Focus A 12-day-long Srikrishnacharitam Nangiarkoothu saw the artistes display their devotion to Krishna.

This is for the fifth time that the 12-day-long Srikrishnacharitam Nangiarkoothu was performed at Sreekrishnaswamy Temple, Ambalappuzha, thus reliving an age-old tradition that was discontinued three decades ago. Sandarsan Kathakali Vidyalaya and Margi revived not just a temple ritual but also emphasised the historical continuity that Nangiarkoothu has in the cultural space of Kerala.

It is said that Srikrishnacharitam Nangiarkoothu was conceptualised by King Kulasekhara. This Nangiarkoothu festival is perhaps the only one of its kind in Kerala where Nangiars perform the story about the birth of Krishna when the priest opens the door of the sanctum sanctorum signalling the birth of the Lord.

Margi Sathi chose to perform in detail the story of Prahlada in the sequence of Dasavathara and gave a riveting performance as she enacted in her pakarnattam the lament of Bhoomidevi, and Brahma who recollects for the benefit of Bhoomidevi and the audience, the incarnations of Vishnu as he details the manifestation of Narasimha.

Margi Ramanunni made his mark on the mizhavu as he matched every gesture and mood that Margi Sathi evoked. One could see the glory, beauty and terror building the emotional states in Sathi's pakarnnattam as Prahlada, Hiranyakashipu and Narasimha.

After Krishna's birth is depicted on stage, it is the Nangiar's right to go to the sanctum sanctorum from the Natakasala, ring the bell, offer prayers and receive the appam nivedyam, which is the sweet prepared especially for Janmashtami, from the priest.

The purappad with which the festival began on September 10, the day before Janmashtami, took the audience through scenes from Sri Krishna's life. The stories covered here are Avatharam, Ambadigamanam, Poothanamoksham, Krishnaleela, Kaliyamarddanam, Akruragamanam, Kamsavadham, Dwarakanirmanam, Subhadrapaharanam and so on.

Range of emotions

A range of emotions is played out in the Natakasala adjoining the Palpayasam counter of the temple. This was particularly true with Kalamandalam Krishnendu's abhinaya of the Navarasas when Krishna enters Kamsa's court in Kamsavadham that captured the different sentiments of the people in Mathura who see the young boy arriving to take on the mighty king.

Artistes such as Margi Sathi, Kalamandalam Sangeetha, Indu G., Kalamandalam Krishnendu, Margi Usha, and Rangasri Revathi enlivened the Natakasala with their performance as the audience sat spellbound, be it the incarnations of Vishnu, Poothana's tryst with Krishna, the fall of Kaaliya, Akroora rolling over the dust in Ambady, the spectacle of the emergence of Dwaraka or Subhadra's crush on Arjuna.

On the mizhavu, Margi Ramanunni, Margi Saji, Kalamandalam Ratheesh Bhas, Kalamandalam Anoop, and Manikandan provided rhythm. They were supported on the edakka by Kalabharathi Unnikrishnan, Kalanilayam Rajan, Kalamandalam Sreekanth, and Kalanilayam Ratheesh. While Margi Mohanan used the timila to heighten the drama, Margi Usha, Sindhu, Anjana, Sangeetha, Revathi, and Amritha provided the tala.

The 12-day-long festival transformed the precincts of the temple into Krishna's Ambady as the Nangiars displayed their love and devotion to Krishna through their performances.

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