Koodiyattam

Koodiyattam is also spelt as Kutiyattam is the oldest classical dance art forms in Kerala. It is said to have originated over 2000 years ago. It is in fact, the oldest existing classical theatre form in the entire world, and is known to have originated much before Kathakali and most other theatrical forms. Evidence has shown that it used to be performed in all major temples since the 9th century and was a full-fledged dramatic presentation by the 15th century. It used to be mainly performed inside the temple theatre known as Koothambalam. UNESCO has officially recognized Koodiyattam as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity

An ancient Kerala King by the name of Kulasekhara Varma Cheraman Perumal, is known as the creator of Koodiyattam in the present form. His book “Aattaprakaram” describes various aspects about how to perform Koodiyattam and till date this book considered the most authoritative work on Koodiyattam.

Performance

An ancient Kerala King by the name of Kulasekhara Varma Cheraman Perumal, is known as the creator of Koodiyattam in the present form. His book “Aattaprakaram” describes various aspects about how to perform Koodiyattam and till date this book considered the most authoritative work on Koodiyattam.

Kootiyattam

Koodiyattam is performed in Sanskrit. It is a combined dance form. Koodiyattam literally means “acting together” or “combined acting”. The male performers would be Chakkiyar (a caste among the Hindus) and the female performers would be Nangyars (women from the Nambiar Caste). Since it is performed in Sanskrit, there is Vidushaka, who explains in simple Malayalam the background of the story and gives a lively image of characters in the minds of the audience. His act is often humorous. Earlier a Koodiyattam performance would last for many days, ranging anywhere between 6 to 40 days.i

A complete Koodiyattam performance is divided into 3 parts. First is the Purappadu where an actor performs a verse along with the Nritta aspect of dance. Post that is the Nirvahanam where the actor, using Abhinaya, brings to the audience the mood of the main character of the play. And finally we have the Koodiyattam, which is the play itself. The first two parts are solo acts. The final act of Koodiyattam can have as many characters as are required.

Acting in Koodiyattam, is based on a highly evolved mime language. It involves lively and bold facial and eye expressions as well as hand gestures known as Mudras. The overall performance is a unique style of chanting together with elaborate headgears and the symbolic use of color through the makeup. Contained movements and intense emotions mark this temple theater style.

Kootiyattam Make UP

Makeup and Costumes

The costumes and make up in Koodiyattam is quite elaborate. The costumes are a combination of bright colors mainly black white and red which stand out. The face and eye make-up is quite dramatic. Heroic characters wear green color paint and a small curved paper frame on their face. The Vidushaka is dressed differently to set him apart from the rest of the artists. His has a different make-up, small head gear and his costume too displays his clownish features.

Music

Traditionally, the main musical instruments used in Koodiyattam are Mizhavu, Etakka, Kurumkuzhal, Kuzhitalam, and Sankhu. Mizhavu is the most prominent among these.