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  Kuttampalams thoughrare now, can still be seen in temples like Vadakkunnatha in Thrissur. It has been argued that Kuttampalams have been constructed according to the rules laid down  in Bharata’s ‘Natyasastra as referring to the dancing halls as ‘Natyamandaps’. It is said that these Natyamandapas copuld be built in the three forms of Tryasram, Vikrtam and Caturasram. The Natyamandapas had  no connection with temples and was a centre for the performance of a variety of art forms.

  Kuttampalams in Kerala are differenct from these Natyamandapas. They are believed to have been built according to the rules laid down in the three works Siparatna, Tantrasamuccayam and Mayamatam. Kuttampalams were to be constructed infront of the Srikovil (sanctum sanctorum) of the temples and were to be square in shape.

  The inside of a Kuttampalam is divided into two equal portions; one for the audience-the Preksagraham and the other the stage – Ramagamandapam. The latter has then been divide into three-the area for performance Abhinayasthanam, the space for placing the Mizhavu – Mridangapadam and the green room- Nepathysm. There are steps leading to the Mandapam. An ideal Kuttampalam is so built that the performance can be viewed and heared very clearly from any corner within. The position of the performer’s (Chakyar’s) feet was to be at the same level at which the idol’s feet were placed in the Srikovil this equating him to the diety. The purity pollution concept central to the India caste system stipulated that any pollution for the Srikovil meant the same for the Kuttampalam and vice versa. The lamp placed intfront of the stage during performance had three wics representing the trinity Brahma, the God of creation, Vishnu the maintainer and Siva the destroyer. The popular belief maintained that at the time of the performance the Gods would leace the Srikovil to come to the Kuttampalam to watch the performance which ended with the Chakyar removing the wicks from the lamp.

  The chakyar ties a piece of red cloth around his head ad is transformed into the character. Nothing else around him bothers him then. He did not even have to maintain Pula (the ritual abstinence from public life for a stipulated period in the event of a death in family). During the performance the Chakyar attains an unquestional position and has the license to ridicule even the kings. If the audience retorts the Chakyar removes his crown and cuts short his act midway and would continue only after due foregiveness has been begged.

  Unlike in Bharata’s ‘Natyagraha’ only Kuttu and Kutiyattam can be performed in the Kuttampalams. Most of the Kuttuampalams faced ruin over the years, the only surviving one in good condition being the one at Vadakkunnatha temple in Thrissur. Having the capacity to seat 500 people, its acoustics are excellent. Kuttampalams are to be found in the temples of Guruvayoor, Tirumandhankunnu, Koodalmanikkam, Tirunakkara, Peruvanam, Punnattur, Tiruvegappura, Moozhikkulam, Kidangor, Haripad, Tiruvarpu, Arapukkara and Tiruvalattur. The Kuttampalam at Cheni’s ‘Kalashetra’ (under the danseuse Rukmini Arundale) was designed by Appukuttan Nair, who also founded the Margi Institite at Thrivananthapuram. So was the Kuttampalam at the Kerala Kalamandalam


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