The state of Kerala also known as “God’s own land” is renowned for possessing a rich performing arts culture. Among the many performing artists Kerala has produced over the years, the contribution of one man called Mani Madhava Chakyar quite clearly stands out. Unfortunately, though not many are aware of the contribution of this great performing artist to the culture of India and Kerala. So here is presenting three essential “questions and answers” that would help provide a clear picture of the contribution made by Chakyar to the Indian society in the field of performing arts.
QUESTION 1: Who is Mani Madhava Chakyar?
ANSWER 1: Commonly referred to as “The Emperor of Rasa Abhinaya” is a performing artist and Sanskrit scholar known as Mani Madhava Chakyar. He is said to be a genuine master in “Abhinaya”, the traditional Indian form of acting. In addition, he was also renowned for possessing in depth knowledge with regards to the ancient Sanskrit text based on performing arts known as “Natyashastra”. Furthermore, he was also responsible for popularizing theatrical dance forms of “Chakyar Kothu” and “Koodiyatam”.
QUESTION 2: WHERE WAS MANI MADHAVA CHAKYAR BORN?
ANSWER 2: This master performing artist was born on the 15th of February 1899 in the Kozhikode district in his ancestral home located in Thiruvangayoor. Furthermore, he was the son of Visnu Sarma and Savithri Illotamma, and belonged to a caste known as “Chakyar”.
QUESTION 3: WHAT ARE THE CONTRIBUTIONS AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF MANI MADHAVA CHAKYAR IN RELATION TO PERFORMING ARTS IN KERALA?
ANSWER 3: A major contribution of Madhava Chakyar to performing arts in the state and the country is that he popularized two theatrical dance forms namely Koodiyattam and Chakyar Koothu. Now both these dance styles (i.e. Chakyar Kothu and Koodiyattam) were traditionally performed only within the premise of Hindu temples. However, it was in 1949 that this tradition was finally changed, when this maestro performed the “Chakyar Koothu” for the first time publically for the All India Radio (AIR). It was then in 1955, that the “Koodiyattam” was then performed for the first time publically in a village called Killikkurussimangalam. Furthermore, in 1962 this master performer then performed the Koodiyattam for the first time outside Kerala in Chennai. It was then in 1964 that Madhava was for the first time invited to perform in cities in north India such as Benares and New Delhi. It was his performances in these northern Indian cities that brought a lot acclaim including the prestigious “Sangeet Natak Akademi Award” in 1964 for his contributions in developing and popularizing the Chakyar Koothu and Koodiyattam.
Apart from being a master performer in Chakyar Koothu and Koodiyattam he also achieved a lot as a teacher grooming many great performing artists. Apparently, his first student was in fact a Polish student named Maria Christopher Byrski who stayed with him and studied this theatrical dance according to the Indian “Gurukul” tradition of acquiring knowledge. It was therefore for his well-deserved contribution as a performing Chakyar Koothu and Koodiyattam artist as well as for his role as a teacher that he was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri award in 1974 by the Government of India.