Krishnattam, a unique Sanskrit ritualistic dance-theater of Kerala, is one among Indias treasure trove of rare living artistic masterpieces. In time past, Krishnattam, based on the Sanskrit poem Krishnagiti by the Zamorin King Manaveda, thrived in the royal environment of the Kingdom of Calicut, receiving the adoration of small devoted audiences. But, with Indias independence, the Zamorin lost his kingdom, and as his wealth dissipated, Krishnattam teetered on the edge of extinction. It was the Krishna-Vishnu Temple at Guruvayur that came to Krishnattam’s rescue and has become an integral part of the history of Krishnattam. Here, again, Krishnattam remained in seclusion until 1961, when the troupe performed in Bombay, exposing it to a larger Indian audience and foreign interest.
This history-travelogue takes one along in the dark of night to experience the Krishnattam plays, with their rituals and preparations, as the performers in fantastic, colorful costumes, dance, and mime the story of Lord Krishna’s life to the accompaniment of vocal and instrumental music.
This volume, richly illustrated, makes one meet some people, who have been the soul of Krishnattam. The actor-dancers share the quirks of fate, the severity of training schedule, and the rigor of exercises that transformed them from village children into performers. Currently, Krishnattam thrives at Guruvayur Temple, together with ample outside performances, as a devotional votive offering.
The first author takes one along on her twenty-year journey to discover the history and attractions of this art so rarely performed outside its locale in south India. Co-authors, Robert Sikora, A. Purushothaman and A. Harindranath greatly enhance this edition with their new researches, translations, and photographs.