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Temple Arts Of Kerala


The temples were also centres of cultural activities. Koothampalam was designed to be the centre of performing arts. They are theatres in temples where Koothu is performed. They are specially constructed in the temple premises. The members of the Chakiyar family alone have the right to perform Koothu in temples. It is a performing art peculiar to Kerala. It is performed in temples. Drawing his themes from the Puranas, the Chakiyar assumes the role of all the characters and impress the audience with appropriate actions movements and gestures. The Koothu is marked throughout by humour, satire and Sarcasm. In the course of exposition of Puranic stories the Chakiyar draws parallels from contemporary life. The Chakiyar has the privilege of immunity from interruptions and prerogative of criticising even high dignitaries.

There are three forms of Koothu- Prabandham Koothu, Nangiyar Koothu and Kudiyattom. Prabandham Koothu is pure narration with explanation while Nangiyar Koothu is pure acting. Koodiyattom is a theatrical representation. Its peculiarity is that both Chakiyar and Nangiyar act together.


Kutiyattam was also performed in temples. It is the earliest form of dramatic art in Kerala. Koodiyattam Literally means acting together. It has two or more actors appearing on the stage. The role of the male characters are performed by the Chakiyars and those of the female characters by the Nangiyar. The Nangiyars also help the Chakiyar by sounding cymbals and reciting the Sanskrit verses. Besides these, there were the Nambiar to perform the Mizhavu and the Vidushaka, the clown. The Chakiyars uses about twenty plays for staging Kudiyattom and the verses used are in Sanskrit. The plays of Bhasa, Kalidasa, Sakthibhadra, Sri Harsha and Kulasekhara are used by the Chakiyar. The detailed guidelines for its performance are provided by Tolan in his Attaprakaram and Kramadipika. In Koodiyattom too, actors enjoy freedom of speech. The Malayalam work Unnunili Sandesam contains the earliest reference to Koodiyattam performance. Koodiyattam influenced Kathakali in every detail and Manipravalam owes its origin to this art form of Kerala.


Theyyam is an important art of North Malabar. It is connected with hero worship. The word Theyyam is derived from the word Theyyattam, the dance of God. Theyyam is the corrupted Dravidised form of Daivam, literally God. Though Theyyam came under the influence of the Brahmins in later days, it survived without much change. The Theyyam ritual is a combination of the worship of heroes, mother Goddess, serpent and trees. As a dance – form Theyyam uses artificial hair colourful face paints and accompanied by Tottam Pattu and supported by musical instruments, the dancer transforms himself in to the particular God or hero. The Theyyams are usually conducted in Kavus or Bhagavathy temples. A variety of Theyyams are found in North Malabar such as Kathivanur Veeran, Vishnu Murthy, Gulikan, Bhagothy, Patakali and Chamundi. In course of time Teyyam had become an essential part of the religious life of the people. Theyattam, literally meaning the dance of God arose out of the ancient cult of hero worship.


Tira is an independent variety of Theyyam prevalent in North Kerala. It is also known as Tirayattom or Kaliyattom.A s it is the dance of God on earth. It is known as Thirayattom. Thottam pattu is the song of Thirayattam. The famous Thirayattom are those of Chathan, Bhadra Kali, Bhairavan and Gulikan.


Mutiyettu is an art form of North Kerala. It is performed only in Bhadrakali temples. It is the most primitive form of drama that existed in Kerala. Mutiyettu is sometimes called ‘Kalinatakom’ (Kali’s drama). The theme of Mudiyattu is the duel between Kali and Darika, between the Goddess and the Asura.The main characters in Mudiyattu are Shiva, Kali, Narada, Darikan and Danavan. Kathakali is indebted to Mutiyettu in its dressing pattern.It stands unique among the ritual dances of Kerala.



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