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Kuttiyattam Sanskrit Theatre

India

Kuttiyattam is a form of sacred theatre which was originally performed in temple theatres called Kuttampalams dating from the 12th to 17th centuries. It involves elaborate rituals and compositions, orchestras, and stage properties. The use of fire as a sign of the divine, the sanctification of the stage and the purification of the actors, along with the sacred power of the performance, support a view that Kuttiyattam theatre derives from a sacrificial ritual.

Sanskrit Theatre.jpg (222454 bytes)The transmission of skills and techniques for performing Kuttiyattam is hereditary in the Chakyar, Nambiar and Nangiar communities in Kerala, southern India. The preservation of the Kuttiyattam is important: for India as a nation, preserving its national heritage;  for Kerala as a state and the language of Malayalam; and for the preservation of ancient traditions of southern India, as expressed in Dravidian languages and encompassing Sanskrit cultural expressions.

Threats: Kuttiyattam is in danger of disappearing due to lack of funding to support its productions, and the decline of the Chakyar families who maintain its tradition. Only five of the 18 Chakyar families in the profession remain.

Action plan: A Kuttiyattam archive and library is proposed. Plans include organizing workshops and training facilities and the production of a series on master-performers. The preservation programme also calls for making traditional theatres available for performances and building two new theatres.