Saturday, December 15, 2012



Oppana is a traditional art form which is performed by Muslims mostly  related to ceremony like marriage etc.It has resemblence to the popular 'Kai Kottikkali' of Kerala.It is  widely popular in Malabar area.'Oppana' is derived from the Arabic word 'Hafna'.
Oppana dance is played by both men and women.When performed for marriages, the bride in full bridal make up and colourful costumes will be seated on a chair and a group of young women dance around her  singing beautiful rhythmic songs.One of the players will sing while the others will repeat the versus and while dancing to the tune clapping their hands.


Duff Mutt (Dappu Kali or Dappu Muttikkali) is an important traditional art form.
A small percussion instrument known as 'Daf',Duff or Dappu is used in it which the performers holds in their left hand and beats on them with the right hand while dancing.The performers usually form  two rows of ten or twenty and dance to the tune of songs meant for this.They will sway their body in co-ordination and dance symmetrically using rhythmic steps.Ritualistic songs and other type of songs like love songs,songs describing places,nature etc are all used for this  dance variety.


The main difference between Dappu Kali and Arabana Muttu(Aravana Muttu) is the musical percussion instrument which the players uses.'Arabana' instrument is also similar to 'Dappu' but it is wider and  makes more lovely sound.There are two varieties to perform  Arabana Muttu such as 'Rathib Muttu' and  'Kalimuttu'.'Rathib Muttu' is used for ritualistic purposes.The performers need to have good training to dance as well as to use the 'Arabana'- to strike it exactly to produce the sounds termed as ' njottu, thattu,viralu,thallu,thirippu,ullu,maripuram and thirinjakara.There are traditional beautiful songs used for this art form also.


Kolkkali is performed by all communities of Kerala including Muslims.This is popularly known as 'Koladikkali,Kambukali' etc.The Kolkkali performed by Muslims of Kerala differs in the songs used and also slight difference  in some other aspects.
The players do a prayer before and after the performance.
The players move in a circle striking small sticks  rhythmically with specific steps.The circle expands and contracts according to the tune of the accompanying music  which rises to the high pitch and then lowers.


Parichamuttu Kali has resemblance and relation to the martial arts  'Kaliripayattu' of Kerala.This  art form is popular in all communities of Kerala but differs in the songs used and some slight differences are also there.


Kaimuttu Kali and Vattapattu were  mostly used during marriage ceremones.The performers are men and there are slight  regional differences for this art form from place to place in Northern Kerala.The performers sits one group opposite  facing  the other and sing songs with clapping hands.They may use 'Ilathalam' also.When used for marriage ceremony, the players used to perform this for entertaining the bridegroom.


Muttum Viliyum is also a traditional art form of Muslims of Kerala.They use   two percussion instruments known as 'Mural' and 'Otta' and a small musical instrument similar to 'shehnai'  which is known as 'Kuzhal'.The performer sings songs using the 'Kuzhal' and the percussion instruments 'mural' and 'otta' are played accordinglly.These are used for festivals etc.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


