Lord Krishna and Liberation
The Islamic invasion gave rise to the beginning of the Bakti [devotion] movement within the Hindu communities.
This movement was instigated by a poet and devotee of Lord Krishna called Jayadevan. He wrote eight padams [poems] called the Geetha Govindam [songs of Lord Krishna`s life]. These poems change the future of the arts in India by encouraging devotion to Lord Krishna.
The performances in north India by Jayadeva and his wife, Padmavathi, attracted pilgrims from all over the country. Some of these pilgrims were performers, writes and musicians. They took elements of the Geetha Govindam to their own region where they evolved into the various classical dances and dramas of India.
These poems reached Kerala and were known as Ashtipadi attam. The early performance techniques included basic Mudras [sign language], facial expressions, body language and characters accompanied by musicians to tell stories about Lord Krishna.
Jayaevan made the revolutionary step of having a singer singing the poems at the back of the stage. This act released the actor to express the story through purely through gesture.
A devotee of Lord Krishna called Tuchattu Ramanujan Ezuttachan, known as the father of Malayalam [the local language of Kerala], created the Malayalam alphabet and its language structure. He translated the The Ramayana [story of Lord Rama] into Malayalam to teach the local people to read, write and gain valuable access to knowledge.
Prior to this translation, the sacred books were written in Sanskrit and retained only by the Namboodiri families and scholars prohibiting the general community from accessing the holy text. Another poet called Poothanam Namboodiri wrote Sree Krishna Miritahm - the songs of Lord Krishna.
These poets, scholars and the innovative performing style of Jayadevan changed the arts, and the lives of people, in Kerala forever. People could read, write, understand the sacred text, dance, sing, act and paint. Kerala was liberated and educated through these early visionaries.
As devotion to Lord Krishna increased, dance, drama, music, art and education flourished as artists expressed their reverence. The arts were now a primary component of education, language, learning and social development.
A devotee of Lord Krishna and King of Calicut, Manadevan, appointed vocalists to sing Krishna Geethi [songs of Krishna] inside the inner sanctum of the temple to bring adoration to Lord Krishna onto the dramatic stage, approximately 600 years ago, and called it Krishnanattam.
Manavedan disregarded the chanting of Koodiyattam, introduced the technique of the singer singing of the poem and enabled the actor to act out the story word by word through gestures. Manavedan believed that when an actor spoke the character lost its spiritual status and became human again.
His understanding of music and its contribution to drama resulted in the introduction of the Kalasham [pure dance] to be performed at the end of each verse.
Krishnanattam artists sit down whilst the artist applies the chutti. In Kathakali the actor lies down to have the chutti applied.
Krishnanattam is still performed in the Guruvayoor temple, Kerala, attracting pilgrims from all over India.
Koodiyattam, Krishnanattam and Kathakali actors are totally transformed by a three dimensional make up called Chutti. The finished result is virtually the same yet they are 2,000 years apart.
The pioneering techniques used in Krishnanattam released the actor to express the full impact of the play purely through gesture.
Find out more about the background of Kathakali...