A Koodiyattam performance by Sri. Sooraj Nambiar and team from Ammannur Gurukulam, Irinjalakkuda was successfully conducted as part of the cultural programs of Hridayamritam 2015: National-level Sloka Recitation (Parayana) Competition at the Acharya Hall, Amrita School of Engineering, Amritapuri Campus on December 27, 2015. This event was co-organized by Samskriti, the cultural wing of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri Campus and SPIC MACAY, the Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth.
Koodiyattam is the only surviving Sanskrit theatre in the world and has been performed for the past two thousand years in Kerala, without substantial changes in the style of presentation, mannerism, recital or costumes. It is also one of the oldest existing classical theatrical forms in the world. Thus, Koodiyattam was declared by UNESCO as the “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2001. This was the very first time that the UN body had conferred the heritage status on an art form.
The word “koodiyattam” is derived from the Sanskrit word “kurd”, meaning “to play”. Traditionally, it was a dance drama conducted by men from the Chakyar caste and women from the Ambalavasi Nambiar caste. Koodiyattam was performed as a religious ritual in the Hindu temples of Kerala for six to twenty days and themes were based on Hindu epics, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The performers engaged the audience with a short drama sequence which was usually played on the last day of the temple ritual. Two characters, one male and one female, performed on stage with traditional musical accompaniment. Their brilliant role-play included a stylized form of vocal recitation, coupled with a complete gesture language and highly evocative expressions of the face and eyes.
The male heroic character was distinguished by the green colour and the small curved paper frame on his face. His costume had a blend of brilliant colours, predominantly red, black and white. He also had special makeup, small headgear and a costume that vividly displayed his clownish features.
The audience greatly enjoyed this unique theatrical performance and appreciated the detailed explanation by the performers. Many in the audience shared their feeling that this beautiful temple art should be protected and well preserved in India, as well as being shared around the world.