Mudiyettu, ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala
Inscribed in 2010 (5.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
- Mudiyettu, ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala
Mudiyettu is a ritual dance drama from Kerala based on the mythological tale of a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika. It is a community ritual in which the entire village participates. After the summer crops have been harvested, the villagers reach the temple in the early morning on an appointed day. Mudiyettu performers purify themselves through fasting and prayer, then draw a huge image of goddess Kali, called as kalam, on the temple floor with coloured powders, wherein the spirit of the goddess is invoked. This prepares the ground for the lively enactment to follow, in which the divine sage Narada importunes Shiva to contain the demon Darika, who is immune to defeat by mortals. Shiva instead commands that Darika will die at the hand of the goddess Kali. Mudiyettu is performed annually in ‘Bhagavati Kavus’, the temples of the goddess, in different villages along the rivers Chalakkudy Puzha, Periyar and Moovattupuzha. Mutual cooperation and collective participation of each caste in the ritual instils and strengthens common identity and mutual bonding in the community. Responsibility for its transmission lies with the elders and senior performers, who engage the younger generation as apprentices during the course of the performance. Mudiyettu serves as an important cultural site for transmission of traditional values, ethics, moral codes and aesthetic norms of the community to the next generation, thereby ensuring its continuity and relevance in present times.
Decision 5.COM 6.17
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: Mudiyettu is both ritual theatre and dance drama, with an important symbolic function for the identity of its practitioners, fostering social cohesion among all castes and reinforcing the sense of continuity within its community;
- R.2: The inscription of Mudiyettu on the Representative List could raise awareness about the significance of intangible cultural heritage by offering an example of social harmony among different castes and communities;
- R.3: The description of safeguarding measures is thorough and extensive, with a clearly defined plan and well-identified activities and institutions involved; the community itself is responsible for the continuity of transmission;
- R.4: The element was nominated following wide and active involvement of the community, families and groups concerned; and the nomination well documents their free, prior and informed consent;
- R.5: Mudiyettu is included in the inventory of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, a national repository of Indian arts and culture under the Ministry of Culture.
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