‘Payyannur Charadukuthi Kolkali’ enthralls visitors at KMB 2016

Aspinwall House, the main venue of KochiMuzris Biennale 2016, witnessed the performance of centuries-old Kerala folk art Charadukuthi Kolkkali from Payyannur on Saturday, 07 Jan 2017.

Payyannur Charadukuthi Kolkkali performed at Aspinwall, Fort Kochi
The Kolkali (or ‘stick dance’), which is said to have be referenced in Sangam literature, had performers swivel, twirl and strike their batons (‘kol-s’) while circling around a pole with a mesh of thread fabric. Moving in tandem to live rendition of ‘sloka-s’, the dancers would change steps mid-routine on the instructions of the ‘Gurukal’ (master) and ‘Asan’ (teacher).

“Usually each ‘kali’ – there are 60 different variants of the movements – takes a lot longer and this makes it more demanding. For the first time, we curtailed each movement to showcase the intricacy of the entire form without losing its core,” said Prabhakaran Tharangini, the Gurukal of the troupe ‘Mahadevadesai Vayanasala Kolkali Sangham’.

In another first for the art form – traditionally performed as a temple ritual by men, the troupe included ‘kalis’ by women in their show. With not a beat missed, the nearly 40-strong group of dancers – “from ages seven to 70” – moves to the tune, clacking batons to the chanting.

Kept alive by the townspeople of Payyannur, but for whom the nuances of this art form passed down through oral tradition over generations would have been lost, the ‘Kolkali’ is derived from the traditional martial art ‘Kalaripayattu’. The two share movements and steps.

“Payyannur Kolkali also has similarities to Thiruvathirakali, but it is more closely related to Poorakkali in its steps, expressions and music too. It is both a temple ritual and an art form. The chanting in particular invokes the presiding deity of the Payyannur Subramanya Swami temple,” said K. Shivakumar, the Asan.

Though a part and parcel of life in the district of Kannur, the Payyunur Kolkali is less well known beyond its borders than the Mappila Kolkali – a cultural marker readily identifiable with the North Malabar region.

“The Charadukuthi kali is a special form of Kolkali. Atop the pole is a circular disc from which multi-coloured strings are hung. The other ends of these strings are tied to the little fingers of the performers. As the kali progresses, the strings wind themselves around the players’ palms to create a net structure that will come undone once the performance ends,” said Prabhakaran Tharangini, who expressed the troupe’s appreciation for the platform to showcase the Kolkali.
‘Payyannur Charadukuthi Kolkali’ enthralls visitors at KMB 2016 ‘Payyannur Charadukuthi Kolkali’ enthralls visitors at KMB 2016 Reviewed by Welcome Kerala on 00:22:00 Rating: 5

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