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Kathakali: Cultural preserver of classic tales

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By Akash Shukla

Based on Hinduism and charged with powerful drama, it unfolds drama, devotion, dance, and music. Kathakali does it all to create one of the most impressive forms of sacred theatre in the world.

Embracing centuries of tradition and culture, it is not just a dance-drama but a devotion act showcasing the perennial tug-of-war between good and evil.

From then to now, Kathakali continues to provide a window into the past and a sneak peek into the ancient traditions. Kathakali plays embalm these traditions and have preserved it for centuries now.

Indian tradition of story-telling has been beautifully carried forward through Kathakali as it dances and dramatises to carry forward the classic tales from one generation to the other.

 

The Origin

Apart from drawing its inspiration from the magnificent sculptures of temples depicting gods and goddesses of Ramayana and Mahabharatha, Kathakali also draws its encouragement from the temple rituals and from the classical drama forms, namely, Koodiyattam, Kootha, and Krishnanattam.

To preserve the meaning, essence, and spirituality, Brahmin priests (Namboodiri) memorized the stories and passed them on to the next generation.

Despite the king’s prowess in the area, Namboodiris wielded a lot of power and they played a pivotal role in preserving the stories, upholding the law and developing the spirituality.

When Brahmins travelled and settled in various parts of India, the culture and classic tales went along with them to innumerable places nationwide.

Hundreds of years later, these sacred tales were performed in the temple. And, the whole community vividly experienced the life of their ancestors and their story of evolution in material and spirituality.

 

Kathakali and its types

Known as Sampradäyaṃ (Malayalam: സമ്പ്രദായം); there are three leading Kathakali styles that differ from each other in subtleties but clear demarcations like gestures, hand positions choreographic profile, and stress on dance than drama. Many-a-time it was the other way round and the stress was on drama than dance. Out of the lot, the three Kathakali styles are:

Kalladikkodan Sampradyam, Vettathu Sampradayam

Kaplingadu Sampradayam

Of late, all Kathakali styles have boiled down to the northern Kalluvazhi and southern Thekkan styles.

Northern Kalluvazhi style was majorly developed by legend Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon (1881-1949). It is implemented in Kerala Kalamandalam. However, this department also teaches the southern style).

Kathakali’s fame, claim and contemporary offshoots

Drawing its roots from Kathakali techniques and aesthetics and stylised and developed by legend Guru Gopinath in the mid-20th century, Kerala Natanam dances its way to existence as a part Kathakali dance form.

Kathakali finds expression in Malayalam feature films like ParinayamMarattam,Vanaprastham, and Rangam.

Many docu-features and documentaries have been shot on Kathakali artistes like Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair, Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, Raman Pillai, Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair, Kottakkal Sivaraman, Kalamandalam Gopi, and Chenganoor.

 

Foraying into fiction, Kathakali finds place in Malayalam short story ‘Karmen’ by NS Madhavan and space in novels like ‘Keshabharam’ by PV Sreevalsan.

Arundhati Roy’s Booker prize-winning The God of Small Things witnesses a chapter on Kathakali

Even the Indo-Anglian work like Arundhati Roy‘s Booker prize-winning The God of Small Things has a chapter on Kathakali.

If the hope for Kathakali wasn’t already far from over, Anita Nair’s novel Mistress, which is suffused with the ethos of Kathakali, adds another feather to the cap of this Lit-cultural dancing saga…

 

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American woman Angelique Boiteus immerses herself in Krishna bhakti in Madhya Pradesh

A graphic designer from San Francisco, Angelique Boiteus, 35, has been a 'Krishna bhakt' since 2012

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Balaji Temple in Madhya Pradesh. Image source: mouth shut.com

Betul, Madhya Pradesh, August 26, 2016: An American woman has reportedly become so devoted to Lord Krishna that she has been living here in Rukmini Balaji Mandir for the last two months, immersed in ‘bhakti’ and oblivious to the world.

A graphic designer from San Francisco, Angelique Boiteus, 35, has been a ‘Krishna bhakt’ since 2012, said Sheonarayan ‘Sam’ Verma, a Non-Resident-Indian (NRI) who built the Rukmani Balaji Mandir here in Madhya Pradesh.

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God Krishna with Flute and cows around him. Image source: www.hindugodwallpaper.com
God Krishna with Flute and cows around him. Image source: www.hindugodwallpaper.com

According to Verma, her devotion intensified over the years- much in line with the ‘Rasa’-filled tradition of Krishna bhakti in which the devotee gradually begins to view the god as his or her lover- drifting her increasingly away from her family and worldly life in the US.

