Classical Dance Forms of Kerala - Koothu

About Koothu, the classical dance form of Kerala

Koothu is one of the oldest theatrical classical dance performed by the member of the professional Chakyar cast, only in Koothambalam of temples.

Koothu means dance. The movements, the facial expressions and the signs and gestures employed by the actor in Koothu are said to be closely associated with the principles laid down in Bharatha's Natya Sastra. T

he dance depicts the stories from the epics based on Sanskrit text, but interpreted in Malayalam, enlivening the narration with Thandava dance rhythms, gestures and body postures derived from Natya Sastra.

Koothu is also dominated by comic elements. Impersonated through mime and gesture and interspersed with occasional dances, the narrative art of the Chakyar is essentially dramatic.

Humorous, witty analogies and allusions to topical, political and social events are brought in during the narration and the dancer gets ample facilities for criticizing men and things of local interest.

The dance is performed by the Chakyar on the platform of the Koothambalam adorned with special type of headgear and peculiar facial make-up. In the beginning, he offers prayers to the presiding deity of the particular temple where he is performing. After that he recites a verse from the Sanskrit text and then explains it in Malayalam.

The Cymbals’ pairs and the Mizhavu are the instruments used in the dance.

A member of the Nambiar caste beats rhythm on the Mizhavu at the required intervals.

The cymbals are played invariably by women known as Nangiyars.

Koothu presented as a solo item by a Chakiyar is also known as Prabhandha Koothu. Occasionally, it is also presented by a Nangiyar woman, when it is called Nangiyar Koothu.

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