Indian Festival of Arts
by Mudiyettusangham Keezhillam
in association with
17 – 19
With musicians, performers and Kalamezhuthu (Ritualistic
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
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 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
In order to
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.
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.
Riding on Vethala and with an army of
(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
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
Kalam / Kalamezuthu
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.
Kerala is a
form as old
are drawn on
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.
also sung in
the size of
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.
tall and all
face of the
deity and a
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
This is done
is about the
made of bell
is made on
the floor in
over in the
the song is
A big oil
This is done
is over. The
This is the
is a mixture
other gods in
Siva and Saint
and narrates the
common people at
the hands of
and requests him
to safeguard the
there will be a
and he brings
his third eye
(sacred eye) and
of Daarika after
(conquest of the
Daarikan who is
nobody can kill
him due to the
boons he has
received and so
gloats that he
people to fight
(the march of
kill Daarika and
The march of the
listens to the
marches to the
battle field and
Daarikan to war
/ Narrator /
was sent in
disguise by Siva
to help her, if
need be, in the
battle to kill
is a fictitious
enters in the
beginning of the
show. But in
appears in the
middle of the
severity of the
also to question
They can speak
march of Kooli):
Kooli is one
Kooli is sent to
her mission. The
comic speech and
actions and the
and during the
the plight of
the ladies under
the rule of
using wit and
about this. Many
with her as it
uses is sword.
defeat dawns on
Asuras and they
run away and
take refuge in
the kingdom of
running away by
danger of Kaali
he removes her
head gear and
forces her to
touch the ground
with her sword.
intended to cool
and calm her
down. The Asuras
planning to wage
and magic) in
the night for
which they are
and wait for the
Asuras have in
spreads her long
hair to conceal
the sun and
fall into the
trap and return
to the battle
field to be
ends with a
the head of
by a song of
praise to Shiva.
aspects in the
a part of
by Kaali and
is given. In
pox. It is
of the smoke
is taken to
thrown on to
the flame so
as to enable
This is the
act of the
off the head
the case may
be, and the