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Caralman Charitram Chavittunatakam - Excerpt 14

Presented here is an excerpt from Caralman Charitram (story of Emperor Charlemagne), a popular Chavittunatakam play. This colourful theatre form of Kerala is featured by the rhythmic high-stepping of artistes. Played like a dance drama, Chavittunatakam originated among the Latin Catholics in the early phase of Portuguese colonization in the state.

The themes adopted are heroic tales from the Christian lore. Caralman Charitram is story of the great Roman Emperor Charlemagne. The play was authored by Vareechanunnavi, a versatile scholar, poet and actor.

Chinnathambi Pillai and Vedanayakam Pillai, two 17th century scholars are credited with the invention of Chavittunatakam. A sort of archaic Tamil is used for the dialogues, which are delivered in song form. The colourful costumes bear strong resemblance to the European opera.

Besides violin, flute, bulbul and harmonium, native instruments like chenda, padathamberu, maddalam, large gongs and tabla are used as accompanying instruments. The influence of Kalarippayattu, the Kerala martial art, can also be discerned in Chavittunatakam.

Performing here are the members of Yuvajana Chavittu Nataka Kala Samithy based at Gothuruth in the Ernakulam district.