Koodiyattam

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Mani Madhava Chakyar, the doyen performing as Ravana.David Shulman: I thought it was the most beautiful “thing” I had ever seen.
Kapila Venu:A debut is seen more like an initiation into the practice rather than a full-fledged performance, after several years of perfecting the art, once the first ‘purappad’ (an invocatory ritual performance) is learned well. Then slowly the student begins to learn part by part and grows as a member of the ensemble.

Koodiyattam (Malayalam: കൂടിയാട്ടം, Kūṭiyāṭṭaṁ, Sanskrit: कूडियाट्टम्, Kūḍiyāṭṭam), also transliterated as Kutiyattam, is a form of Sanskrit theatre traditionally performed in the state of Kerala, India. Performed in the Sanskrit language in Hindu temples, it is believed to be 2,000 years old. It is officially recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It is called 'Kudiyattam' meaning:“performing or playing together”. It reflects the presence on stage of one or more actors synchronized to drummers playing the ancient, free-standing mizhavu drums. It could also indicate many of the dramas performed, when a lone actor—who has held the audience in thrall over many nights—is joined by another.

Quotes[edit]

  • Kudiyattam plays, always based on classical Sanskrit texts, many of them composed in Kerala, invariably include a long nirvahanam or “retrospective” in which a character reveals, mostly by the silent language of hand- and eye-gestures, abhinaya, the long process that has brought him or her to the present moment in the play.
  • It is the most ancient form of classical performing arts, Koodyatam consists of staging of selected acts or ankas from Sanskrit dramas in a characteristic manner with a highly evolved and stylized art technique.
    • K.A. Chandrahasan, in "Performing arts: In pursuit of excellence".
  • Koodyattam means several actors depicting different characters in the play as against mono-acting. It also means the presentation of a play availing of the full complement of all the four forms of abhinayas prescribed in the Natyashastra.
    • K.A. Chandrahasan, in "Performing arts: In pursuit of excellence".
  • Koodyattam is usually performed in Koothambalams in temple premises, either during festivals or as a special offering. The performers are from a sparse community of Chakyars.
    • K.A. Chandrahasan, in "Performing arts: In pursuit of excellence".
  • Kudiyattam is profoundly, perhaps uniquely, therapeutic...this classical art is a “slow” ... full-scale plays, each one stretching over many nights and weeks - every moment is intricate, action-packed, resonant with a whole body of pre-existing texts, and irreplaceable.
    • David Shulman, in "Creating and Destroying the Universe in Twenty-Nine Nights".
  • I thought it was the most beautiful “thing” I had ever seen.
  • A 2000 year old art form and still going strong- That is Koodiyattom … Literally meaning, ‘Dancing Together,’ and officially recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, ‘Koodiyattam,’ or ‘Kutiyattam,’ is a form of Sanskrit theatre, traditionally performed in the state of Kerala.
  • Koodiyattam is an ‘apoorva vidya’ – a rare and special stream of knowledge... [We have] a different training system in Koodiyattam as compared to other Indian classical dances.
  • I thought it was the most beautiful “thing” I had ever seen.
    • Dr. David Shulman, well known Indologist in “Into the nature of reality”
  • For a Sanskrit student to observe a Koodiyattam performance of one of the great Sanskrit plays is a profound, even life-changing experience.
    • Dr. David Shulman, well known Indologist in “Into the nature of reality”
  • A debut is seen more like an initiation into the practice rather than a full-fledged performance, after several years of perfecting the art, once the first ‘purappad’ (an invocatory ritual performance) is learned well. Then slowly the student begins to learn part by part and grows as a member of the ensemble.
    • Kapila Venu, in “A life less ordinary”
Kapila Venu:Eyes play a very central role in the abhinaya in Koodiyattam. The eye training is very laborious and so is the process of putting on the eye make-up before the performance.
Mizhavu is a big copper drum played as an accompanying percussion instrument in the Koodiyattam
  • Eyes play a very central role in the abhinaya in Koodiyattam. The eye training is very laborious and so is the process of putting on the eye make-up before the performance. We also use chundapoo , the ovary of a special flower, to put into the eye before the performance in order to make them bloodshot and strong.
    • Kapila Venu, in “A life less ordinary”
  • Traditions/practices have to evolve constantly and simultaneously grow deeper roots. The growth of the tradition has to go both ways simultaneously.
    • Kapila Venu, in “A life less ordinary”
  • ...Koodiyattam, Kerala's traditional Sanskrit theatre, has been proclaimed part of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
  • While some of the Koodiyattam techniques have come down to us in the written form through ‘Krama Deepika' and ‘Attaprakaram', a lot of it has also been transmitted orally. Much of the oral tradition could have been lost.
  • Chakkai koothu must have made its way from Tamil Nadu to Kerala...it might have then melded with the local tradition and the amalgam is what we now know as Koodiyattam...suggesting the fusing of two traditional art forms.
    • Dr. Heike Moser, in "Bowled over by Koodiyattam".
  • Koodiyattam now finds a place in more contemporary settings. [Margi Madhu, for example], did a Koodiyattam rendering of Othello in Theatre Works' play ‘Desdemona', which had Indonesian dancers, a Burmese puppeteer and Korean drummers.
    • Dr. Heike Moser in "Bowled over by Koodiyattam".

Koodiyattam Doyen Mani Madhava Chakyar[edit]

Mani Madhava Chakyar - K.A. Chandrahasan:The wonders his eyes do are a rare a treat. Seeing, indeed , is believing . It is only when one sees him perform that one realizes how powerful the eyes are to express, to suggest and to communicate emotions and even to convey whole packages of ideas
  • Mani Madhava Chakyar with his unfailing urge for complicated, difficult and minute details has enriched the art during the decades of his unparalleled performing life without permitting even an iota of compromise regarding the essentials of traditional style.
  • He was also the first to impart training of Koodyattam to non-members of the Chakyar community. The celebrated authority on world theater, Christopher Byrski (author of ‘Concept of Indian Theater’ was his pupil.
    • K.A. Chandrahasan, in "In pursuit of excellence (Performing Arts)"
  • The wonders his eyes do are a rare a treat. Seeing, indeed, is believing. It is only when one sees him perform that one realizes how powerful the eyes are to express, to suggest and to communicate emotions and even to convey whole packages of ideas.
    • K.A. Chandrahasan, in "In pursuit of excellence (Performing Arts)"
  • In 1987 he was awarded the Tusli Samman award for “creativity, noble traditions, prolonged training and practice leading to heights of achievement in the area considered.”

Film on Kudiyattam[edit]

  • I made a film on Koodiyattam-the oldest living theatre in the world for UNESCO. It was basically an effort to document the theatre art form. A three-hour long film resulted though I had shot almost ten hours of it. But then they wanted a smaller version of 10 to 15 minutes duration. It was not impossible, but was not fair to the art, I thought. Instead, I suggested they watch any 15 minutes from the film. That would be more in keeping with this theatre art that takes a few weeks to enact an Act.

External links[edit]

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