Dance & Theatre
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Introductory steps of a monkey character in Kutiyattam

Kutiyattam is the ancient Sanskrit theatre form which originated at least two thousand years ago in Kerala, India. It is a performing art which needs very complex steps and flexible body movements. Traditionally, Kutiyattam has been performed by artistes of the Chakyar community only. Since it is a temple art, the performance of Kutiyattam is restricted to temple theatres called Koothambalams.

In consideration of the age old existence of this ancient art form, the UNESCO has recognized Kutiyattam as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. The structure of the performance of Kutiyattam is based on the ‘Natyasastra’, ancient treatise on dance and drama in Sanskrit language authored by the sage Bharata. (Bharatamuni).

In Kutiyattam, the performance of actors, drama sequences, introduction of characters etc. are accompanied by the playing of ‘Mizhavu’, a percussion instrument.

Each character of a Kutiyattam performance has prescribed steps for introduction. In the Natyasatra itself, there are clear directions for the first entrance of each character. Here a Kutiyattam artiste, Pothiyil Narayana Chakyar shows how a monkey character is introduced for the first time in the play. It requires very complicate steps and body movements for the introduction of an epic monkey character like Hanuman, Bali (Vali) or Sugreeva.