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 Soorya (Singapore)

For the finest in Indian classical and performing arts.


  • To showcase the finest in Indian art & culture through performances by high quality talents, and thereby to increase the level of art appreciation, awareness and art presence in Singapore
  • To help develop Singapore as a distinctive global city for the arts
  • To deliver outstanding Indian art & cultural events to the Singaporean audience at very affordable prices
  • To foster the spirit of integration through culture by cross cultural and multi-ethnic, multi-racial exchanges, interactions and experiments in the domain of art and culture.
  • To revive and re-invigorate the less popular or dying folk arts by giving wider exposure.
  • To mentor, encourage and cultivate promising young and old local talents, in the field of art and culture.

Esplanade presents
Kalaa Utsavam 2017
Indian Festival of Arts


by Mudiyettusangham Keezhillam

in association with

Soorya (Singapore)

Dates: 17 – 19 Nov 2017, Fri – Sun
Time: 6.45pm & 8.15pm
Venue: The Edge (Esplanade Waterfront)
In 3 segments over 3 days. Free Admission

With musicians, performers and Kalamezhuthu (Ritualistic floor drawing with natural powders)


Pic Courtesy : Mudiyettusangam Keezhilam


Mudiyettu is a traditional ritual theatre and folk dance drama from Kerala that enacts the mythological tale of a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Daarika. The dance is performed in temples called 'Bhagavati Kavus', the temples of the Mother Goddess, between February and May after the harvesting season. In 2010 Mudiyettu was selected to be in UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, becoming the second art form from Kerala after Koodiyattam.

Mudi refers to the headgear of Kali, with her terror-inspiring face and her wild hair, with head gear made of wood or metal.

The instruments played during the ritual includes Veekku chenda (Valam Thala - Percussion, Bass), Uruttuchenda (Idam Thala - Percussion), Ilathaalam (Cymbal) and optional Chengila (Cymbal).

The Mudi is put on the actor playing the role of Goddess Kali at the temple.


Mudiyettu is a ritualistic presentation of Kali -Darika myth with the cooperation and participation of the whole village and it lasts for a week, a month or up to 41 days. The villagers reach the temple on an auspicious day after the harvest and present the best of the yield as homage to Goddess Kali. The traditional performers of Mudiyettu prepare a tantric design of Goddess Kali inside the temple on the floor. The hymns of Goddess Kali are recited with the background music of traditional instruments. With the blend of panchavarna kalam (five coloured design of Goddess) it creates an exotic ambience that helps the performers to possess the spirit of their Goddess and transform into superhuman godly characters. The performance takes a dramatic turn when Daarika, a demon in Hindu Purana, challenges Kali on the top of the eastern mountains. Kali, born out of Lord Siva's third eye, retaliates. Kooli, of the Pancha Boothas ( five elements), a character sent by Shiva represents the jovial aspects of the mother through histrionics and Koimpada Nair, the chieftain of the Bhootha ganas (attendants of Shiva) become her allies in the fight. The temple courtyard turns out to be a virtual battle field and the villagers become part and parcel of the ritual-theatre event. At the end of the play, Kali defeats her adversaries and performs the dance of victory. The Mudiyettu ends with a victorious Kali entering the stage holding the head of Darika, followed by a song of praise to Shiva.

The relieved devotees hail their Goddess and welcome the dawn of a peaceful and prosperous year.

The tradition is linked to cultivation and harvest. Mudiyettu is held after the harvests. Mudiyettu is originally performed in the kavus (sacred groves) of the following three popular river banks of Kerala (India): Chalakkudy River (Thrissur), Periyar (Erna-kulam & Idukki) and Moovattupuzha (Kottayam).

