Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Popular Dance-Forms in Kerala

The classical art forms 'Koodiyattam,kathakali and Mohiniyattam' originated in Kerala.But all dance forms of India are  trained  and performed in Kerala, out of which dance varieties 'Bharata Natyam  and Kuchipudi Natyam'
got much popularity and large number of students and teachers(Gurus) are found  in that sector.Bharatanatyam dance was originated in Tamil Nadu and Kuchipudi dance  was originated in Andhra Pradesh, but Kerala has adopted this two dance varieties as its own and learning centres are found in every nook and corner of Kerala.
Classical Dance-Drama  'Yaksha Ganam'  is   believed  to be developed by a 'Guru'  ' Parthi Subban'  who belonged to 'Kumbala' of  'Kasergod' Taluk, but
'Yakshaganam' is now considered as a Classical Dance-Drama of 'Karnataka State.


Yaksha Ganam is a classical art form which has close relation to Kathakali and Theyyam in several aspects.Even though it is considered as  a classical Dance-Drama of Karnataka, it is widely popular in northern part of Kerala especially in Kasergod district.Like as in Kathakali, the characters have colourful costumes,heavy make-up and  large headgears.If in Kathakali the  artists have to keep mute, in Yakshaganam they can speak and sing.The female characters are presented by female artists itself in Yaksha Ganam but in Kathakali female part is mostly played by men.The themes of the plays are taken from Ramayana or Mahabharata epics.Mainly Kannada Language is used but stories are written in Tulu language and Malayalam also.So in Kasergod district Malayalam version of Yaksha Ganam is widely played as part of cultural programmes during temple festivals.The percussion instruments such as Chenda,Maddalam,Cymbals,Chengila etc are used for Yaksha Ganam.


Tamil Nadu is the birth place of Bharata Natyam, but as in Tamil Nadu it has gained tremendous popularity in Kerala.People love it  and are fascinated to watch it during temple festivals and when performed as part of some other cultural activities.
Bharata Natyam  was originated at Tanjore by four brothers 'Chinnaiah,Ponnaiah,Vadivelu and Shivanandam'.They designed it as we see it  today as according to Natya Sastra and handed over to the next generation.This dance form consists of dance aspects such as' Alaarippu,Varnam,Padam,Thillana' etc.
The dedicated pupil need to take vigorous and rigorous training for a period of seven years or more to become an efficient Bharata Natyam performer.
Highly learned  Gurus were known as 'Nattuwanars'.Temple dancers known as 'Devadasis' also gave much propaganda for Bharata Natyam by performing it and by teaching other enthusiastic students. As a temple art form it got wide popularity and acceptance.


Kuchipudi is originated in Andhra Pradesh and now it has earned wide popularity in all South Indian States.This dance form was developed in a Village called 'Kuchipudi' and hence the name.It was designed by 'Sidhandra Yogi' based on 'Natya Sastra'.
The Dance technique has greater freedom  and fluidity than other dance types.
The Kuchipudi dance is closely associated with a traditional theatrical dance-drama 'Bhagawata Mela Natakam' in which actors sing and dance in a blend of folk and classical.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


In Kathakali the make-up and costumes have much importance and significance.  It is unique in appearance,style and very attractive.In the light of the oil lamp lighted on the stage and from the light of other sources too, the trinkets and ornaments glitters and shines brightly enhancing the beauty of the characters.
Most of the characters wear headgears made from a particular type of wood.The making of the headgears is painstaking hand carving work by expert craftsmen and such kind of care is taken in the creation of ornaments and costumes also.
The make-up of the artists is also a time consuming art work done by experts.Mostly natural colours are used for make-up.The make up process is known as 'Chutty' and  different types of 'chutty' are  done for different type of characters.The main types of chutty are 'Pacha,Kathy,Thady,Kari,Minukku' etc and there are sub divisions also.
The noble heroic  'Satwik' characters have 'Pacha' style 'chutty' and characters like 'Pandavas,Krishna,Karna,Indra,SriRam etc are given this which has green colour on face.Green colour is changed to saffron for 'Balarama,Lord Shiva,Agni Deva, etc and known as 'Pazhuppu'.
Heroic characters with a slight villainous form  and impudent types (Thamo Guna) are represented by 'Kathy' style and  characters like 'Keechaka,Ravana,Duryodhana' etc falls in this category.
'Thady' category has variations such as 'Chuvanna Thady' , 'Vella Thady' 'Karutha Thady' etc.
Extremely evil, villainous characters like 'Dussasanan' 'Jarasandhan' etc have 'Chuvanna Thadi' (Red beard)make-up.
'Hanuman'  like characters  will be given 'Vella Thady' (White beard) make-up.

