Kathakali, literally means `story-play', is a dance-drama originated in the 17th century in Kerala, one of the smallest and most beautiful states in India lying on the west coast of the Indian peninsula. It was given its present form by Mahakavi Vallathol Narayan Menon, who was the founder of the Kerala Kala Mandalam. Elements of music, dance , painting, poetry and drama beautyfuly blended in a unique way to make this art form stand out amongst other classical dance forms. Kathakali has evolved from classical dance forms such as Koodiyattam and also imbibed elements of several folk art forms that existed in Kerala. The many aspects of traditional rituals and ceremonies that Kathakali picked up on its evolutionary course from various folk arts, has since then become its integral part. Kathakali is known for its large, elaborate makeup and costumes. Characters with vividly painted faces and elaborate costumes re-enact stories from the Hindu epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana. The elaborate costumes of Kathakali have become the most recognised icon for Kerala
KATHAKALI STYLES (Sampradayam)
- Vettathu Sampradayam
- Kalluvazhi Sampradayam
- Kaplingadu Sampradayam.
The latest Sampradyam is Kalluvazhy Sampradayam which is implemented in Kerala kalamandalam, Sadanam and Kottakkal. By selecting attractive attams from the Kaplingadu Sampradayam(Thekkan styles) and Kalladikkodan Sampradayam (old Vadakkan styles) and named as Kalluvazhi Sampradayam. Now Kalluvazhi Sampradayam is known as vadakkan style and Kalladikkodan Sampradayam is vanished. In Kalamandalam thekkan style of Kathakali training also included.
The three unique and striking features that make Kathakali an unparalleled form of performing art are
1. Sophisticated language of Mudras : with 24 basic Mudras (hand and finger gestures ) Kathakali has a total sophisticated language. When the drama is enacted on the stage, Kathakali characters communicate with each other through this sophisticated language, body movements and facial expressions. 600 to 700 gestures are there in common use.
2. Complete control of the eye balls and the different muscles in the face, so that the different emotions could be expressed and exhibited in a superb manner. (For instance the Kathakali artistes can rotate the eyeballs clockwise or anti-clockwise from corner to corner both ways etc.)
3. Flexibility and complete control of all part of the body. This is achieved by intensive physical training and oil massaging (Uzhichil) of the body. It takes years for a Kathakali artist to master the above said features.
The name Kathakali derives from the Malayalam words "katha" (meaning story) and "kali" (meaning play)
Nrithyam (Enactment, the element of drama with emphasis on "mudras", which are hand gestures)
Even though the lyrics/literature would qualify as another independent element called "Sahithyam", it is considered as a component of Geetha, as it plays only a supplementary role to Nritham, Nrithyam and Natyam.
1. Angika -- pertaining to the body and its limbs. 2. Vachika -- relating to the vocal including proper pronunciation, modulation of voice accents and percussion.
3. Satvika -- representation of psychic condition.
4. Ahraya -- costume, make-up, stage props etc.
Vachika Abhinaya: One of the distinguishing characteristic of Kathakali is that the actors do not speak. Vachika (drama text in the form of verses and songs) are recited and sung by vocalists. These songs are explained and interpreted in details by actors through an elaborate method of angikabhinaya which consists of highly codified gestures, facial expression, and body movements. The vocal music in Kathakali although based on the Karnatic (South Indian) system has developed a distinct regional style called Sopanasangeetham. Its main aim is the evocation of the appropriate, dramatic mood and sentiments.
Sringara (EROTIC) Rati (LOVE) Hasya (COMIC, HUMOR) Hasa (LAUGHTER) Karuna (PATHETIC) Soka (SORROW) Raudra (FURIOUS) Krodha (ANGER) Veera (HEROIC) Visaha (ENERGY, HEROISM) Bhayanaka (TERRIBLE) Bhayam (FEAR) Atbhutam (MARVELOUS) Vismayam (ASTONISHMENT) Sandham (SERENE) Sama (TRANQUILLITY)
Traditionally there are 101 classical Kathakali stories. Most of them were initially composed to last a whole night. Nowadays there is increasing popularity for concise versions of every story (lasting 2-4 hours instead of a whole night), which has been made by selecting the most dramatic or popular portions of individual stories. In spite of being a classical art form, Kathakali can be appreciated by novices and connoisseurs. This is because of the frequent use of “Lokadharmi” (or the elaboration of folk elements)which allows novices to gain a foothold when they start watching Kathakali. In contrast “Natyadharmi” (which is based on the Natyasastra-the science of Natya and is the more classical component of the art form) delights the experience of novices and connoisseurs alike. It is good to have an idea of the story being enacted. This will help the spectators to appreciate the “personalization” of characters by individual actors. In fact one of the major attractions for traditional Kathakali connoisseurs is their ability to distinguish and debate on the "personalizations" that each actor brings about in his depiction of the story. Often this is a challenging task as most the characters and stories are derived from Hindu epics, which are memorized for people from that region. Success/ failure of amateur Kathakali artistes is often decided by their sensibility to successfully personalize characters. The most popular stories enacted are Nala Charitam (a story from the Mahabharata, Duryodhana Vadham (a story from the Mahabharata), Kalyanasowgandhikam (the story of Bhima going to get flowers for Panchali, from the Mahabharata), Keechaka Vadham (another story of Bhima and Panchali, from the Mahabharata), Kiratham (Arjuna and Lord Shiva's fight, from the Mahabharata), Karna Shapadham (another story from Mahabharata). Recently, as part of an attempt at popularizing the art, stories from other cultures, such as the story of Mary Magdalene from the Bible, Homer's The Iliad, and Shakespeare's King Lear have also been adapted into Kathakali scripts.
Music The language of the songs used for Kathakali is a mix of Malayalam and Sanskrit. called Manipravaalam. Even though the songs are set for “ragas” based on South Indian Classical Music” (Karnatic Music), there is a distinct style of rendition, which is known as the “sopanam” style. The Sopanam style incorporates the moods of temple songs which used to be sung (continues even now at some temples) at the time when Kathakali was born.
Is Kathakali classical? If we look at our benchmarks to see if it is classical, it only scores modestly. It is definitely old, but this is one of the least important of the criteria. It is not necessarily something that upper classes use to define their identity, indeed the opposite is probably true. Its most glaring deficiency is seen in its inability to transcend its attachments to the Keralite community. The average Indian (non-Malayali) has only a vague knowledge that it exists, and will live their entire life without ever even seeing a Kathakali performance. Therefore from a sociological standpoint it is probably more correct to call Kathakali "traditional" instead of classical.
The most popular Kathakali artists have obtained their training from one the four centers below, which follow the traditional "gurukula" style. Moreover these four centers are the oldest ones with some of them present from pre-independent era of India.
PSV Natya Sanghom (located in Kottakal, near Kozhikode, Kerala)
Gandhi Seva Sadan Kathakali and Classic Arts Academy (located in Perur, near Palakkad, Kerala) and
Here we see Parvati, the wife of Siva, trying to intercede between her husband and Arjuna. Since Siva likes Arjuna really, she eventually succeeds. Arjuna has learnt a little humility so Siva presents him with a magic arrow.