In Kerala Theyyam is usually enacted by the People of Community varieties such as 
Velar,Munnoottanmar,Anjoottanmar,Chingathan,Mavilar,Koppalar,Pulayar etc.
There is a community known as 'Vannanmar' in Northern Kerala who are traditional physicians also.These people perform Theyyams of several types such as "Thayi Paradevatha, Vettakkoru Makan,Vaira Jathan, Kshetra Palan, Muchilottu Bhagavathy, Kannangattu Bhagavathy,Angakulangara Bhagavathy,Padakkethi Bhagavathy,Arya Poomkanny,Kakkara Bhagavathy, Makka Bhagavathy,Bali,Cheralathu Bhagavathy etc".
The ' Malayar' Community of Northern Kerala who are experts in using percussion instruments performs different types of Theyyams."Kuttichathan,Pottan, Gulikan, Bhairavan,Raktheswari,Raktha Chamundi,Madayil Chamundi,Vishnu Murthy,Kanta Karnan, Panchuruli,Moovalam KuzhiChamundi," etc are performed by them.
'Velar' are the community who mainly performs 'Kundora Chamundi' Theyyam.
Panchuruli,Dhooma Bhagavathy,Pulli Kurathi,Kunjar Kurathi,Malamkurathi,Chudala Bhadra Kali, Bappiriyan,Kala Chamundi,Gulikan,Pulli Chamundi, Padinjare Chamundi" etc are also enacted by them.
Another community who performs Theyyattam are 'Mavilar'.Vishnu Murthi,Chamundi,Kurathi,Gulikan,Kaappalathi,Pethalan,Kaattu madantha,Mangala Chamundy,Manthra Murthy,Vannathy Bhagavathy,Veera Bhadran,Parali Amma" etc are the important Theyyams performed by them.
'Chingathanmar' community enacts Theyyam such as " Veera Chamundi, Thayi Paradevatha,Puthiya Bhagavathy,Kammiyamma,Nagakanny" etc.
Community members of "Anjoottan' and 'Munnootan' also enacts Theyyam and 
"Thiruvarkattu Bhagavathy,Puthiya Bhagavathy,Poo Maruthan,Thulu Veeran" etc are performed by them.
'Koppalar' community of Kasaragod District performs Theyyam varieties like 
"Panchuruli,Anna panchuruli,Padinjare Chamundi,Dhooma Bhagavathy,Gulikan" etc.
'Pulayar' community are also experts in enacting Theyyam and they usually performs "Pulimaranja Gurunathan,Maruthiyodan Kurikkal,Pollalan Kurikkal,Vattyan Polla,Bhairavan,Karinchamundi,Vishnumurthy,Kuttichathan,
Pulikkandan," etc.

Thira is some what the same as Theyyam in looks, and manifestation.The deities are mostly  of the same names as of Theyyams and there is slight difference in make-up,costumes,effigies etc.It is existing in certain parts of Kannur District like 'Thalassery' and in some parts of Malappuram District.
The word Theyyam means 'God' and the meaning of Thira is 'God's Vision'.
The small scale performance on the eve of  main performance day of Theyyam is known as 'Thottam' and such a performance in Thira is known as 'Vellattu'.
Some varieties of Thira are " Veera Bhadran,Gulikan,Vasuri Mala,Chorakalathil Bhagavathy, Pookkutty, Vaira Jathan,Parakutty, Kuttichathan, Ilavilli,Poovilli,
Pottan,Gandharvan, Theethara Bhagavathy, Puli Chamundi,Sree Porkali,Bhadra Kali, Kodum Kali, Naga Kali, Naga Bhagavathy,Kanta Karnan,Vishnu Murthy" etc.
The songs used for Theyyam and Thira are known as 'Thottam Pattukal'.These ancient songs are mostly descriptions which narrate the shape and qualities of
the deities and praises them.The  requisites  of the devotee for their  blessings and mercy are  certainly a part of those songs.From some of those songs the social, economic and cultural image of the past is  revealed to us.The social injustice and cruelty which happened in those days may go to one's heart and wet the eyes.Some 
descriptions are so sweet and  lovely that it will for sure  enrapture the listeners.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Theyyam is an ancient, imperishable folk art form of Kerala which is unique in its various aspects like gigantic appearance of effigies,costumes,make-up etc.
There are different types of Theyyams which are all having imposing beauty and charm.
This is a ritualistic art form and the performer   dances  wearing the appropriate effigy and make-up which is  known as 'Theyyattam'.(In Malayalam 
'attam' means dance).Devotees believes that the deity of the respective theyyam  'enters' the body of the performing artist during the dancing.The performer behaves like the deity and interact with the devotees answering to their queries.The devotees confess their mistakes to the theyyam and the
deity of the theyyam 'confides' relevant instructions to the devotees to rectify
their mistakes.
The word for God in Malayalam is 'Deivam' and  by the word theyyam it is referred as 'God' itself.There are more than 300 varieties of Theyyams and there are considerable difference in costumes,headgear used,make-up etc for all of them.The dancing style for theyyam also has different variations,speed and pace.Some theyyam dances and sits on fire,some dances holding torch of flame,some with bow and arrow,some uses sword and shield,some holds dagger and so on.
The percussion instruments used are 'Drums,Cymbals,horns etc.
One day prior to the actual performance,   the artist, singers, percussion operators etc arrive to the place where the Theyyattam takes place and a small scale performance will be done which is known as 'Thottam'.The songs used for theyyams are known as 'thottam pattukal.(Meaning of the word 'patttukal' is 'songs' in Malayalam.)

