Maddalam maestro Varanasi Vishnu Namboothiri died at a private hospital in Thiruvalla on Tuesday. He was 83.
He was a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award for his contribution to Music for Kathakali.
Born on January 20, 1937 to Narayanan Namboothiri and Draupadi Antharjanam in Mavelikara in Alappuzha district, Vishnu Namboothiri was introduced to playing Maddalam by Karuvatta Kumara Panicker and Vennimala Rama Warrier.
He later received his training under Kalamandalam Appukutty Pothuval and Kalamandalam Nambeesankutty at Kerala Kalamandalam, and Chalakkudy Narayanana Nambeesan at Unnayi Warrier Smaraka Kalanilayam.
Vishnu Namboothiri achieved fame as a Maddalam player for Kathakali, accompanying leading artistes such as Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair, Chengannur Raman Pillai, Mankulam Vishnu Namboothiri, Kudamaloor Karunakaran Nair, Guru Gopinath, Champakulam Pachu Pillai and Kurichi Kunjan Panicker.
Chenda exponent Varanasi Madhavan Namboothiri was his elder brother and they together known as ‘Varanasi Brothers’.
He was a member of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi. For his contribution to the art form, the Travancore Devaswom Board conferred him with ‘Kalaratnam’ in 1972.
He also bagged Kerala Kalamandalam Vadya Award (2009), Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Guru Pooja Award (2007) among other honours. He received Sangeet Natak Akademi Award from then President of India Pranab Mukherjee in 2015.
He is survived by daughter Radhadevi and son Vishnu Narayanan Namboothiri. His wife Saraswati Antharjanam died a few years ago.