Krishnanattam

Krishnanattam or Krishnattam is a temple art in Kerala, India. It is a dance drama and presents the story of Lord Krishna in a series of eight plays and was created by Manaveda (1585-1658 AD), the then Zamorin Raja of Calicut in northern Kerala.The eight plays are: Avataram, Kaliyamardanam, Rasakrida, Kamsavadham, Swayamvaram, Banayuddham, Vividavadham and Swargarohanam. It survives in its glory at the Guruvayur Sri Krishna temple. The troupe of players,once maintained by Zamorin of Calicut came to Guruvayur Devaswom in 1958.The only troupe of artists are well maintained by devaswom till date.

Training for artists starts as early as 8 years for ‘vesham’ and higher for music, Madhalam and chutti. Oil massage and sternous exercises makes an artist well enough to perform on stage.The most sacred part of the Krishnanaattam costume is the head gear.There are two basic kinds of head dress; a mudi, ‘hair that has been wound into a bun and a kiriitam ‘a crown’.

The dress of male characters consisted of (1) a starched gathered petticoat (2) a gathered white skirt with orange/orange-red and black horizontal stripes near the bottom (3) bells attached to leather pads to tie below the knees (4) a long-sleeved shirt open at the back, secured by ties. (5) a breast-plate (6) chest ornaments of beads and fresh flora (7) a girdle (8) upper arm and wrist ornaments (9) one shawl or more with a mirror at each end; (10) ear and forehead ornaments; and (11) a headdress.For the female characters the basic costume included (1) a long, almost floor-length white gathered skirt with red border, wrapped so that the material crossed in the back (2) a long sleeved blouse which was open in the back, secured by ties; (3) a girdle (4) arm ornaments; (5) a wooden breast plate with the breasts covered in red cloth and with ornamentation above and below the breasts . Female characters tie strings of bells around their ankles. These are called chilanka.

The actors used any or three colours for their basic make-up. (1) pazhuppu, an orange with more red than yellow (2) minukku, an orange with more yellow than red. (3) Paccha, a particular shade of green which has more yellow than blue. If he was to wear a chutti the chutti artist applies it. The chutti was two white protruding borders which extended from ear to ear along the jaw and chin line.