TEMPLE- THEATRES IN KERALA
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
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
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
(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