The Myth

The myth about Darika runs as follows- In Markandeya Purana, Asuras (demons) are defeated by Devas (Gods). To prevent annihilation of the entire tribe, a few Asuras escape and live in hiding. During one such enforced hiding, two Asura women, Darumathi and Danavathi, start penance to please God Brahma and are successful in obtaining a boon from the Lord for mighty off-springs. Darika is thus born as a mighty son to Darumathi and Daanavendra to Daanavathi. In order to be powerful enough to conquer Indra, the king of Devas and attain immortality, Daarika performs a severe penance to please Lord Brahma. The Lord, pleased with his devotee, appears before him and bestows all the varas (boons) that Darika asks for. One blessing that Darika seeks is that he must neither be slain by any man from the fourteen worlds nor be killed with any known weapon. The Brahmopadesa Mantra is also passed on to him to be kept secretly for his use. Feeling triumphant and bragging that he is invincible, Daarika sets out to fulfill his long cherished desire of conquering Devas. As the name of Daarika spreads, those Asuras living in hiding come out to serve their new king. Thus commences the despotic reign of Daarika. As his atrocities became intolerable, the sage Narada requests Shiva to contain Daarika. Shiva agrees, circumventing Brahma's boon by declaring that Daarika would be killed by the goddess Kali, she being a woman and one not born among the humans. And from Lord Shiva's third eye, Kali is born.

Riding on Vethala and with an army of Bhoothas (attendants), led by Nandi, BhadraKali challenges Daarika on the battlefield. In the first phase of the fight, Kali and followers face a set-back as she faints. Kali realizes that Daarika is defended by Brahmopadesha Mantra. Daarika continues to fight undauntedly. But, at last Kali cunningly obtains the Mantra and rescues the world from his evil subjugation by killing Darika.

Social Relevance : Social aspect and bonding

The ritual performance of Mudiyettu, more than a secular entertainment, is meant to bring about purification or rejuvenation to the whole community. Within the structure of the self-contained village economy of the past, Mudiyettu is organized as a total festival centred at the most important temple or Bhagavati Kavu of the locality. The temple provides a focal point and people of all castes and tribes are drawn into it. Each caste has a special role which ensures its participation and its importance as well. The Parayan provides the leather for the drum, and bamboo artifacts. The Tandan brings the areca nut fronds required for the masks and headgear. The Ganakan paints the masks and sings. The Kuruvan keeps the country torches burning. The Veluthedan (patiyan) washes the clothes to be used for the deity's dress. And the Maran gets the torches ready and keeps them supplied with oil. The Brahmin initiates the rituals inside the temple. Each caste with their professional expertise and refinement in art and craft contribute to this ritualistic performance. The Kurups or Marars with their entire ritualistic commitment draw the picture of Kali and by invocation bring 'her' into life and is later possessed by the performers into their body. This spiritual and visual transformation has developed into a full-fledged performing art. The core of the performance, no doubt is ritualistic and the human enactment of superhuman roles continue as sacred offering or sacrifice blossomed as a rich theatre in all aspects.

Mutual cooperation and collective participation of each caste in the ritual instils and strengthens common identity and mutual bonding in the community. Responsibility for its transmission lies with the elders and senior performers, who engage the younger generation as apprentices during the course of the performance. Mudiyettu serves as an important cultural site for transmission of traditional values, ethics, moral codes and aesthetic norms of the community to the next generation, thereby ensuring its continuity and relevance in present times

More Details

Kalam / Kalamezuthu (Drawing of Floor Design)


Mudiyettu performers purify themselves through fasting and prayer, then draw a huge image of goddess Kali, called as kalam, on the temple floor with coloured powders, wherein the spirit of the goddess is invoked. This prepares the ground for the lively enactment to follow.

Kalam, a unique drawing of Kerala is a ritual art form as old as the Sanghom Age. Kalams occupy an important place in Kerala's rituals and figures of favourite Goddesses are drawn on the floor using powders. Songs are rendered to appease the figures/deities, Kalapattu.

Coloured powders are used for preparing the kalam. Primarly, five natural colours are used - white, black, yellow, green and red. For making the colours various natural products are used. White colours are extracted from rice flour, charcoal powder for black, turmeric powder for yellow, powdered green leaves for green and a mixture of turmeric powder and lime for red. In Nagakalam, instead of vaka (gulmohar) leaves, powdered manchadi (Bead tree) leaves are used as the leaves of vaka is poisonous.

Bhadrakali kalam and Pattu: Kalamezhuthu pattu performed mostly in Bhadrakali temples are known as Bhadrakali kalam and Pattu. These are also sung in Vettakkorumakan temples. The number of hands of Bhadrakali determines the size of the kalam. Some kalam have sixteen to sixty-four hands.