The costumes are very colourful for theyyams and in some theyyam varieties 
they will paint the body also with rice flour, turmeric paste etc.The headgear
types are  varities like " Vattamudi, Neelamudi,Paalamudi,Omkaramudi,Peelimudi,Pookkattimudi,Purathattu etc".
There are theyyams of deities 'Kali' and 'Chamundi' also.Sub versions of Kali Theyyam are 'Bhadrakali,Veerankali,Karinkali,kodumkali,Puliyoorukali,Pullikarinkali,etc and Chamundi theyyams varities are like ' Raktha Chamundi,Madayil Chamundi,Moovalamkuzhy Chamundi,Veera Chamundi etc'.
Some deities are believed as ailment causers and deity like 'Puthiya Bhagavathy' removes the ailments and saves devotees in all ways.
Snake Gods are also manifested in theyyam.'Naga Bhagavathy,Naga Kandan,
Naga Kanni,Naga Kaaman etc are such where as animal  deity varieties are 'Puliyooru Kali,Puli Kandan,Kandapuli,Marapuli,Pulimaruthan,Kalapuli,Puliyooru Kannan etc'.
Rarely 'Bhootham' theyyams are also performed such as 'Karimbhootham,Velutha bhootham,Chuvanna bhootham'  etc which are bhootham aides of Lord Shiva.
Devil bhootham varieties are 'Anang bhootham,Alar bhootham,Vattipootham' etc.
'Karinchamundi,Pulli Bhagavathy,Pulli Chamundi ' belongs to 'Yakhi'(fairy) variety.

'Vishnumoorthy theyyam' is of Lord 'Narasimha', 'Palottu Deivam' is 'fish incarnation of Lord Vishnu.'Andalloor deivam ' is theyyam of Lord Sri Ram,'Anka Deivam' is theyyam of Lord Lakshman.'Neduvaalian theyyam' is none other than 'Vaali' of Ramayana and 'Kizhakkan deivam' is theyyam of 'Sugreeva'.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012



Mudiyettu is seen commonly in Southern Kerala Bhadrakali Temples.This is also  known as 'Mudiyeduppu'.In Kali temples of 'Kanyakumari'  district this is known as 'Paranettu'.A crown depicted with image of Bhadrakali which is made of wood is placed on a specially made stage with respect and devotion.This is called as 'Mudi' which is carried on head by the dancer and dances to the tune of songs and percussion instruments  representing as 'Kali' with necessary make up and attire.There are other characters such as Lord Shiva,Sage Narada,Demon Darika,Kooly,Koimbidar etc.Demon Darika character
will stand on another stage and challenge Kali Devi.Both of them get down from the stage and the fight begins.The viewers watch all such scenes with devotion.The Demon will be killed after a long fight.
Mudiyettu got UNESCO recognition in 2010 as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.This is the second art form to get this recognition in UN list and the first one to get this recognition was 'Koodiyattam'.
Kaliyoottu is similar dramatical ritualistic event in which Kali-Darika fight is the theme.The ritualistic activities in this respect may extend to nine or eleven days.A group dance known as 'Vellattamkali'  is usually performed in front of Bhadrakali Deity.
Thidambu Nritham
This is a dance form performed by the priests of Northern Kerala in certain Temples.They will carry the idol used for procession on their head and dances
according to special tunes.The priests uses traditional dress,head dress and ornaments.They dance to the music of instruments such as 'Chenda,Ilathalam,sruthi,Kuzhal,etc'.They have to dance in rhythms like 'Thakiladi,Adantha,Chembada,Panchari etc'.
Arjuna Nritham
Pandava  Prince Arjuna propitiated Bhadrakali Devi after Kurukshetra war dressed up with special attire  using peacock feathers also.This dance form is performed commemorating this event.This dance is also termed as 'Mayil Thookkam'.
Garudan Thookkam
Lord Vishnu sent his vehicle 'Garuda Bird' to Bhadrakali devi after her fight with Darika the Demon to make her calm.This dance form is performed dressing up as a Garuda and also known as 'Garudan Parava'.
Sarpa Pattu
At Mannarsala,Vettikottu,Nagercoil Naga Temple etc Sarpa Pattu is performed to propitiate 'Naga' deities.The images of 'Snakes'(Nagas) are drawn with five different colour powders and members of 'Pulluvar community' sings songs meant for this purpose while some other women  of this community dances 
in peculiar traditional manner.
Ivar Kali

