Thursday, 22 August 2019

Kerala Kalamandalam, an institution of great repute that keeps Indian performing arts and dance forms alive


Kerala Klamandalam,Thrissure www.trawell.in/
In India, many states have performing arts and culture native to their places and, no doubt, they capture  the ethos of the region, the impact of religion and long-cherished traditions. It is imperative that such native arts such as Bharata Natyam of Tamil Nadu, Kathakili of Kerala, Odisi of Odisha (Orissa), etc need to be preserved and passed on to the next generation of people. This is done  with care so that these art forms won't fade out over a period of time. In South India Kalashetra in Adyar, Chennai and Kalamandalam in Thrissur, Kerala  play a major role offering courses in Indian performing arts and preserving them for posterity.

As for Kerala's  Kalamandalam, a deemed to be University of Art and Culture  run by the Government of India, it is in a small town Cheruthuruthy close to Thrissur city. Located on the banks of the Bharathapuzha (river) in the midst of a serene ambiance, it is a major center for learning Indian performing arts, with particular reference to those developed in the Southern states of India. Special  emphasis  is given to art forms native to Kerala.

During the colonial time under the Raj the three major
classical dance performing arts of Kerala  such as Kathakali, Kudiyattam and Mohiniyattam were, in the early part of 20th century and a bit before that, facing near extinction, almost in the final phases of disappearance. Part of the reason  was, the colonial regulations had a hold on the society across India because Indian freedom struggles had begun to peak. But for the efforts of some like - minded people who realized the ethos of native performing arts was under threat, they would have become a forgotten chapter in Indian history.   

Kerala Klamandalam,Thrissur collegedunia.com
Kerala Klamandalam,Thrissur .alamy.com/
 It was at this most crucial time in 1927 Vallathol Narayana Menon and Mukunda Raja made serious efforts  and formed a society called ''Kerala Kalamandalam''. At the outset, the main hurdles were financial constrains and additional support from the local community. Their dedication to get donations for the society  from the public and through  conduct of lottery bore them fruits. With enough funds, Kerala Kalamandalam was inaugurated in November 1930 at Kunnamkulam, Kakkad.  It was later shifted to Cheruthuruthy, just south of Shoranur in 1933. Thanks to the munificence of the Maharajah of Cochin who donated land and a building. The first to come up was the dance department and they introduced  Mohiniyattom that needed revival. 


Functioning under the Cultural Affairs Department, Government of Kerala, Kalamandalam is a grant-in-aid institution  and in  2007, it was accorded the status of 'Deemed University for Art and Culture' by the Government of India. In 2010, University Grants Commission ( UGC of India) accorded  'A' category status for Kerala Kalamandalam, thus it became the only deemed university in Kerala state with the prestigious status.

Being a unique institution of good repute, Kerala Kalamandalam attracted PMs like Nehru (1955)  for the silver Jubilee function,  Indira Gandhi (1980) and V. P. Singh in 1990. Manmohan Singh was the fourth Prime Minister to visit  this institution in September 2012.

What is special about Kerala Klamandalam and what performing arts does it offer?  The main focus is on India's traditional  classical dances and theater forms, in particular, those native to Kerala -   like  Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Kudiyattam, Thullal, Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, and Nangiar Koothu, besides the traditional orchestra called Panchavadyam.  This hollowed institution also imparts training in native percussion instruments  like chenda, maddalam and mizhavu.

Kerala Klamandalam,Thrissure youtube.com
The most impressive aspect of Kalamandalam is strict adherence to traditional methods of teaching  that was common across India centuries ago. The ''gurukula sampradayam'',  which is an ancient Indian educational system based on residential tutelage. The Gurukula Sampradaya provides a unique opportunity  for the students to interact closely with the teacher (Guru). This way there develops a close rapport between the teacher and the students  who learn things in a relaxed atmosphere and exchange ideas/concepts without any reservation or inhibition.  It is an ancient tradition of residential schooling where students stayed with the teachers. The first vice chancellor of Kerala Kalamandalam was K G Paulose (2007) and the last chairman of  Kerala kalamandalam was O N V Kurup. Present vice chancellor is T K Narayanan.

Kerala Klamandalam: Koothambalam (theater) flickr.com
 This  institution, with a view to giving fillips to the performing arts, honors  reputed  performers with awards. Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar who was the Guru of K.J. Yesudas, well-known classical and play-back singer in films was the first recipient of its Suvarna Mudra (gold medal). Later Natyacharya Mani Madhava Chakyar was the recipient of the first Fellowship. The institution also gives away the annual Kalamandalam award.

Tit-bits:
A gurukula or gurukulam (Sanskritic word: ) was a type of  residential education system in ancient India with 'shishya' ('students' or 'disciples') living near or with the guru, in the same house/premises. The guru-shishya tradition is  believed to be a sacred one in Hinduism and is followed in  other religious groups in India, such as Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. The word gurukula is a combination of the
Sanskrit words guru ('teacher' or
Gurukula siddhagurukulam.in/
 'master') and kula ('family' or 'home'). Before the British colonial  rule, they served as South Asia's primary educational system. The term is also used today to refer to residential monasteries or schools operated by modern gurus. The proper plural of the term is gurukulam, though gurukulas and gurukuls are also used in English and some other Western languages.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerala_Kalamandalam