Journey of Dance ‘Mudiyettu’

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The ‘Land of Coconuts’ has always been blessed with numerous assets which are being rich in culture, traditions, ancient temples and let’s not forget its simply serene, magical nature! Kerala indeed is God’s own country which has sheer pride in its delicious cuisine, well-crafted language and traditional cultural art forms that attract the world with its own style even today! Mudiyettu is one such folk drama and traditional ritual dance which is gloriously performed in Kali temples. It is a village ritual which is prominently performed by Marar and Kuruppu community’s members in Central Kerala i.e. Ernakulam, Idukki, Kottayam, Thrissur etc districts. The performance of Mudiyettu dance mostly takes place during February and May, after the harvesting season. It is also performed in temples of the goddess called ‘Bhagwati Kavus’ in various villages along the rivers Periyar and Muvattupuzha.

The Performance

The performance specifically consists of mythological tale of a battle. The battle where Goddess Kali triumphs over demon Darika. ‘Kalamezhuthu’ is a ritual of drawing Goddess Kali’s picture with rangoli (dyed powders) on the floor before the performance commences.

Meanwhile, praises of the Goddess are sung through hymns and chorus in the background. Just as the performance is about to begin, the dancer uses her tender palms to wipe off the Kalam. The dancer representing Kaali is joined by ‘Koimpata Nayar’ which is a local guide and attendant. Stories reveal that Darika was the paragon of evil who fearlessly challenged Kaali for the battle.

Darika was a fortunate demon who received a boon from Lord Brahma. The boon said that he would never be defeated by any man living in any of the fourteen worlds of Hindu mythology. Darika happened to become extremely arrogant and powerful due to this. Having been blessed with this boon, Darika even defeated the king of lords, Lord Indra and went on to conquer the world. Since it was intolerable to get Darika in control, the sage Narada urged Shiva to put an end to his atrocities. Shiva reversed Brahma’s boon which said that Goddess Kali being a woman and yet not born in humans, will be defeating Darika. Kaali destroyed Darika accordingly by the grace of Lord Shiva.

Costumes

While performing this tale, the triumph and battle scene is immensely elevated with suitable attires with naturally made conventional facial paints, loud makeup, heavy ornaments and tall crowns. The performer presenting Goddess Kali has a wooden headgear and mask of hers with the ornamental red vest. Along with a white cloth which is long enough to highlight the presence.

Surprisingly, no rehearsal takes place while playing Kaali. The performance is naturally presented as the dancers depict the story with characters of Lord Shiva, sage Narada, demon Darika and goddess Kali. The team of Mudiyettu performers consists of 16 artists which include vocalists, Kalamezhuthu artists, and percussionists. The costumes of artists may differ from region to region. For eg., Kaali is shown in the bare torso which is covered only with the breast-shaped plank in Koratty style whereas Pazhoor and Keezhillam styles portray full upper body attire for her. A similarity that that lies is that the Darika’s mudi appeals as a huge crown of Kathakali.

Mudiyettu was successfully carved in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity which was an addition to Kerala’s accolades! It became the 2nd most honored art from Kerala after Koodiyattam. This made the culture reach out more to the crowd and helped spread awareness of this ancient practice of depicting traditional stories through dance. South India has deep roots in the field of classical dance amongst the nation and now it has also been receiving praises for the arrival of Mudiyettu in the folk dance and theatre type.