abroad. Even at age 90, she used to sing and enthrall her listeners.

Ponnammal was honoured by the Union Government with the Padma Shri in 2017. She was also the recipient of the Sangeet Natak Academy Award and the Swathi Sangeetha Puraskaram -- both in 2009 -- among many other awards.


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