Kathakali is a unique classical visual art form of Kerala. Excerpts from SaasthrakkaLi, Daasiyaattom, Chakyaarkooththu, Koodiyaattom, Krishnanaattom, Ashttapadiyaattom, Theyyam, Thira, Padayani could be ssen in Kathakali.
Kathakali took form in the eighth century. It is the transformed form of ‘Ramanattom’ which the Kottarakkaraththampuran (Ruling King of Kottarakkara) formed by dividing the epic ‘Ramayana’ into 8 parts of each part a day. It is believed that the Ramanattom was formed between 1555 and 1605. It was Vettaththunaattu Thampuran who has introduced the modern attire to the Kathakali and he has also begun using ‘Chenda’. He has also introduced separate singer and also added colourful crowns, black over coat and multi color face decorations. These are called ‘Vettaththunadan’(Belonging to Vettaththunaad). The traditional attire of Ethiopia has also influenced formation of make up of Kathakali. It was Sankaran Nair who was a lover of Kathakali, helped the Vettaththu King in modernization of Kathakali.
Hearing that the King of Kozhikkode, Manaveda made a dance form of eight days duration called ‘Krishnanattom’, King of Kottarakkara requested the Kozhikkode king to send in the artists so that those who are in Kottarakkara can also see Krishnanattom. But, the king of Kozhikkode refused it saying that those who are of the south have no taste for art forms. Wounded by this, the king of kottarakkara made Ramanaattom which latter on became Kathakali.
Aattakatha (Story of the Dance)
It is the literal representation of the Kathakali dance. Different from the Sanskrit drama based on the GeethaGovindam of Jaydevar, the aattakatha is full of attractive wordings and sweet music. Aattakatha is composed as a mixture of sentences and poems. The sentences are acted in the dance. The poetry is used to describe the situation.
Steps and Customs
Kelikottu (Percussion to invite)
Vandanaslokam (Greetings Poetry)
Katharambham (Begiining of the story)
Mudras are the interpretation of the story events by using finger positions. The mudras displayed in Kathakali are the mudras explained in Hasthalakshana deepika (book of positions of hands). There are total 24 mudras. Although there are mudras in different dance forms with the same name, all are different.
There are six types of attires. The cloths worn are based on the inner behavior of the characters. The colour combinations and make up differ in each one of it.
Kathakali On Stage
In olden days the Kathakali was performed in Namboothiry Illams(homes were the upper priestly caste lived) or the local ruler’s house. Latter on it was shifted to Temple premises. The stage does not require any extra facilities. Usually a shed was used. A strong stool was kept on the stage for the artist to be seated. A large bronze lamp with two flames was lit with one flame pointing to the artist and the other facing the audience. This lamp was called the ‘Aattavilakku’(Lamp for Dance). Different curtains are used to show different stages of the story.