Sunday March 24, 2019

Krishnanattam: The glorious dance drama on the life of Krishna

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Krishnanattam_(théâtre_rituel_du_Kerala)

By Meghna Nair

The curtain lifts and artists begin swaying to the beats of percussion instruments like chengila, ilattalam,shuddha maddalam, toppi maddalam, and itakka. The resonating voice of the singers create a wonderful ambience and the life of Krishna begins to unfold in the resplendent glory of Krishnanattam.

A precursor of Kathakali, Krishnanattam is an ancient dance form originated in Kerala and is known for its dynamic costumes, makeup, and beautiful headgear worn by the artists.

The make-up costumes and ornaments used in Krishnanattam are almost similar to that seen in Kathakali, though, unlike Kathakali, in Krishnanattam some characters use painted masks made of wood. Like in Theyyam (another ancient dance form), the faces of the artists are painted with vibrant colours and intricate designs.

Krishnan1

“The beauty of Krishnanattam lies in its rhythmic movements and the dance steps. It is quite different from Kathakali. In Kathakali, there is a lot more of emphasis on the bhaavas (expressions), but here, the steps are more concentrated upon, and the language, being Sanksrit, it is tougher,” explains Navami Namboothiri, a student of Kathakali  in Delhi.

Krishnanattam is mainly based on Krishnagiti, a text of slokas and padams in Sanskrit. This text was composed by Manaveda, who was a Zamorin or Samoothiri (the hereditary title used by Hindu Nair rulers of Calicut). Krishnagiti contains eight cantos of slokas and padams, each of which trace the journey of Lord Krishna’s life.

Krishna’s story, as described in detail in the 10th and 11th cantos of Srimad Bhagavatha, Mahabharata, and Harivamsa, is presented as a dance-drama in a cycle of eight plays on eight consecutive nights, barring Tuesdays.

Each performance depicts the narratives of each canto of the Krishnagiti. The eight performances are –Avataram, Kaliyamardhanam, Raasakreeda, Kamsavadham, Swayamvaram, Banayuddham, Vividha vadham, and Swargarohanam.

Krishnanattam is a product of the Vaishnava Bhakti movement of 17th century and the dance form also was first choreographed by the Zamorin Manaveda of Calicut.

This dance-drama troupe was patronized by the Zamorins till 1958.

PKS Raja (1913-2013), a later titular Zamorin ruler of Calicut, explained, “Originally, the performance of Krishnattam was strictly restricted to the Guruvayur Temple, palaces of the members of the Zamorin’s family, temples, and houses of Namboodiri Brahmins within the jurisdiction of the Zamorin’s empire. Performances outside the jurisdiction of Zamorin were strictly prohibited.”

Presently, the troupe has 54 artistes and is maintained by the Guruvayur Dewaswom board. If one has to book a performance, they have to get the appointment through the Devaswom board as there is no other troupe for Krishnanattam anywhere else.

The recruitment of the artists as young Hindu boys of five years is done by placing advertisements in the newspapers. The boys who can act are selected and are intensively trained.

The members of the troupe are classified into Aasan (the instructor), first grade artistes, second grade artistes and third grade artistes. The retirement age is 60.

Krishnanattam is considered to be an offering of the faithful to the deity. The devotees sponsor each performance to fulfil the desires associated with them.

It is believed that Krishnanattam is inspired by various dance forms that were prevalent in the medieval period. Thus, the critics always complain about the lack of perfection of the dance steps owing to the large number of influences.

Though the dance form is not as popular as Kathakali, it is still extensively performed, despite the inability of the audience to understand the Sanskrit songs, it is popular as an offering to please the Gods.

Next Story

Kerala Government Decides to Revise The List of Women Who Prayed at Sabarimala

The list of 51 women is not part of an affidavit but only referred to by the state government counsel in his arguments. Soon the list was highlighted in the media

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Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Stung by widespread criticism over the numerous errors in the list of women who prayed at the Sabrimala temple, the Kerala government has decided to re-prepare the list.

A counsel of state government had presented the list in the Supreme Court on Friday, which reportedly had discrepancies in the age and names of women. The list was taken from the records of the online system, through which pilgrims register for having “darshan”.

The row erupted over flaws in the actual age of some of the 51 women, whom the counsel had referred to in the list as “banned” — on account of they being of menstruating age group of 10 to 50 years — who prayed at the temple this season.

State police chief Loknath Behera on Saturday asked senior officials to revise the list, which included even the name of men, besides several of the women above 50.

State Devasom (temples) Minister Kadakampally Surendran told the media that his department has no role in the preparation of the list, while the president of the Travancore Devasom Board – custodian of the temple, A. Padmakumar said they are not responsible for this as they do not prepare statistics of the pilgrims in the temple.

Kanam Rajendran, state secretary of the Communist Party of India – the second biggest ally of the ruling Pinarayi Vijayan government, said the entire responsibility of what has happened lies with the state government.

Sabarimala
Kerala to revise list of women who prayed at Sabarimala.

But the Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, the closest aide of Vijayan, defended him by saying that it is not just 51 women, but so many women have had “darshan” at the temple.

Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini, both in the “banned” age group of 10 to 50 years, prayed at the Sabarimala temple.

It was after they approached the apex court seeking security for having safe “darshan” that a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari directed the state government to arrange adequate protection for them.

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The list of 51 women is not part of an affidavit but only referred to by the state government counsel in his arguments. Soon the list was highlighted in the media.

“This goof-up reveals the abject failure of the way Vijayan is running the state,” said state BJP president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai.  (IANS)