It is believed that Pandavas performed this dance form to propitiate Bhadrakali Devi.Special songs are sung and dances rhythmically. 
Kalamezhuthu Pattu

Like as in Sarpa pattu, the depictions of deities like 'Vettakkoru Makan,Bhadrakali,Vairajathan,Nagam,Yakshi etc' are made with coloured powder and devotional songs are sung in celebration.
This ritualistic event is mostly performed in Trissur,Palakkad and Malappuram Districts.Bhadrakali Devi is propitiated in this art form also.'Para,Chenda,Maddalam,Ilathalam,Kombu,Kuzhal etc' are used as musical instruments.
Kanyar Kali
Kanyar Kali is seen mostly in Palakkad District.This art form is divided in to  two sections as 'Vattakali and Purattu'.Vattakkali is ritualistic and starts after events such as 'Panthal Pravesham and Deepa Pradakshinam'.There will be dance performance with traditional songs.This art form will be completed in four days.
Theeyattu is also a dance form to propitiate Bhadrakali Devi and is performed in Central Travancore and in some other areas of Kerala.A single dancer wearing a crown with the depiction of Bhadrakali Devi dances and the theme is  Bhadrakali-Darika fight.The members of a community known as 'Unni' usually performs it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


There are several folklore drama varieties in Kerala which are all having very ancient tradition.Some are meant for ritualistic purposes whereas many others are for entertainment purposes only.These kind of dramas use musical instruments like "Murichenda,Kudam,Veena,Thudi,Udukku,Cheenikuzhal,Olakkinnam,Chenda,Chengila,Thoppimaddalam,Thakil,Kuzhithalam,Maddalam" etc.Many of these drama varieties were performed by particular communal groups previously but now a days anybody who are  trained   can perform them.Folklore songs are also used for the manifestation  of such art forms traditionally.There is only a narrow boundary to separate folklore dramas from folklore dance varieties.These art forms become appealing to the audience because of the excellence of the songs used for them and the  enchanting orchestra accompanying them.
A picture of ancient Kerala can be understood from some of the folklore songs.The relationship between Arabs and Kerala, trade relation between some other places in India,details of some ancient ports,details and description to make wooden cruise ships, etc are known from some folklore songs.
At  Central Travancore areas and in all  parts of  Trivandrum District "Kakkarassi Nadakam' is very popular.(Nadakam=Drama).It has a mixed flavour of 'Purattu Kali' and musical drama.This art form  is also known as 'Kakkala Nadakam,Kakkalichi Nadakam,Kakkaru Kali' etc also.This drama form came in to existence from the belief that Lord Shiv-Parvathi used to wander in the form as 'Kuravan' and 'Kurathi' (A community group of people who loved travelling).Dance,Music and Acting are mingled nicely in this art form.Musical instruments such as 'Mridangam,Ganchira,Harmonium,Ilathalam,' etc are used for it.This drama variety is used effectively to tease  the social evils prevailing in the society and corrupted leaders.
In the folklore drama varieties it is not difficult for the audience to understand the theme.The audience may also get chance to directly involve in them or to say their opinion or ask questions  directly to the characters.When the character is depicted as a  deity or God the people used to describe their sorrows and demands directly to them.There were  no particular stages made for many of these dramas but performed in the centre of a group of villagers on the ground itself usually in the compound of Bhagavathi Temples known as 'Kavu'.The relationship between the dancers and audience is revealed today also from the art forms such as "Theyyam,Thira,Theeyattu,Mudiyettu,Kaliyoottu,Padayani,Chimmanakkali,Kothamooriyattam' etc.
"Mudiyettu,Kaliyoottu,Paranettu,Mudipechu' etc are termed as 'Kali Nadakam' or dramas related to Goddess 'Kali'.The theme  is Kali-Darika fight.During the course of time dramas such as 'Kurathiyattam,Chavittu nadakam,Meenakshi Kalyanam,Kamsa Nadakam, Sanghakkali'etc evolved.
'Malayikoothu' is seen at a temple of Kannur District.'Kannikettu' is another drama found in Kannur District.'Theyyattu' is found in Kozhikkodu district which is ritualistic.
'Kamsa nadakam' and 'Meenakshi Kalyanam' imitates Kathakali.'Kakkarassi Nadakam and Kurathiyattam are meant for entertainment purposes.'Ezhamathu kali'  and 'Seethakali' of Kollam district are also for entertainment.Purattu nadakam is very popular in north Kerala which are in many names such as 'Eravakali,Aandikoothu,Vallonkali,Malamakkali' etc.
'Chaliya porattu,Kothamuriyattam, etc are all folklore drama varieties.
Drama variety used to comment on social evils is 'Chimmanakkali'.This same purpose was intended for 'Kenthron Pattu'  "Kannal Pattu'  'Maaran Pattu' etc also.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Aranmula Snake-Boat Race

