Comprising of “theatrical elements” is a dance style originating from south India referred to as Chakyar Kothu. This “minimalistic” dance form developed in the state of Kerala essentially emphasizes on “facial expression” rather than major “body movements”. In addition, the essence of this dance style lies in its storytelling which incorporates themes based on “socio-political issues”. Furthermore, this dance is mainly performed in a “Koothambalam” (i.e. a theatre) found in Hindu temples in the state. The performers of this dance form usually belong to either the “Chakyar” or to the Ambalavasi Nambiar community.

a. History/origin of the Chakyar Kothu:

According to cultural history of the state, this dance form was developed and spread throughout the state by a great performing artist called Mani Madhava Chakyar, a Padma Shree and a Sangeet Natak Akademi Award winner. This form of dancing which originally was performed only in temples was eventually brought into public domain by the efforts of Chakyar.  He also happened to be the first artist to perform this dance live for the All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan.  As for the creation of this dance, it is said that it was a man called Rama Varma Parikshith Thampuram (guru of Chakyar) who had first written about it in a Sanskrit text called “Prahlādacharita”. However, it was the intelligent Chakyar himself who not only understood this complex text but developed this dance into a form of art. Hence this style has also been aptly named after the creator (i.e. Chakyar).

b. Costumes used in the Chakyar Kothu:

The costumes used by the performer include an elaborate headgear that resembles a snake’s hood which apparently represents a mythical character called Anantha, a thousand headed serpent, a bare upper body which is smeared with sandalwood paste and inked with red dots, and a dhoti covering the lower part of the body.

c. Music involved in the Chakyar Kothu:

The musical instruments used in producing music for this dance form includes a mizhavu (i.e. a drum made from copper), and a pair of Ilathalam (i.e. cymbals). Apart from the music produced this dance also involves narration of a story via a genre in Sanskrit literature that uses a mixture of prose and poetry which is known as “Champu Kavya”.

d. Training availability and dance technique involved in the Chakyar Kothu:

In terms of the technique, this dance form is essentially a solo act that involves less body movements, and increased use of  facial expressions to narrate a story usually linked to Hindu epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana. As for training centres/schools there are not many available in the state as well as in the country.

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