Kshethra Kalakal

Chakyar Koothu

....Narrating in Sanskrit first and then explaining in Malayalam, the actor has got ample opportunity to criticize / comment on various contemporary issues. Serpentine type head gear in Koothu represents Anantha, the legendary serpent with one thousand heads and that many tongues. Double edged black mustache and sandal paste all over the upper body with red lines, are notable factors of makeup in Koothu.

In Nangiyar koothu Nambiar women uses elaborate makeup, lots of ornaments and a head cap with a small serpent. “Sree Krishna charitham” (epic of Lord Krishna) is the main text forNagiyar koothu.

Chakyarkoothu is accompanied by the Mizhavu (a percussion instrument) and Ilathalam (cymbals). The Chakkiar satirizes the manners and customs of the present day during the performance.

In Chakyar koothu, facial expressions are important rather than choreography. Traditionally it was performed in Koothambalam, a place specially designed to perform Kutiyattam and Chakyar Koothu, inside a Hindu temple. The performer begins with a prayer to the deity of the temple. He then goes on to narrate a verse in Sanskrit before explaining it in Malayalam. The narration that follows touches upon social factors and various current events with great wit and humor.


​Kathakali is the classical dance-drama of Kerala, South India, which dates from the 17th century and is rooted in Hindu mythology. Kathakali has a unique combination of literature, music, painting, acting and dance.

Elements of the art of Kathakali are found in the ancient ritual plays of Hindu temples and various dance forms that are believed to have been gradually developed in Kerala from as early as the 2nd Century until the end of the 16th Century. Many of its characteristics are very much older than its literature, as they are a continuation of older traditions, but these did not crystallize until the 17th Century when the Rajah of Kottarakkara, a small principality in central Travancore, wrote plays based on the Hindu epic "Ramayana" in sanskritized Malayam, which could be understood by ordinary people. Before this, the stories were enacted in pure Sanskrit, which was known only to the learned few.

Traditionally there are 101 classical Kathakali stories, though the commonly staged among them these days total less than one-third that number. Almost all of them were initially composed to last a whole night. Nowadays, there is increasing popularity for concise, or oftener select, versions of stories so as the performance lasts not more than three to four hours from evening. Thus, many stories find stage presentation in parts rather than totality. And the selection is based on criteria like choreographical beauty, thematic relevance/popularity or their melodramatic elements. Kathakali is a classical art form, but it can be appreciated also by novices—all contributed by the elegant looks of its character, their abstract movement and its synchronisation with the musical notes and rhythmic beats. And, in any case, the folk elements too continue to exist. For better appreciation, perhaps, it is still good to have an idea of the story being enacted.


Thullal is classified in to three namely Ottan, Seethankan and Parayan of whichOttanthullal is more popular.

Known as poor man’s Kathakali, Ottanthullal is very satirical in nature. Kunjan Nambiar, a malayalam poet, who was on Mizhavu during a “Koodiyattom” play, dozed off during performance and was ridiculed by Chakyar. The very next dayNambiar chartered this act thullal, outside the temple as a protest. During the course of time “thullal” became a perfect solo dance/drama. Dance songs are in simple Malayalam. With Gaudy epaulets, gilled crowns, beaded breast plates, colorful skirts and painted faces, Ottanthullalemploys elaborate make up. Even though thullal gives importance to dance, very often it turns monotonous due to lack of variety. To compensate the actor add more satire and instant humor.