Aranmula Snakeboat Race which is a spectacular event during Onam Celebration is held at Aranmula of Pathanamthitta District in Kerala State every year.
This  water festival will be on the fifth of 'Thiruvonam Day' which is known as 
'Uthrittathi star day'.
Hindus of Kerala celebrates festivals and birthdays according to the  27 stars from 'Aswathy to Revathy' according to Malayalam Calendar and 'Uthrittathi' is the 26 th Star day.
It is believed that the Idol of 'Parthasaradhy Temple' at Aranmula was consecrated by Pandava Prince Arjuna on 'Uthrittathi star Day' and this water festival is held to commemorate it.It is believed that the idol was brought to Aranmula on a canoe and several canoes and Snakeboats accompanied it as a procession.
It is also believed that the birthday of Pandava Prince Arjuna is on 'Uthrittathi 
star day' of this month.
Snakeboats are wooden boats made of typical  wood  known as 'Aanjili' which are 100 to 140 feet long.Snakeboats  were used earlier by Kings of Kerala for Military purposes.This kind of vessels can carry 100 to 120 oarsmen including  singers.The boat is controlled by 4 helmsmen and the oarsman at the tip of the boat.The oarsmen can decide the speed only.If they row fast the boat will also move fast. The Snakeboats used for Aranmula boat race are considered sacred and have connection with Aranmula Sree Krishna Temple.
At present 48 Snakeboats which are known as 'Palliodams' are participating for Aranmula boat race which is held in  holy River Pamba near to Aranmula Temple.
Earlier this water festival which is known as 'Aranmula Jalolsavam' was held 
as a display of these  well decorated Snakeboats rowing in harmony with the rhythm of songs.The songs used for this purpose are taken from a text of poetry known as 'Kuchela Vritham Vanchipattu' written by a poet known as 'Ramapurathu Warrier'.At present a boat race is also held after the array of harmonious rowing and display for the viewer's as well as rower's enthusiasm.Snakeboats are the longest water vessel used for sports purposes.
The snakeboats used for Aranmula boat race are registered under the society  'Aranmula Pallioda Seva Sangham' and they belongs to 'Karaas' which are Village wards on the banks of River Pampa  which extends from 'Ranny' to 'Chennithala'.The boat races are held in two categories 'A' and  'B' according to the length of Snakeboats.The snakeboats belonging to 'A' category will be approximately 140 feet long where as 'B' category boats are around 120 feet long.In Malayalam  Snakeboats are known as 'Chundan Vallam' and Chundan Vallam of Aranmula group are called as "Palliodams' also since they are considered as sacred.The rowers and singers will be people belonging to the same 'Kara' who are the owners of the boats.At Aranmula, boat festivals are held on 'Thiru Onam star day' , 'Uthrittathi Star day', and on 'Ashtami Rohini Day'.The birthday of Sreekrishna is 'Ashtami Rohini Day'.On these days all the rowers will be served feast from Aranmula Temple which is known as 
'Valla Sadya'.It is believed that by providing feast to the rowers of Snakeboats 
the Lord 'Parthasaradhy' who is 'Sree Krishna' will be propitiated and hence there are so many sponsors to offer 'Valla Sadya' to rowers every year.The sponsors can decide their preference of Palliodams and date for the offer of feast.As per the invitation the boat will arrive at Aranmula to have their feast.
These are all traditional ritualistic customs.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Entertainment Activities During Onam

