Theatre

Legend of Lord Krishna

Nangairkoothu performance in Thrissur. Photo: K.K. Najeeb   | Photo Credit: K.K. Najeeb

The story of Lord Sree Krishna has been told and retold a thousand times and it bears another thousand retellings. In a recent performance in Thrissur, a Nangiarkoothu based on the ‘Sreekrishnacharitam' narrated events from Krishnavataram to Subhadrapaharanam. Nangiarkoothu is the female counterpart of Koodiyattom. It used to be a part of the Koodiyattom performance and signified the parts enacted by women.

Tale behind Nangiarkoothu

The legend associated with Nangiarkoothu is that a tenth century ruler called Kulasekhara Varman married a Nangiar, who, thereby lost her birthright to perform in temples. He then wrote one or more stories that have since been used as texts for this genre of dance. Both the texts in use today for Nangiarkoothu – ‘Sreekrishnacharitam' and ‘Subhadradhananjayam' are ascribed to him. He also decreed that Nangiars could perform in the temples under his patronage.

Another interesting story gives us the background for the narration of ‘Sreekrishnacharitam.' In order to arouse his sister Subhadra's interest in his friend, Arjuna, Krishna gives her an upper garment inscribed with the 10 names of the brave Pandava warrior. When the demon Alambusan abducts her, Subhadra loses this precious piece of clothing. She deputes her friend Kalpalathika to go and fetch it.

On her way, Kalpalathika amuses herself with reciting stories of Krishna from the birth of King Kamsa to the point of ‘Subhadrapaharanam,' the abduction. As she relates the stories, she takes on the persona of each of her characters through expressions, gestures and movements. This constitutes the essence of this rich and ancient art form.

This Nangiarkoothu performance was an enactment of the 217 slokas written in Sanskrit. Usually, it is spread over 32 days. For the first time, this was done in an abbreviated form within six hours, under the guidance of guru Kalamandalam Rama Chakyar.

Select episodes from the text were presented by four young alumni from Kalamandalam – Krishnendu, Divya, Sangeetha and Prasanthi. Kalamandalam Amritha provided the vocal support and accompanied on the kuzhitalam. Jayaraj, Dhanarajan and Sajith Vijayan accompanied on the mizhaavu and Sukumaran on the edakka (all from Kalamandalam).

The Purappadu or prelude was an invocation to Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvathi. Krishanavataram, Pootanamaoksham, Govardhanodharanam Kamsavadham and Subhadrapaharanam were the pieces that were enacted. The young artistes supplemented the narration with a deeper level of interpretation.

A case in example is the depiction of Pootana as a woman with inborn maternal instincts who is attracted by the beauty of the baby Krishna and is in a dilemma. She is sure of death, either at the hands of Kamsa or moksha through the Lord himself.

Each episode was preceded by a lecture-demonstration that helped the audience understand and appreciate it.

The show was organised by David Bolland Performing Arts Centre in association with the Kerala Kala Kudiyattam Club, Thrissur.


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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 3:19:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/legend-of-lord-krishna/article3287089.ece

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