‘Tapathisamvaranam’ brought out the humour of the Vidushaka, as he plays matchmaker.
The Vidushaka’s dialogues points out the negatives of the socio-political milieu
Koodiyattam is rich in acting techniques that blend tenets of Natyasastra with Sanskrit verses. Perhaps it is to widen the appeal of Koodiyattam and make it more approachable to laymen that in certain plays the Vidushaka (court jester) delivers his dialogues in Malayalam. ‘Tapathisamvaranam’ is one such Koodiyattam play in Sanskrit authored by Kulasekhara Varma, the Chera ruler who reigned in Kerala during the 10th century A.D.
This Koodiyattam was performed recently at Irinjalakuda Koodalmanikyam temple as a part of the annual Koodiyattam festival and was dedicated to the Ammannur trivumvirate: Madhava Chakyar, Parameswara Chakyar and Kochukuttan Chakyar.
Only the first half of the first act of this play is traditionally performed in Koodiyattam. It narrates the story of king Samvarana and his queen Malini who are childless. Malini goes to the temple to offer prayers and meditate for a few days. During that time Samavarana has a dream in which the Sun God prophesises that the couple will not be blessed with a child.
As a solution Paraasarya, the Vidushaka, comes up with the idea of a second marriage for Samvarana, which the king turns down. Samvarana and Paraasarya proceed to the temple to meet Malini. On the way they feel Tapathi’s presence, the heroine of the play, who they suspect is in a garden near the temple. The adaptation of the play ends here. Only the king and the Vidushaka appear on the stage. The basic mood in this play is sringara as the Vidushaka attempts to bring together Samvarana and Tapathi. The lead role here is again the Vidushaka, who is a comrade of the king – a characteristic feature in the plays of Kulashekara Varma. In fact, the king is instrumental in widening the scope of this role in Sanskrit plays. Punctuated with witticisms, the Vidushaka’s dialogues sarcastically point out the negatives of the socio-political milieu.
Ammannur Kuttan Chakyar excelled in the role of Vidushaka and with his oratory skills he connected many a contemporary event to the story. The four pillars of Purushartha – duty, wealth, desire and salvation (Dharma-artha-kaama-moksha), which is the objective of piety is widely discussed. Alternatives to the four pillars such as a sumptuous meal, serving a noble king and so on are also suggested.
Ammannur Rajaneesh Chakyar and Margi Rama Chakyar handled the role of Samvarana on the various days. Kalamandalam Narayananan Nambiar and Sivadas accompanied on the mizhavu. P. Nandakumar (Idakka), Indira Nangiar and Devi Nangiar (tala) were the other accompanists.