Koodiyattam, the ancient Sanskrit theatre tradition of India, which was proclaimed as an ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ by the UNESCO in 2001 continues to attract a large number of young pupils and curious spectators.
Regarded as one of the oldest theatre forms in India to be continuously performed, Koodiyattom as an art faces a host of challenges. Displayed through the medium of Sanskrit, there exists a certain point of limitation beyond which an audience with limited knowledge of the language would find it difficult to grasp the meaning conveyed through the performance. “In addition, the spectatorship continues to be restricted among a very few as there is not much informed audience for the art form,” says Kalamandalam Kanaka Kumar, an exponent and dedicated teacher for near 21 years.
Many logistical problems also hinder the rise of popularity of the art. Scarcity in the number of learned teachers, costume designers and others who strive behind the stages play a vital role, adds Kalamandalam Kanaka Kumar, who dons such multiple roles for the performance of his students during the ongoing arts festival.
Nonetheless, the art demands skilled performers of instruments like ‘Mizhavu’, ‘Kurumkuzhal’ and ‘Sankhu’.
Amidst the many crippling factors it suffers, Koodiyattom reserves its large share of loyal admirers. Moreover, the UNESCO declaration has aroused in a large amount of curiosity, particularly among foreigners, points out the artiste. “Many from the state and elsewhere have shown considerable interest in learning the intricate nuances that are crucial to the art. Committed students from younger generations have also played an important role in spreading the art among new arenas. The role of the various arts festivals is immense in preserving this richness of our culture. The fascination of the audience during a performance is a major driving force for performers of the traditional art,” says the exponent.