|koodalmanikyam temple koothambalamwww.vaikhari.org|
|Koothambalam at Kerala Kalamandalam.commons.wikimedia.org|
|Koothambalam, Kerala Kalamandalam |
|koothambalam of vadakkunnathan temple,thrissur.www.alamy.com|
So, Koothambalam, is an integral part of Kerala temple culture where supposedly the divine Gods and Goddesses dance in unison. The Kerala temple architecture tradition brings out the indisputable fact that the dance and Hindu religion are inseparable. Thus, the koothambalam plays a major role in educating visitors on the rich legends of the Indian cultural fabric with particular reference to local regions. Koothambalams in temples like Thirunakkara, Harippad, Kidangoor, Arpookkara and Irinjalakkuda are famous for their sculptures.
|Koothambalam, temple theater, Kerala.www.flickr.com|
|Dancers at Koothambalam. Kerala. gojom.com|
Regarded as holy as the sanctum or Srikovil of the presiding deity, Koothamabalams are built according to Natyasasthra of Sage Bharata. Bharata’s Natya Sastra describes the features of a Koothambalam. The hall is usually about 16 meter long and 12 meter wide. It has a 4-meter square raised platform supported by pillars in the center. The koothambalam at Irinjalakuda Koodalmanikya Temple is one of the best examples of the traditional performance theater model. It is lies within the cloister of the temple; more precisely within the Pancaprakaras of the temple. However, the size of Koothamabalams may vary from temples to temples. It is imperative, the classical performances should be staged on the space within the confines of the structures that are made of granite, rosewood and teak wood, etc., Some Koothambalams are beautifully designed and they display vignettes exquisitely carved in wood. Some may carry paintings, depicting various episodes from the great epics - the Mahabharata or the Ramayana.
A square platform with a separate pyramidal roof supported by pillars in the center called ''Natyamandapam'' is built as a separate structure within the large hall of Koothampalam. The floor of the hall has two equal portions. One space is for performance (including stage, instruments, green room etc.) that is the main artist and the accompanying instrumentalists, etc. The other portion is for the audience. In the olden days the people had to sit on the floor to watch the Koothu. Nowadays chairs are provided for the audience to enjoy the performances comfortably, particularly it is quite useful for senior citizens. The design and plan of Koothambalam is typical to the Kerala tradition of temple architecture, following Vaastu Sastra as prescribed in Thantra Samuccayam and silpa ratnam, the authentic texts on temple Vastu. Such temple theaters are, mostly made of teak wood because Kerala has a vast track of wooded area and quality wood is available in plenty. The roof is tiled and the halls are well ventilated for free flow of air. The low lying slanting roof prevents rain water reaching the boundary walls or entering into the hall. In Kerala during the monsoon season, the rain will be vigorous and such such slanting roof is quite helpful..
The following facts are note worthy when the performance of Koothu is on:
01. The stage is well decorated with fruit-bearing (in Tamil Vazha maram with vazhakai)) plantains, bunches of coconut or fronds of palm leaves.
02. A para filled with rice is placed on the stage.
03. A Nilavilakku (lamp) with three thiri (wicks) is used for lighting. In Hindu religion, as in other religions, oil lamp or Deepam plays a major role. A fire can not be polluted unlike other elements, air, water, earth, etc.
04. The mizhavu, a percussion instrument for accompanying Koothu, is placed within a railed enclosure, with a high seat for the drummer.
05. It has been a tradition in many places to have God or Goddess's pictures on the stage in a secluded place as staging a performance on the temple premises implies dedication to the almighty.
Koothambalams represent a unique element in the cultural and temple heritage of Kerala. It is an uninterrupted legacy passing down from generations to generations. An interesting fact about these temple - related art forms is only men from the Chakyar community are allowed to perform Koothu and Koodiyattam inside the Koothambalam. The women of the Ambalavasi-Nambiar caste (Nangyarammas), play Nangyar Koothu and the female characters of Koodiyattam. The traditional Ambalavasi-Nambiars play the mizhavu- drum.