Kerala Kalamandalam celebrated Golden Jubilee of the Department of Kutiyattam

Oct 10, 2015
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Kerala Kalamandalam, the prestigious Deemed University for Art and Culture at Cheruthuruthy in Thrissur District celebrated the 50th year of the establishment of Kutiyattam department with a five day Kutiyattam festival from 24- 28 September 2015.

Kerala Kalamandalam, the prestigious Deemed University for Art and Culture at Cheruthuruthy in Thrissur District celebrated the 50th year of the establishment of Kutiyattam department with a five day Kutiyattam festival from 24- 28 September 2015.

Kutiyattam, the Sanskrit theatre tradition of India/Kerala, is one of the longest surviving intangible heritages of the World recognized by the UNESCO. In Kerala, it was performed as a ritual by the temple community and the performances were restricted within the temple premise. It was in 1965 that Kerala Kalamandalam started giving training in Kutiyattam with the help of Late Painkulam Rama Chakyar the maestro of Kutiyattam and Padmasree P K Narayanan Nambiar, the Mizhavu percussionist and Kutiyattam scholar, both from the orthodox performing community.  In 2006, Kalamandalam became a Deemed University for Art and Culture and now the Department of Kutiyattam celebrated its 50th year of teaching this affluent art form regardless of the caste and creed.

The five day celebrations included seminars, meetings and performances, jointly inaugurated by Padmasree P K Narayanan Nambiar, the maestro in Mizhavu, veteran Kutiyattam artists Padmasree Sivan Namboothiri and Kalamandalam Ramachakyar  in a function held in the evening, presided by Dr. K K Sunderesan Registrar, Kerala Kalamandalam. K K Gopalakrishnan, Director, Kutiyattam Kendra, was the chief guest and Smt. Vasanthi Menon proposed the toast. Emeritus Professor Dr. A N Krishnan delivered Painkulam Ramachakyar Commemoration address.

Seminars and meetings

Seminar sessions were started from the morning with a presentation on ‘Nambiar’s Stagecraft in Adiyanthirakoothu’, in which the role of Nambiar, the community traditionally assigned for drumming and assisting the actors in Kutiyattam was analyzed. A lecture and demonstration on the instrument ‘Mizhavu’ was presented by Mizhavu percussionists Kalamandlam Dhanarajan and Kalamandalam Sajith Vijayan.

 In another session, the new generation artists and lecturers at the university- Kalamandalam Krishnendhu, Kalamandalam Sangeeth, Kalamandalam Prashanthi, Kalamandalam Jishnu Prathap and Kalamandalam Anoop presented papers on the topic ‘Painkulam Rama Chakyar’s Contributions and Innovations’.

There was a session for debate on contemporary issues related to Kutiyattam and was attended by scholars Dr. C M Neelakandhan, Dileepan Kadambazhippuram, Dr. N P Vijayakrishnan and others. Another debate session was on ‘Kerala Classical Performing Arts based on Contemporary Critical Thinking and Society’. Thinkers like Dr. Sunil P Ilayidam, Dr. Manoj Kuroor, Chithran M J, Dr. G Indu, O Arunkumar, M R Vishnuprasad shared their views.

The two commemorative sessions held during these days were about Late Killimangalam Vasudevan Namboothiri, the Superintendent of Kalamandalam and Kidangoor Rama Chakyar aka Kuttappa Chakyar, veteran Kutiyattam performer who died recently.


During these days, performances of Kutiyattam, Nangiarkoothu, Padhakam and Chakyarkoothu were held by the eminent artists and also by the Lecturers and senior students from the university.  The story played in Kutiyattam was Balivadham, which is staged in five performances. ‘Purappadu of Sreeraman’ (the scene of introduction of Sriraman) was enacted by Kutiyattam disciple Mithun. The “Nirvahanam’ (story telling by solo performance) part of Sriraman was performed by Kalamandalam Ramith.  Sugreevan’s character ‘Purappadu’ was enacted by Manjunath and “Nirvahanam’ by Artist-lecturer Kalamandalam Jishnu Prathap. In the concluding part of Balivadhom Kutiyattam, Kalamandalam Sangeeth Chakyar took the role of  Bali, Kalamandalam Jishnu Prathap as Sugreevan, Kalamandalam Ramith as Sriraman, Kalamandalam Mithun as Lakshmanan, Kalamandalam Manjunath as Hanuman and Kalamandalam Nila as Thara; delivered  excellent performances.

The rarely staged Kuityattam ‘Soorpanakhangam’ which included the ‘Ninam’ (Character with costume colored as Blood)  which was staged in the evening of the final day  was the highlight of all performances. The day witnessed the performance by the veteran artists like Padmasree Kalamandalam Sivan Namboodhiri (as Sriraman), Kalamandalam Ramachakyar (Soorpanakha & Ninam), Kalamandalam Girijadevi (Lalitha), Kalamandalam Eeswaranunni (percussionist) and Margi Sathi(as Seetha) along with the new generation artists Kalamandalam Sangeeth Chakyar (replaced the character Sriraman in the final scenes), Kalamandalam Jishnu Prathap (as Lakshmanan), Kalamandalam Sajitha(replaced the character Sitha in the final scenes) etc. 

Nangiarkoothu is an offshoot of Kutiyattam , where  by female artists enacts the stories in solo. The stories Jarasandhayudham, Kaaliyamardhanam, Madurapravesham and Subhadraharanam were staged on different days, enacted by Artist-lecturer Kalamandalam Krishnendhu, artists Kalamandalam Sajitha, Kalamandalam Vijitha and Kalamandalam Neethu.

Other performances held were Prabandhakoothu (Chakyarkoothu) by Painkulam NarayanaChakyar  and  Pothiyil Narayana Chakyar, Paadakam by Edanad Ramachandran Nambiar and Vijay, a final year student and an innovative percussion orchestration with eight Mizhavu drums titled “Mizhavu Melam by Kalamandalam Vivek and team.

The percussionists for Mizhavu  in Kutiyattam and other performances were Kalamandalam  Achuthanandan (Head of the Department of Mizhavu), Kalamandalam Dhanarajan, Kalamandalam Sajith Vijayan, Kalamandalam Vibin, Kalamandalam Shivaprasad, Kalamandalam Vivek, Krishnadas, Shyamjith, Rahul T S, etc.

Golden Jubilee activities

The concluding ceremony was attended by the dignitaries P N Suresh, Vice Chancellor, Kerala Kalamandalam,  M C Dileep Kumar, Vice Chancellor of Sree Shankarcharya Sanskrit University, Kalady and Padmabhooshan Madavoor Vasudevan a renowned Kathakali artist. In this session the Registrar of the University Dr. K K Sunderesan announced the plan for conducting fifty Kutiyattam performances and demonstrative lectures in addition to three Kutiyattam workshops across Kerala, as part of the Golden Jubilee activity.

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