Once the kalam drawing has been completed, paddy, coconuts and fibres are placed in the Kalam. And then starts the rendering of songs. After rendering the songs, the performer circumambulates the kalam. Against the background music of instruments, the singer dances vigourously and will erase the kalam. The popular song rendered in Bhadrakali pattu is that of Bhadrakali killing the demon Darikan. These are also known as 'thottom paattu'.

The dressing and facial -makeup

Pic Courtesy : Thulasi Kakkat

The costumes and make-up in Mudiyettu provide a colourful and imposing effect. The performers of Mudiyettu are all heavily made up and in gorgeous costumes with conventional facial paintings and tall head gears that give a touch of the supernatural to the characters. The Chutti make-up, i.e., art work done on the face with coloured rice paste, forms an essential and distinct aspect in Mudiyettu. The Chutti Kuthal begins after the disfiguring and wiping of the Kalamezhuthu, the large multicoloured portrait of Bhadrakali drawn on the floor before the night rituals.

The make-up of Goddess Bhadrakali consists of a black face with white Chutti protruding out. She has long flowing locks, wearing an Uduthukettu, a loincloth put on in a peculiar fashion, taking the end of the long cloth between the legs and tucking it up behind at the waist. It is usually an ornamental red coloured vest with a long white cloth around the waist. The costume with its pleated effects at the back is a distinct highlight of Mudiyettu's costume design. The costume beneath the waist is similar to that worn by the Chakiars for Chakiar Koothu.

The head gears are tall and all made of wood. They are very heavy, carved, gilded and jewelled. Glass pieces, peacock feathers and even the shells of beetles are pasted on them. On Kali's headgear, the fierce face of the deity and a cobra's hood are engraved. This element gives the character its fierce look. The abundant hair with finely torn tender coconut leaves (Kurutthola) and prominent upper eye teeth, small pox boils with a ripe appearance, scarlet eyes, all give Bhadrakali the most fearful appearance.

The other characters too are all dressed up in an exotic and vibrant fashion with unique weirdness. The demons Daarika and Daanavendran have costumes and make-up which are similar to such characters in Kathakali, including the facial look. Koyimpata and sage Narada have costumes similar to those of folk theatre characters.

There are evident regional differences in the attire of Mudiyettu. In the Koratty style, Kali exhibits a bare torso, covered only by a breast-shaped plank while in the Keezhillam and the Pazhoor styles, she wears a full upper body dress. Similarly, in the Koratty style, demon Daarika's mudi resembles the Kathakali crown and his face paint resembles the Kathi Veshams of Kathakali.

Order followed in Mudiyettu

 1 Kotti Ariyippu: This is done after morning rituals in the temple are completed. The announcement is about the day's performance. Chenda (high-pitch drum), Veekkam (low-pitch drum) and Elathalam (two cymbals made of bell metal or brass with heavy thread string as handles in the centre).

2 KalamEzhuth: Multi-colour portrait of Bhadra-kaali is made on the floor in large size in the afternoon. Burned husk of paddy (for black), rice powder (for white), dried and powdered leaves of Acacia (for green), turmeric powder (for yellow) and lime powder mixed with turmeric powder (for red) are used.

3 Kalam Pattu: After the night rituals are over in the temple, the chief artist sings devotional songs in praise of Bhadrakaali. No sooner the song is over in which the Bhadrakaali is extolled than the chief artist transforms himself as Bhadrakaali in all spirits and disfigures the Kalam by wiping.

4 Chutti Kuthal: After disfiguring and wiping of the Kalam, the artists get into "Chutti Kuthal". Other make-ups are similar to make-ups in Kathakali. Head gears too are same.

5 Vilakku Veppu: A big oil lamp is lit. This is done after the Chutti Kuthal is over. The performance is done around this Vilakku.

6 Keli Kottu: This is the announcement of starting the performance. The Thaalam (rhythm) used for Keli Kottu is 'Kuttanachi'. Kuttanachi is a mixture of 'Alantha' and 'Champa' thalams.

Order of Enactment in Singapore


Day1: Siva Narada Samvadam

Day 1:
Invocatory singing: praising the various gods, Ganapathy, Saraswathy and other gods in Sopanam music style.

1. Siva - Narada
Samvadam (conversation between Lord Siva and Saint Narada):

Saint Narada approaches Siva and narrates the sufferings of saints, gods, goddesses and common people at the hands of Asuras, Daarika and Daanavendra and requests him to safeguard the people against them. Siva promises that there will be a solution shortly and he brings forth Bhadrakaali from his third eye (sacred eye) and she ultimately kills Daarika and Daanavendra.

