“Koodiyattam”, a kind of traditional Sanskrit theatre performed in Kerala boasts of having a rich past of over 2000 years. Currently, “Koodiyattam” is the only of its kind art form that is sustaining in India. Knowing the virtue and essence of this art form, UNESCO has awarded the “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” status to “Koodiyattam” on 18th May 2001.
Earlier, “Koodiyattam” was simply called “Koothu” and there were two parts for it. While one part consisted of a group of people acting on the stage, the second part is that of a “Vidooshakan” (A clown like character) narrating a particular story of a legend. The former was known as “Koodiyattam”, whereas the second was pronounced with the name “Vidooshakakkoothu”. As time passed, a group of people, called “Chakyar” (A particular caste in Kerala) came forward to play “Vidooshakakkoothu” as a separate art form. It was then that the present form of “Chakyarkkoothu” came into presence.
“Koodiyattam” has been using various Sanskrit scripts and dramas for a long time now. Some of them are “Ashcharyachoodamani” (written by Shakthi Bhadran), “Subhadra Dhananjayam” (Kulasekhara Varma) and “Naganandam” (Sree Harshan).
It is according to the instructions given by Bharatha Muni in “Natyashastra” that the “Koothambalangal” (Place where Koodiyattam is held) have made. The dramas used to be conducted at “koothambalangal” both at night and morning. The front portion of the stage will be decorated by various vegetable and related ones such as Kulavazha, Kuruthola and Nirapara. There will also be a “Kalivilakku” (Lamp) set in front of the stage. In terms of stage settings, apart from one or two seats as per the needs of the performer, there would be nothing placed in it.
It is in behind the stage that the instruments would be placed. Out of them, a pair of “Mizhavu” is the most important ones in “Koodiyattam”. It is Nambiar (A particular caste in Kerala), who is assigned to play those “Mizhavu”. On the right side of the stage, a Nangyar (Caste) will be there to sing and play the instrument “Kuzhithalam” (A kind of cymbal).
Some of the most notable artists who painted their names in golden lines in the history of “Koodiyattam” are ‘GuruMani Madhava Chakyar’, ‘Ammannur Madhava Chakyar’, and ‘Painkulam Raman Chakyar’. Apart from them, there are many other artists who fought against all odds to perform the art form and gained recognition. But, what remains as the biggest hindrance for them all is the lack of support in the form of financial aids. However, some issues such as shortage of trained artists and long duration of the whole lot of process too pose threats to “Koodiyattam”. “Margi theatre group” in Thiruvananthapuram is a notable organization working for the revival of “Koodiyattam”.