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(Bodily Acting)

a. Mudras: Hand Gestures

            The Mudras are like the alphabetsin a language. Kutiyattam has twenty four Mudras described in the ‘Hastalakshanadeepika’. There are some others which are not included in that. For e.g…, Sri Rama’s bow. The Mudras in dance do not posses extended meaning while in Kutiyattam they have. Mudras are complete only when they have a proper beginning, expansion and an end.

Mudras are of Four kinds:

a) Samyuta : This is a combined form  using both hands.
For e.g…, to portray the sun, deer etc.
b) Asamuta : This uses only one hand.
E.g…. to show animals, flloweres, women.
c) Misara Mudra

: These are the mixed Mudras using both hands.
E.g.., to depict father, mother, etc.
d) Samana Mudra : This if the use if the same Mudra to convey
different meanings. For e.g.., to show Asura, Sameeps, Samaya.

            When the acting is accompanied by recitals, verbal becomes important. Otherwise Mudras are important. expression  and form a language by themselves through which the characters communicate with each other. With a preliminary understanding of the mudras it is possible to appreciate the performance.

b. Tewnty four Basic Mudras:

            Pataka, Mudrakhyam, Katakam, Mushti, Kartarimukham, Sukatundam, Kapitham, Hamsapaksam, Sikharam, Hamsasyam, Anjali, Ardhacandram, Mukuram, Bhramanam, Sucimukham, Pallavam, ripatakam, Mrgasirsakam, Sarpasirasu, Vardhamanakam, Aralam, Urnanabham, Mukulam and Katakamukham are the twenty four basic Mudras.

            The ‘Hastalaksanadeepika’ mentions twenty four Mudras as a combination of Samyuta and Asmyuta Mudras. Bharata’s Natyasatra describes twenty four Asamyuta and thirteen Samyuta Mudras, making a total of thirty seven. Nandikesa’s ‘Abhinayadarpana’ has thirty two  Asamyuta and twenty three Samyuta Mudras.

            THE Mudras should be accompanied by suitable Bhava (facial expressions). For exmple, Raudra for lion, Bhaya for deer etc. Bhava, Mudra and the ocular movements make Abhinaya complete.

C. Caris

             Like in other dance forms Kutiyattam also involves training for feet movements. Each Mudra and every occasion demands a specific feet movement. These are called Caris. In Kathakali the feet movements for elephants, monkeys etc., are not given. But in Kutiyattam, these are well defined. There is a specific gait even for a drunkard.


Through this overacting  can be regulated.

1) Cari


This is the movements unifying the positions of the hips, feet, ankles and thighs. These are of three kinds. Viz…,

  1. Bhaumacari (gait on the ground).                        e.g.: Character of Hanuman, Bali etc.
  2. Akasacari (gait in space)
  3. Yuddhacari (gait in battle)

2) Parikramam


The characters of Surpanakha and Hanuman move in this way in all four directions (on the stage)

3) Kalappurathu


This is the style of entry for noble charectrers like Sri Rama, Lakshmana etc.

4)Vattathil Cati


This is the movement for Rakshasas (demons) and Monkeys

5) Cellunti


This is the movement for female characters.
If  a male accompanies her, he moves similarly.

6) Nityakriya


This is the ritual dance that the actor performs on the first day and is one of the preliminary lessons taught to a student of Kutiyattam.

7) Maravil Kriya


This is dome behind the curtain and facing the Mizhavu (the accompanying percussion instrument).

8) Dikpala Vandanam


This is part of the Nityakriya on the first day and involves paying obeisance to the  deities of the eight Quarters. This is followed by Kesadipadam (descriptions from head to foot) of the Gods Siva and Parvati. Then follows the obeisance to Brahma (the creator) and other Gods and to all living beings.

9) Mutiyakkitta


At the end of every Act, the main character comed forward, removed his crown, wears the red band of cloth tied around his fore head  and after bowing places the wicks of the ceremonial lamp nto the ground.

10) Stobhas


These are character specific and illustrates the character further. For example, the Vidusaka (jester) does a cari (dance), surveys the scene, puffs up his cheeks,pretends to chew and meddles with his sacrificial thread and hair. Other Stobhas include Vanara Stobha, Rakshsa Stobha etc.

11) Pravesikm


This is similar to Tiranottam in Kathakali. The characters of  Ravana, Bali, Sugreeva, Surpanakha etc. have pravesikam.

12) Patappurappadu


This depicts the soldiers setting out for battle  receiving orders from the commander.

13) Pindibandham


These are formations made out of Caris.

Compared to Kathakali, feet are fewer in  in Kutiyottam movements and their variety are fewer in Kutiyottam. Since the characters have also to recite the slokas (verses) in the specified Ragas rapid movements have been avoided. The absence of Kalasam is specific to Kutiyottam.


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