KATHAKALI-Remarkable Art of India
Kathakali dance drama is one of India’s most remarkable performing arts. An operatic spectacle involving pantomime, abstract dance, singing, instrumental accompaniment, and elaborate, stylized costumes and makeup, it is truly a multimedia presentation. Kathakali, which literally means “story play,” was developed in the 17th century in Kerala as a courtly dance drama enacting mythic stories of the Hindu gods and goddesses. Based on the ancient Sanskrit theater tradition outlined in the second- century treatise, Natya Sastra, Kathakali has incorporated elements of older theatrical styles such as Kutiyattam and Krishnanattam, as well as influences from the rich tradition of possession performances found throughout the region. These latter ritual traditions emphasize blood sacrifice, orchestral drumming and spirit possession by fierce deities who are worshipped with dancing and story-telling. Although Kathakali has always been conceived of as a form of theater, not a possession ritual, the original performances took place over many nights in temples as a sacred offering. Today, Kathakali has become increasingly a commercial entertainment, condensed to a few hours and presented in theaters. Still, the original vitality and artistry of the ancient tradition is manifest.