Kathakali singer Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan recently released an audio CD of the aattakatha ‘Gurudakshina.’ This play, written by Kurichimana Narayanan Namboothiri, narrates incidents in the lives of Krishna and his classmate Sudhama during their stay at the hermitage of their mentor Sandeepani. This play is usually performed by students of Kathakali during their gurukulam days to familiarise themselves with stage performances.
This attakatha is taught to students immediately after the customary Purappad. But with the institutionalisation of art forms, new methodologies order and curriculum came into existence and as a result, some of the older practices went into oblivion. This was the case of this play too.
According to Unnikrishnan, ‘Gurudakshina’ was last performed some two decades ago at Irinjalakuda, in which he was a participant. Luckily an audio cassette of that performance was available with M.K. Aniyan, a connoisseur of Kathakali, and that led to the release of a CD.
The padams are tuned simply in common ragas. Ragas like Dwijavanthi appear in a raagamalika and certain padams in ragas Kalyaani, Madhyamaavathi, Kappi and Poorvikalyaani show marked resemblances with popular padams of other plays in similar ragas. The late Kalamandalam Raveendran is the other singer along with Unnikrishnan. Kalanilayam Kunjunni plays the chenda and Kalamandalam Eswara Warrier handles the maddhalam.
A. Sangameswaran Kathakalipadams of the play Gurudakshina
By Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan and Late Kalamandalam Raveendran