Onam, the largest festival of Kerala has already started which is roughly a two week celebration.It started this year on 'Atham star Day' (Tuesday 21 August 2012) and the grand festival days are on 28,29,30 and 31 Aug 2012 out of which the main day is 29 Aug  which is 'Thiru Onam Day'.The celebration is up to 3 Sept and on that day the Government sponsored celebrations at Trivandrum and all District Headquarters will also cease.On 3 Sept there will be a splendid procession of a large scale at Trivandrum city in the evening.
From 21 Aug to 29 sept a flower arrangement in circular shape known as 'Pookkalam' using fresh flowers of different varieties are put in front of the houses early in the morning by girls of the family.The necessary flower buds are collected by boys 
daily evening by climbing on trees,walls etc.Now a days many people have to buy flowers from the market.
The enthusiasm of Onam is great and traditionally there are several playful entertainment activities carried out during this period.
Thiruvathira Kali
Thiruvathira Kali is also known as 'Kaikottikali' which is a traditional dance form of Kerala performed by women.Young girls up to middle aged women can participate in it but usually participants will be of the same age group for a particular 'Thiruvathira Kali'.The players wear Kerala style white clothes with golden or coloured border(Set Sari or Mundu and Neryathu).Usually eight or ten participants stand in a circular shape around a lighted brass oil lamp with wicks and dances to the tune of songs sung by other women.The players may sing along while dancing and the steps and movements are very much fascinating and charming.The elegance of the slowly played dance may occasionally turns vibrant and with swift movements they form different patterns go clockwise then anticlockwise, clap hands each other ,gentle hops are also there in between and all together the spectators can enjoy feminine beauty gracefully.The players also enjoys with their rhythmic, joyous  dancing.Thiruvathirakali is largely performed during 'Dhanu' month(Dec-Jan) but during Onam also this is a pastime and entertainment item for women.
Puli Kali or Kaduva Kali
This is a 300 year old Dance item performed by men during Onam days largely in Trissur and Palakkad Districts but can be seen everywhere in Kerala in small scale during Onam period.The men paint their body with yellow,black and red colour after shaving off the body hair and turn themselves to Tigers or Leopards.In a play there may be two or three players painted like this and another man with  a toy gun act as a hunter.The tiger and leopard characters with  painted body  and wearing masks dance to the tune of drums.They will display wonderful dancing talents  which requires proper training and stamina also.They will pounce as a tiger,jump,run;  all according to the drum beats.The spectators also join in the dance occasionally.On the fourth day of Onam, at Trissur Swaraj Round hundreds of Tiger/Leopard Dancers assemble every year and perform together which is an attractive event.

The swing is made and slung on high branches of trees during Onam period and children and young girls love to play on it.In rural areas in each and every family we can see the swing during this time.Some children have the practice to fly high on the swing with amazing  control sitting and in standing posture also.
Snake Boat Race
Snake Boat Races are held at several places during Onam period in Kerala.The "Uthrittathi Boat Race' at Aranmula in Pathanamthitta District is the biggest event which will be on 2 Sept 2012 this year.Snake boat races at Paippadu,Kumarakom,Neerettupuram,Thiruvanvandoor,Chengannur(Erapuzha),
etc are main events in this regard which attracts thousands of spectators.
Kummatti Kali
This is a dance form of Northern Kerala  performed during  Onam.The players cover their body with a special type of grass and leaves and wear wooden masks.They wear masks of  Gods and evil characters like Shiva,Krishna,Hanuman,Darika,Kiratha, etc.An old lady character by name 'Thamma' will be also there.The players moves from house to house and dances according to the tune of a musical instrument known as 'Ona Villu'.
This dance variety  does not need any proper training and the spectators also dances along with them usually.
Thumbi Thullal
This was a pastime for women in the villages during Onam period.Usually it is played by young girls.They sit around and one of them sit at the centre covering her face with a herbal plant known as 'Thumba' which bears small white flowers.The girls sing 'Onapattukal' meant for 'Thumbi Thullal'.The word 'Thumbi' means Dragon Fly.When the chorus of the girls continue for some time  the centre girl will dance in sitting posture moving her body  in sway to and fro and side to side.

