Krishnanattam is a type of extravagant dance form of Kerala. This dance form is another version of Kathakali which has consists of depicting the various life stages of Lord Krishna in an array of 8 stages- right from his birth to his ascent to heaven. The Krishnanattam artists focus on bodily gesticulations and expressions rather than narrating the story. The dances are usually performed by a group of artists instead of solo performers. In this marvelous dance form, the singers sing and it is repeated several times so that the artist gets time to express their emotions through gestures in the most vivid forms. Krishnanattam combines artistic elements of Ashtapadiyattam. Almost a century ago, Astapadiyattam stopped existing.
The 8 stages of Lord Krishna’s life are:
History of the emergence of the dance
The most famous Krishnagaiti was written by the zamorin named Manaveda in the year 1654 AD. Jayadeva wrote the Gitagovinda which inspired the zamorin to write Krishnagaiti. Based on the Krishnagaiti, Krishnattam came into existence.
Manaveda, the chieftain had a vision of Krishna gifting him a peacock feather, the existent motif of this dance-drama. Therefore, the Krishnattam artists adorned themselves with a peacock feather in reminiscence of the vision.
Dance Forms and Elements.
Makeup and costume
The characters in the dance are dressed up with colourful masks showing evil characters in the drama. The wearing of mask was borrowed from folk rituals such as ‘Thirayattam’ and ‘Theyyam‘which began in North Kerala. In Krishnanattam the actor focuses on abhinayam (bodily gestures and expressions) and angya (hand gestures) instead of narration of the story. The dancers’ makeup and the costume are similar to that of Kathakali. The makeup and costumes are colourful and vibrant.
The Musical touch
One more main unique point is that one of the characters begins to sing and the others act and hence there is an amalgamation of sounds and sight. Krishnattam still hails victoriously to date in all its charming glory at the Guruvayur Sri Krishna temple.
The main Instruments used in Krishnattam are:
1. Edakka (a soft and small drum that gives the effect of deep resonance)
Check out the video on Krishnattam below.