2. Daarika Purappadu: (triumphant march of Daarika): The triumphant march of Daarika after the Digvijayam (conquest of the eight directions) is presented. A Daarikan who is confident that nobody can kill him due to the boons he has received and so gloats that he is undefeatable and challenges people to fight with him.

Day 2

3. Kaali Purappadu (the march of Bhadrakaali to kill Daarika and Dhanavendra): The march of the infuriated Bhadrakaali is presented in this episode.

Bhadrakali listens to the tyranny of Daarikan gets furious and furiously marches to the battle field and calls on Daarikan to war with her.

4. Koyimpada Nayar (Vidushaka / Narrator / Jester): Koyiamptar or Koyimpada Nayar was sent in disguise by Siva with Bhadrakaali to help her, if need be, in the battle to kill Asura brothers.

The jester or Narrator, Koyimpada Nayar, is a fictitious character. Generally in Sanskrit dramas this character enters in the beginning of the show. But in Mudiyettu, he appears in the middle of the show.

This character is an improvisation to Mudiyettu to lessen the severity of the enactment so also to question the various injustices prevailing in the society. They can speak spontaneous dialogues according to situations.

5. Kooli Purappadu (the march of Kooli): Kooli is one amongst Pancha Bhoothas. Kooli is sent to assist Bhadrakaali in her mission. The comic speech and actions and the peculiar dressing help minimize the tension before and during the battle.

She describes the plight of the ladies under the rule of Daarikan, their dressing style, using wit and humour tells about this. Many of Kooli’s dialogues are also extempore. People around can interact with her as it involves humour. Kooli always follows Kali.

Day 3

6. Battle: Battle starts. The weapon Bhadrakaali, uses is sword. Daarika and Daanavendra use Churika (dagger-like weapon). Fierce battle ensues. Inevitable defeat dawns on Asuras and they run away and take refuge in Pathalam (Netherworld / the kingdom of Asuras).

7. Daarika Vadham (killing of Daarika): Following the running away by Asuras, Kaali gets more furious. Kooli understands the danger of Kaali becoming more destructive and he removes her head gear and forces her to touch the ground with her sword. This was intended to cool and calm her down. The Asuras run away planning to wage a Maya Yuddham (battle with illusory tricks and magic) in the night for which they are quite capable and wait for the dusk. Kaali knows what Asuras have in mind. She spreads her long hair to conceal the sun and creates an artificial dusk. Daarika brothers fall into the trap and return to the battle field to be defeated by Kali.

The Mudiyettu ends with a victorious Kali entering the stage holding the head of Darika, followed by a song of praise to Shiva.

Kali saves the world.

Traditional ritualstic aspects in the performance (not a part of Singapore performance):

1. Infants and children among the spectators are picked by Kaali and encircle the Arangu Vilakku (main oil lamp) thrice. Then Prasaadam (ritual offering to the deity) is given. In this case the Prasaadam is flowers from the garland on the head gear. The infants and children so blessed are believed to get immunized against contagious diseases, especially small pox and chicken pox. It is believed they will also have long healthy life. This children-safe ritual is done after Kooli Purappadu and before the group dance.

2. Thelli Eriyal (throwing of pine resin powder to the cotton torch): In Purappadu and battle cotton torches are essential as ritual. Dried pine wood resin powder is thrown to the cotton torch flame. While the flames enhance the scene, the medicinal properties of the smoke kill viruses causing contagious diseases. The atmosphere also gets refreshed.

3. Pantham Uzhiyal (encircling with flaming cotton torch): Kaali performs some rituals and worships Lord Siva after the battle is over. The cotton torch used for this ritual is taken to devotees present and pine wood resin powder thrown on to the flame so as to enable the devotees to inhale the smoke. This is the most auspicious and valued act of the ritual.

4. Mudi Uzhiyal (taking off head gear): After Pantham Uzhichal, all the spectators or say devotees leave the place. At this point of time, Kaali takes off the head gear and place before the organizer or before the temple, as the case may be, and the Kaali performer and other performers encircle it thrice. At this time Prasaadam (flowers from the garland on head gear) is offered when Dakshina or say reward to the performance is given. Here ends the procedure.


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