These are some famous playful activities in the State during Onam  but several other entertainment activities of Onam are also seen regionally.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Krishnanattam And Ottan Thullal

In the twelfth century there lived a Poet in Puri,Orissa by name 'Jayadeva' who

 wrote a famous book in poetic form about Krishna and Radha known as 'Geetha Govinda'.(Song about Krishna).This book is divided in to eight chapters and another name of this book is 'Ashtapadi'.This  poem is well known all over India and still in Kerala the versus from this text is sung using a percussion instrument 'Idakka' in temples during pooja time.  This ritual is known as "Kottipadi Sewa".
The visual form of this poem was very famous in Kerala known as 'Ashtapadiyattam' which is not being conducted at present.
The costume and make-up for Astapadiyattam were adopted from Koodiyattam, Mudiyettu,Theyyam,Padayani etc .
Influenced by the poem 'Geetha Govindam' and its visual form 'Astapadiyattam' the Zamorin of Kozkikode (Calicut) 'Manaveda Raja' wrote a 
book in poetry about Lord Krishna in the name 'Krishna Geethi' .He made a new art form to visualize it which is known as  'Krishnattam'.
There  is an interesting story regarding this.Manaveda Raja (1585-1658 A.D.)
was a devotee of Krishna and he used to visit Guruvayoor Temple frequently.Vilwamangalam Swamy who was his contemporary and a Saint also visited Guruvayoor Temple and stayed there for many days performing worship.It was well known that Lord Krishna used to give vision to 'Vilwamangalam Swamikal'.So in his devout and eagerness Manaveda Raja pleaded   Vilwamangalam Swamy to request Lord Krishna to give vision for him at least once.Krishna agreed and  in his boyhood form he gave vision to Manaveda Raja the next day.Manaveda Raja in his effervescence of joy embraced Krishna.Krishna vanished suddenly with the comment "this was not in the agreement of Vilwamangalam" referring to the embrace of Manaveda Raja.Zamorin got a peacock feather of Krishna  from his hair while embracing him.Manaveda Raja felt guilty about  his action  later and he wrote Krishna Geethi and designed 
the Dance-Drama 'Krishnattam to propitiate Lord Krishna.The peacock feather which he got from Lord Krishna was used on a Crown(head gear) worn for the Krishna character in 'Krishnanattam' for a long period.
This art form was influenced by Koodiyattam,Astapadiyattam,Mudiyettu etc and the costumes which resembles such art forms are accepted for it.
The book 'Krishna Geethi' is divided in to eight parts and important incidents in Krishna's life is the content of each part.These are manifested  as separate
 plays like "Krishnavatharam,Kalia Mardanam,Rasakreeda,
Kamsavadham,Swayamvaram,Banayudham,Vividavadham  and Swargarohanam".
Ottan Thullal
'Sudha Maddalam,Thoppi maddalam,Ilathalam,Chengila are the  musical instruments used for this art form.Krishnattam is considered as a classic art form and now a days it is performed at Guruvayoor Temple daily.Devotees can arrange for its performance as an offering to the deity.
Seethangan Thullal
Kunchan Nambiar was a poet from the Hindu Community 'Nambiar' and they used to play the percussion instrument 'Mizhavu' during 'Chakyar Koothu' performance.Once while the Chakyar Koothu was in progress  which was usually conducted at night, Kunchan Nambiar who was playing 'Mizhavu' slept for awhile and Chakyar teased him on the spot  in public. Kunchan Nambiar felt ashamed and felt angry towards the  Chakyar  and as a revenge  he formed a new art form and performed next day itself  at the same temple  which attracted and delighted the audience very much.
Seethangan Tullal,Ottan Thullal and Parayan Thullal
Kunchan Nambiar was one among the court members of 'Ambalapuzha Maharaja' and this incidence happened at Ambalapuzha Krishna Temple.For the progress and enhancement of his new art form which was called as 'Ottan Thullal' he wrote several poetry books which are social  satire but acclaimed as intellectual classic works.He wrote books in 'Manipravalam' also which is a combined form of Malayalam and Sanskrit.He teased many sectors of the society pointing to the evils and mischiefs with good comedy in those books which are poetic forms of  stories from Mahabharatha,Ramayana etc.These songs are sung by the main Character who dances with gestures and two playback singers will repeat those versus using percussion instrument 'mridangam' and cymbols.Kunchan Nambiar designed the costume also for Ottan Thullal which is different from other art forms.Later Kunchan Nambiar became court member of 'Marthanda Varma Maharaja of Travancore' and stayed in Trivandrum.
 Even though this art form is generally termed as 'Thullal' or 'Ottan Thullal', according to the changes in costume and make-up three varieties of Thullal are there.They are "Ottan Thullal,Parayan Thullal and Seethankan Thullal".Out of these varieties  'Ottan Thullal' is visually more attractive and largely performed  during temple festivals.