Srirangam is a treasure house for various instruments that are used in the different rituals. Around 18 instruments are being used for various rituals and Beri Maddhalam is one of them.
The Beri Maddhalam is an instrument that is seen and used only at the Sri Ranganathar Temple in Srirangam. It belongs to the category of the Avanaddha Vadhyas or Membranophones. It is made from the jackfruit tree, the two sides of the instrument covered with goat’s skin. The circumference of both the heads are the same unlike as the mridangam, where one side is small and the other head is slightly bigger. Straps are attached connecting both the faces.
Beri Maddhalam is played with a one-foot long stick, made from Aralikuchi. The player, in a standing posture, wields the stick with one hand only on one face of the instrument, which is strapped on his shoulder. The body of beri maddhalam is slightly longer than the mridangam and has a shorter circumference than Suddha Maddhalam.
According to Srirangam Sri Ranjit Kumar, Beri maddhalam is used only for 27 days in a year, at the Srirangam temple when Brahmotsavam take place. This is played during 9 days in the Tamil months of Thai, Panguni, Chitirai thus making it to 27 during the Brahmotsavam.
During the festival, before Lord Aranganathar is taken out in procession, Bali Sadam is placed for the devathas in all the directions. Before this takes place, about five measures of paddy is poured in front of Lord Namperulal. On top of this, the Beri Maddhalam is kept and prayers are offered. Food offering is pongal prepared without salt. Then camphor light is offered.
After this ritual, the player wears a sacred thread (kaappu) in the hands and the poonal. He is also adorned with a new towel and a turban. The priests first play the instrument after puja and ritual. Then the performer takes over.
During festival, this instrument is played daily in the morning and evening and restored to its safe place after prayers are done.