and preserved by the Chakyar community in Kerala, Koodiyattam is the oldest
surviving link with ancient Sanskrit theatre. A precursor of Kathakali
drama, Koodiyattam has several conventions which reflect the aesthetic
conventions of the Natyashastra. The stylised mode of acting, the
same character playing different roles, the use of the spoken word akin
to chanting, stories within stories, flash backs, improvisations, eye expressions
(netrabhinaya), an extensive gesture vocabulary or 'hastas', body movements
(angika abhinaya) and facial expressions (mukhajabhinaya), the use of Sanskrit
by the main character and Malayalam by the court jester or vidushaka who
comments, satirizes and ridicules the protagonists... these are the salient
features of Koodiyattam.
Performances are traditionally held in the Koothambalam which are special theatres attached to temples. The Sanskrit play selected for the performance usually takes over several days. Female dancers called Nangiars deliver the invocatory songs and also participate. The use of the tirashila or curtain, different colours for the face to depict characters and elaborate ornaments are all similar to Kathakali. The mizhavu is a special drum used as an accompaniment for Koodiyattam performances.
The repertoire consists of Sanskrit dramas like Ascharyachudamani of Shaktibadra, Subhadradhananjeyan of Kulasekara Varman, Abhisekha Nataka and Swapnavasavadatta of Bhasa, Kalyana Saugandhikam of Mahendra Vikrama and Bhagavadajjukiyam of Bodhayana which are the popular favourites. With disciplined and dedicated performers like Ammanur Madhava Chakyar, Kocchukuttan Chakyar and Kitangur Kuttappan Chakyar, this ancient classical form has a growing legion of students and afficionados in India and elsewhere..