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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kshetra Kalakal-Koodiyattom

Kshetra Kalakal or Temple Arts

All temple arts are based on Bharthamuni’s Natya Sastra written around 200 B.C. Natya Sastra is a comprehensive book on arts and its science. The book starts with the origin of “Drama”. The format of Play writing with minute details of semantics, morphology, dialects and their phonology are dealt in length. Acting (or dancing) with in-depth knowledge of 9 emotions, 8 moods, proper dress codes, makeup, production, rehearsal and even criticism are discussed in this treatise. The 28th chapter is dedicated to Music only. This authentic script on art is yet to be surpassed globally

Koodiyattom is a Sanskrit Drama with Regional idioms. This 1400 plus years old temple art is supposed to be the fore runner of dramatic arts of India. Koodiyattom literally means combined acting and is performed in place calledKoothambalam, a temple theater exclusively designed to perform such arts. There was a dramatic change in the history of this medieval art when it came out of Koothambalams and was performed in open air. Normally performed by Chakyiar community of kerala till 1950’s, Koodiyattom was opened to all through the courses offered by Kerala kalamandalam, a deemed university in Thrissur.
The main actor in Koodiyattom will be the Chakyiar and female roles are normally done by Nambiar women known as Nagiyar. Nambiar men will play Mizhavu, the main musical instrument which is a copper drum placed in a wodden frame, mizhavara. Other instruments used are kuzhithalam (a type of cymbal), Edakka (drum instrument with soft percussions),kurumkuzhal (wind instrument) and Sankhu (conch – another wind instrument).

Mizhav in Mizhavara

The play will start with few solo notes in Mizhavu as actors pray behind the curtain for the blessings of the god in front of kalivilakku. Koodiyattom may last for several continuous nights going through minute details of text. Off late a monotone running commentary was added to the show in vernacular. This is a modification with the addition of a new character Vidooshaka (the court jester/wise man), a solitary role and his role may extent for long.

Facial makeup, costumes and ornaments used in Koodiyattom are more or less similar to those used in Kathakali. No special vocalist is involved in Koodiyattom. The actors – both male and female- recite Sanskrit slokas according to text of the drama, like chanting Vedic Hymens. The signs and gestures, the movements and facial expressions are codified centuries ago following Natyasastra by Bharthamuni”. The performers consider the presentation as a visualyagna. It is thrilling experience to watch maestro’s like Guru Mani Madhava Chakyiarperforming Ekalochanam”,a facial expression, with no parallel, in acting Ekalochanam”, Have a close up photograph of this expression, vertically cut it in to two and feel the difference. One part will show Hasyam(ridicule, humor), while the other half of the face will show Roudram (anger, wrath). Bharat Premiji, Stage & Cine artist, was another master in this intricate and precise act.



Few years back UNESCO has recognized Koodiyattom – a classical theatre form, as an oral and intangible heritage of Kerala.

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