Kathakali is a combination of ‘nratya’ and ‘abhinaya’ – dance and
dramatic interpretation of a theme which is usually a narration : a
story; something denotative of what the term Kathakali literally
means. Kathakali’s literal meaning is ‘story-play’, that is, revealing
a story while performing on the stage, and performing to reveal the
story while performing a dance. Initially Kathakali synthesised with
the Aryan cult of dance the Dravidian worship cult of the Mother
Goddess. In the course of time Kathakali began performing literary
classics like the plays of Kalidasa, Bhasha and Harsha. Broadly, the
stories enacted were taken from temple bards whose solo performances
were known as ‘Prabandha-koothu’ – narrative tales, and their group
performances, ‘Kudiyattam’. Kathakali was born of ‘Kudiyattam’. Around
mid-seventeenth century, inspired by Jaideva’s Gita-Govinda there
evolved ‘Krishnattam’ mandating the dancer to adorn like Krishna. By
the end of the seventeenth century there spread the cult of Rama and
like ‘Krishnattam’ there evolved ‘Ramattam’. Thus, ‘Kathakali’ in the
process of its growth had these religious leanings, and hence a
spiritual fervour as a result ‘Kathakali’s masks were cast either as
Krishna or as Rama.
Thus, a blend of many forms, Kathakali is essentially a devotional
dance. Here the dancer has been styled on strict Vaishnava line
sharing features from Rama’s iconography. A single figure in solo
dance form the sculpted dancer represents ‘Prabandha-Koothu’,
Kathakali’s initial form. It does not incorporate even the
mradanga-player, an almost essential accompaniment of Kathakali.
Mradanga is a cylindrical long drum with narrow openings for
leather-mounting associated with Kathakali since earliest times. In
most dance-forms the dancer is seen translating the text recited along
the dance in his ‘mudrayen’ – body-gestures. However, the Kathakali
dancer does not do it. As in Krishnattam, Kathakali lets the singer
deal exclusively with the text leaving the dancer free for
choreographic interpretation. Kathakali is a finer expression for
while most other dances have just twenty-four ‘mudrayen’, Kathakali
has seven hundred. Facial expressions, mainly through the eyes trained
to cast eight glances, are of cardinal significance in Kathakali.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain
specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of
numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the
curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New
Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of
Of Related Interest:
More Kathakali Art
The Art of Dancing
More Sculptures by the Same Artist
How to care for Wood Statues?
Wood is extensively used in sculpting especially in countries like China, Germany, and Japan. One feature that makes the wood extremely suitable for making statues and sculptures is that it is light and can take very fine detail. It is easier for artists to work with wood than with other materials such as metal or stone. Both hardwoods, as well as softwood, are used for making sculptures. Wood is mainly used for indoor sculptures because it is not as durable as stone. Changes in weather cause wooden sculptures to split or be attacked by insects or fungus. The principal woods for making sculptures and statues are cedar, pine, walnut, oak, and mahogany. The most common technique that sculptors use to make sculptures out of wood is carving with a chisel and a mallet. Since wooden statues are prone to damage, fire, and rot, they require proper care and maintenance.
It is extremely important to preserve and protect wooden sculptures with proper care. A little carelessness and negligence can lead to their decay, resulting in losing all their beauty and strength. Therefore, a regular clean-up of the sculptures is a must to prolong their age and to maintain their shine and luster.
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