'Kali' in Nalacharitha is  given 'Karutha Thady'(Black Beard) make-up.
For 'Chuvanna Thadi' larger head gears are used which help boost their fierce form.
'Minukku' does not have head gears and not much make-up is needed which are employed for Brahmin characters, females,  sages and messenger characters are given this type of make-up.
Rude characters like 'Nishadas' will be given 'Kari' type of 'Chutty' which emphasis black colour and a typical different type of  head gear will be worn.
Most of the characters have a special skirt and the hip part will be set high up using artificial materials which will give a majestic look.
At sunset a percussion concert will be performed with the instruments 'Chenda,Maddalam,Chengila and Ilathalam' to proclaim that there will be 'Kathakali' on that stage on that day.Usually the play used  to start at 9 pm
and continued till dawn.
At around 8'O clock the 'Kalivilakku' (big oil lamp) will be lighted.Afterwards 'Arangukeli' which is a percussion concert will be  held .Then a curtain will be held aloft by two men and a character will dance behind it which is known as' Thodayam' followed by 'Vandana Slokam(prayer) and then  one or two  characters come on stage and dances  in a ritual known as 'Purappad' will be performed.Then there is 'Melappadam' when all the percussion artists will perform to show their skill and talent including the singers.Then only the original play starts.
The performing artists will dance according to the playback songs with appropriate hand gestures and body movements.'Lasya Bhava' dance is rare in Kathakali, but 'Thandava style' is employed mostly.When they dance to the lyrics it is with lesser speed and known as 'Cholliyattam'.After the stanza the performer will express their feelings by dancing vigorously and improvisations can be done for it according to their skill and expertise.This is known as 'Elakiyattam'.Those who are familiar with the hand gestures of 'Natya Sastra' can enjoy Kathakali very well.Now-a-days the upcoming story of the scenes are explained to the audience.
The drum which is known as Chenda has very much importance in Kathakali.

The drummer has to play it precisely well with much expertise producing minute sounds to thunderstorms on it as per the requirements.All the categories of Kathakali including  make-up artists,percussion artists,performing artists,singers etc 
are all having minimum five or six years of vigorous training.From 1970 females can also get trained as Kathakali performing artists.
Now-a-days kathakali is not usually  performed till dawn.Usually one story is played per day at present which will take only four or five hours and in many places the play starts at 7 PM and ends around mid night.Stories from Hindu mythology were traditionally used but recently other type of stories such as 'Magdalana Mariyam' etc  are also tried experimentally.
Some famous Kathakali stories are "Nalacharitham(4Parts-1st Day,2nd day,3rd day,4th day),Duryodhana Vadham,Nizhal Kuthu,Kalyana Sougandhikam,Uthara Swayamvaram,Rukmini Swayamvaram,Nivatha Kavacha Kalakeya Vadham,Thorana Yudham,Bali Vijayam,Bali Vadham,Rugmangada


Charitham,Kiratham,Bana Yudham,Daksha Yagam" etc.There are more than 250 Kathakali plays out of which  50 are played mostly.
Travancore King 'Dharma Rajah" (1758-98) gave much encouragement for the propaganda of Kathakali.
Institutions like 'Mathur Kaliyogam of Alapuzha,Valiakottaram Kaliyogam of Trivandrum,Thakazy Kaliyogam,Kurichi Kathaskali yogam,Keerikkad Thoppil Kathakali yogam,Parassinikadavu Muthappan Kathakali yogam,Kottakal P.S.V.Natya Sangham' etc helped a lot for this art form
Legends like Thottam Sankaran Namboothiri,Guru Kunchukurup,Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon,Vechoor Raman Pillai,Mathur Kunjupillai Panicker etc 
and    'Guru Chengannur Raman Pillai,Mangulam Vishnu Nampoothiri,Champakkulam Pachupillai' etc  and later 'Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair, Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair' etc were glittering stars in this field.
                                  When 'Kalamandalam' was started in 1930 at Shornur it became a prestigious Institute which used to train experts in all aspects of Kathakali art form.Some other main Institutes in Kerala for Kathakali art includes 'P.S.V. Natya Sangham Kottakal,Sadanam Academy Ottappalam,Unnai Varier Kalanilayam Irinjalikkuda,RLV School,Tripunithura,Margi Thiruvanthapuram,Kalabharathi Kollam etc.
There are so many well trained experts in all aspects of Kathakali at present.