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Thread: Folk Entertainments of Kerala (Padmanabha)

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    Folk Entertainments of Kerala (Padmanabha)

    Folk Entertainments of Kerala

    - Padmanabha

    Paava Kathakali is the traditional glove puppetry of Kerala, confined to Paruthipally village of Palakkad district. Though glove puppetry was in vogue before Kathakali, the latter’s popularity influenced the puppeteers. Thus they modeled their puppets in Kathakali costumes and adopted the Attakathas (performers manual) for performances. Wooden puppets used for glove puppetry in the pre Kathakali, period resembled the images of Buddha.

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    The puppets are one two feet high. The head and limbs are carved on wood and joined together, with thick cloth -cut and stitched into a bag. The puppeteer inserts his hand into the bag and moves the puppet’s hand and head with his thumb, middle and index fingers. While manipulating the puppets the artistes provide eloquent facial expressions which the wooden figure is unable to make. The artistes called Aandipandarams, are migrants from Andra Pradesh and are staunch believers of Lord Subramanya.

    “For the performance of Paavakathakali, no specially built stage or platform is required. It can be performed even in houses” informed G Venu, an authority in Paavakathakali and tholpaavakoothu.

    Before the troupe arrives, oil lit lamp is kept burning in the eastern courtyard of the house. The artistes begin the show with hymns and the performance lasts for two to eight hours. After the show they were given Arangu panam, a brocaded dhoti, and other gifts. Episodes from Mahabharata are usually played and they include Kalyana saugandikam, Uttaraswayamavaram, and Duryodhanavadham.

    ”In 1981 we selected six villagers and gave them intense training in music, puppet making and puppetry. After three years we could participate in the ix international puppet carnival in Japan. In 1987, we were fortunate to perform at Marionettes Traditionnells d’orient et d accident conducted by the Ateliers d’ethno musicalogies in Geneva. Our shows at Lausanne, Basel, Zurich and ARMSTERDAM WERE a big success” informed Venu. .

    Similarly tholpaavakootthu, shadow puppetry has its origin at Palakkad. It is performed in koothambalams, with in the Bhagavathi Temple premises of Palakkad.

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    Legend says that while Goddess Bhagavathi was engaged in the battle with the demon Darika, Rama killed Ravana. She could not witness the victory of the good over evil. So in Bhadrakali temples Ramayana is enacted through tholpaavakoothu.

    The whole epic is presented in 21 days. There is special 21 parts manual called Aadal paattu for the performers to follow. Exponents like Chinna Thampi Vadyar, incorporated into it, verses from Kamba Ramayana 350 years ago.

    ”The puppets are made of deer skin. After cutting it into desired shapes, perforations are made symbolizing costumes and ornaments to highlight shadow. The bamboo splint inserted behind provides support” explained Venu. They are placed behind the screen with a strong source of light behind them such that their shadows fall on the screen.

    Behind the wooden plank-fixed a little away from the 12mt long white curtain are coconut halves filled with oil. They are arranged in such a way that only the shadows of the puppets fall on the screen camouflaging that of the puppeteers.

    Though it is not a ritualistic art, certain rituals are observed when performed in temples. Oil lamp lit from the sanctum sanctorum is kept near the stage. The Oracle blesses the artistes. Hymns to invoke the goddess are recited. All the 21 lamps behind the curtain are lit, former gurus are saluted and the family members who provided food and water for the artistes are thanked for the warm hospitality.

    Shadow plays are popular in Indonesia, China, Greece and Turkey. In India Kerala, Tamilnadu, Orissa and Maharashtra are known for puppetry. In Kerala we have only six performers. Now it is for the government, the cultural department and cultural organizations to nurture it.

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