P S V Natyasangham introduced ‘Chyavana Charitham’ Kathakali

P S V Natyasangham, a renowned training and performing centre for Kathakali, working under the aegis of Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal has recently introduced the story of Chyavana Maharishi and Sukanya from the Hindu mythology as Kathakali, the classical theatre performance of Kerala. The premiering of the play was on 07 November 2016,at the premise of  Vishwanbhara temple, Kottakkal in Malappuram district (Kerala, India).

The two and a half  hour long Kathakali play titled ‘Chyavana Charitham’ also describes the legend behind Chyavana Prasam, the commonly used Ayurvedic heath medicine. The new production of Kathakali was directed by Kottakkal Kesavan Kundalayar, the Principal and Kathakali artist at the school. Attakatha, the songs for the story sequences were written by Kottakkal V P Pradeep and the director of the music was Kottakkal Narayanan.
From Left: Kottakkal Radhakrishnan (Madhalam), Kottakkal Devadas (Sitting -as Chyavanan) and Kottakkal Kesavan Kundalayar (King Sharyaathi during play at Kottakkal Vismbhara temple. Photo : Welcome Kerala Magazine.. 
According to V P Pradeep, the efforts for writing this new theme started just two months before, when the management of Arya Vaidya Sala asked for an Ayurveda related story to play for the centenary celebrations of one of the oldest branches of Aryavaidya Sala in Kozhikode. Apart from the director and music director, it was well supported by the scholars like Dr. K G Paulose, Jhayath Balan and other colloquies from the school. Earlier Pradeep had written the Kathakali story ‘Dronacharitham’ based on the epic Mahabharatha. Kesavan Kundalayar said “We got only a month for doing the Cholliyattam, the rehearsals. After the premiering show, we expect and invite suggestions and criticism from the Art connoisseurs and Kathakali artists to improve the theatrical as well as thematic elements”.  
Cholliyattam, practice sessions- Standing right is V P Pradeep.Photo : Welcome Kerala Magazine..   

Chyavana Charitham- the story of Chyavanan and Sukanya

Chyavana Maharshi was the son of Rishi Bhrigu. He decided to embark upon a long and arduous penance in his younger age and went to forest. Years passed and the Rishi remains rooted to his spot, unmoving, in a state of meditation. Meantime an anthill was formed around him covering his whole body, except two holes opening to his eyes.

Once, Sukanya, the teen-aged daughter of the local king Sharyaathi, came to this forest along with her friend just to explore the forest. Sukanya saw the huge anthill with two glowing orbs inside. Curious Sukanya picked up a stick and probes it into the two holes to know the source of the glittering object. It was the saint’s eyes and blood started coming out. Frightened princess ran away with her friend and never told this incident to her father.

Later on, bad omen disturbed the kingdom and the King assigned astrologers and scholars to know the reason for this. At this time her daughter disclosed the incident happened in the forest. The King realized the importance of it and came to know that the anthill was actually of a saint. He went there and break down the anthill. The King begged the blind Saint to pardon the thoughtless act of his daughter. Chyavana suggested the only solution to avoid the curse fall on the Kingdom is to marry Sukanya so that his rest of the life as a blind is taken care of. The King was in a dilemma, as his young daughter has to marry a blind old Rishi. But Sukanya with determination offered herself to marry the Rishi Chyavana. The marriage was conducted soon and the couple lived happily.
Kottakkal Kesavan Kundalayar during make up. .Photo : Welcome Kerala Magazine.. 
Within a short period the loyalty and love of Sukanya towards her blind old husband Chyavana was known all over the world and even in heaven. In heaven Ashwani Devakal (the twins together addressed as Ashwani Devakal), the physicians of heaven was unhappy with Indra, the ruler of heaven, who forbidden them from taking the share the Havis, the sacrificial offerings given by the Rishis of earth through Vedic Yagnas. Ashwani Devakal understood that a solution for this can be advised by Chyavana Maharishi. To approach Chyavana, they should have to please Sukanya and for this the best option was to cure the blindness and old age issues of Chyavana and change him to the young age.

At the same time Ashwani Devakal also thought of testing the loyalty and love of Sukanya towards her blind aged husband which by this time was famous all over the world and even in heaven. The twin Devas approached Sukanya and told her to marry anyone of them and live with them rather living with an old blind husband. She replied that, what they asked is not a decent approach and for this she can even curse them. Ashwani Devakal requested pardon for their act and offered youth to her husband. With the permission of Chyavana, Ashwani Devakal along with Chyavana took a dip in the nearby river and Chyavana came out as young and divine, identical to Ashwani Devakal. Sukanya was a little confused in the beginning, but she could recognize her husband easily. Thus Chyavana Maharshi became young and blind less.  (In Kathakali play, the writer changed the story a bit for the promotion of Ayurveda. It goes like, after the dip all the three become identical like blind old Chyavana. Sukanya identified her husband and Ashwani Devakal with the help of Ayurvedic Medicines/ Chyavana Prasam cured the blindness and changed Chyavana to young and handsome). Maharshi in turn, offered help to Ashwani Devakal to get their share in Havis and the story concludes here.

Kottakkal Raju Mohan as Sukanya ( left) and Kottakal Balanarayanan as her friend. Photo : Welcome Kerala Magazine.. 

Premiering  show

The debut performance was held in front of the Holy sanctum of Lord Vishwambhara at Kottakkal on 07 November 2016.  The lead characters Chyavana Maharshi, King Sharyaathi and Sukanya were played by  Kottakkal Devadas,  Kottakkal Kesavan Kundalayar and Kottakkal Raju Mohan  respectively. Kottakkal C M Unnikrishnan and Kottakkal Pradeep (Attakatha writer) took the roles of Ashwani Devakal where as their roles disguised as Chyavana Maharshi was acted by Kottakkal Manoj and Kottakkal Krishnadas. Kottakkal Hareeswaran took the role of young Chyavanan and Kottakkal Balanarayanan acted as the friend of Sukanya.

From left- Kottakkal Radhakrishnan (Madhalam), Kottakkal Prasad (Chenda), Kottakkal Devadas (Sitting -as Chyavanan), Kottakkal Narayanan (Singer- behind Chyavanan) and Kottakkal Kesavan Kundalayar (King Sharyaathi (extreme right) during play at Kottakkal Vismbhara temple. Photo : Welcome Kerala Magazine.. 
The other supporting artists were Kottakkal Narayanan, Kottakkal Madhu, Santhoshkumar, Vineesh, Yaswanth (Singers), Kottakkal Prasad, Kottakkal Vijayaraghavan, Kottakkal Maneesh Ramanathan (Chenda Percussionists), Kottakkal Radhakrishnan, Kottakkal Raveendran (Madhalam Percussionists), Kottakkal Satheesh and Kottakkal Anilkumar (chutty/make up), Ramakrishnan, Unnikrishnan, Ramachandran and Anoop (stage/make up support).

The play was staged again on 20 Nov 2016 at Kozhikode during the centenary celebrations of the Kozhikode branch of Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala.

P S V Natyasangham introduced ‘Chyavana Charitham’ Kathakali P S V Natyasangham introduced ‘Chyavana Charitham’ Kathakali Reviewed by Welcome Kerala on 21:21:00 Rating: 5

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