“She now spends her time absorbed in her love for Krishna and doesn’t like to meet people,” Verma said.

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Angelique now calls herself Anjali. The temple’s priest, Aseem Panda, said he has not known anyone else like this woman. (IANS)

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William Shakespeare: contemporary even after 400 years

In the era of short films, the plays of William Shakespeare have their presence globally even after 400 years of being published.

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William Shakespeare:Wikimedia Commons

By Shivangi Tripathi

It’s been around 400 hundred years since William Shakespeare wrote his last play ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’, published in the year 1613, yet even today Romeo and Juliet are epitome of pure romance. In the age of rom-coms, what makes Romeo and Juliet alive?

William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, 160 kms  from London.

But great minds are not confined by borders. His characters were embraced by people all over the world as their own. His influence was such that his works have been translated in hundreds of languages. Although he was British, his influence among Americans is eminent. ‘The Folger Shakespeare Library’ in Washington D.C. is the world’s largest collection of printed works of William Shakespeare. The exhibit at Folger has a copy of ‘First Folio’ which is one of the earliest references of Shakespeare’s work into the new world. It contains some of his most commended works like’ The twelfth night’, ‘The Hamlet’ and ‘The Tempest’.

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His carrier as a playwright is said to have started as early as 13 years of age on the London stage. The vast acceptance of his characters as real with real human emotions is said to be the reason that it even resonates with the readers today. The powerful poetic writing and phrases such ‘Et tu brute’ or ‘The most unkindest cut’ is bound to leave a permanent mark for just the depth and understanding of human emotions.

Later, after being financially stable, Shakespeare became a land owner and a major shareholder of Globe Theatre whose exact replica now stands in London.

Along with the universal appeal of his characters Academia has helped a lot in taking Shakespeare to the next generation readers by making it a compulsory reading in high schools. Whatever be the reason, definition of genres like tragedy, comedy or romance is always incomplete without the reference of his works.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKSwvS81UI4

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Mexican-Punjabis relation through dance

Mexican-Punjabi is a vanishing tribe

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the performance held on 10th and 11th april credits: kalw.org

BY MEGHA SHARMA

The United States had always been an open land to possibilities. It is visited by a huge number of immigrants every year. California which is not only a land of renowned universities, it consists of various fertile farmlands which gave opportunity to numerous Indians who wanted to have a hand in the agricultural field.

It is recorded that through Canada many people from Punjabi communities came here to grow peach and plums. However, restrictive immigration stratagem didn’t allow these outsiders to find a wife in their countries. As a result, what came out were interracial marriages of these refugees and the native Mexican women who used to work in the farms.

This gave rise to cultural amalgamation and this intermixing is now at the end of its league as the generations of this sub-culture are reaching the end of their lives. To overcome such a drastic loss a new dance series “Half and Halves” has been organised.

This dance series is a result of pairing up of the “Dance and drum company” (specialising in Bhangra) based in San Francisco and the Ensembles Ballet Folklorico de San Francisco (focussed on the traditional Mexican Dance) to showcase the cultural mix.

The show is a series of dances depicting the cultural ties and also exploring the marriages in the early 20th Century, which created a unique multiplicity of cultural engagements.

The dance is not a regular rehearsal for the traditional Mexicans but inculcate a fusion of the two styles emerging at last as collaborative force.

A record of the dialogues shared with the children of this mixed race is presented in the dances. This traditional fusion is also depicted in the cremation practices. It is registered that “Even though the mothers were Catholic and the fathers were for the most part Sikh, they found a way to merge their traditions while still staying true to their religions. Like the story of a Sikh father who was cremated, and then his ashes laid to rest in the grave next to his wife.”

The couples shared eternal love based on joyful intermingling of their professions and a mutual love for dance. While talking of the communication they would share it is said that “Foreign language is an apt metaphor for the show’s deeper meaning, because these couples didn’t share a native language — they communicated through English.”

a Punjabi-Mexican family
a Punjabi-Mexican family

The dancers from both the troupes try to learn each other’s dance form by learning a certain gesture one day or a different move another. The artistic director of Duniya surprisingly tells of this crucial juncture in the crossing of these cultures as being negotiated for a long time. Herself being an offspring of this race, she considers it to be a significant part in the lives if these Mexican-Indian.

Megha is a student at the University of Delhi. She is pursuing her Masters in English and has also done her studies in German Language. Twitter: @meghash06510344