Intangible Heritage

Koodiyattom is the oldest dance form in existence and owes its survival to the present day thanks to the Chakiyars in Kerala, a community associated with temple service. Koodiyattom is performed solely in temples and it integrates the forms of Nangiarkoothu and Chakiyarkoothu. Having an antiquity of 2000 years, it is the predecessor to the other well-known art forms of Kerala like the Kathakali.

The word “Koodiyattom” means, “acting together”. There are two or more characters in the stage at the same time. The right to perform Koodiyattom solely rests with Chakiyars and Nangiars, with the Nambiyars assisting in drumming and in keeping rhythm. Male characters are performed by the Chakiyars while the female roles are enacted by Nangiars.

‘Abhinaya’ or acting is given stress in this art form, which is enacted in temple theatre called Koothambalam and is performed as a votive offering to the deity. The songs or ‘slokas’ in Koodiyattom performance are rendered in Sanskrit. The performer makes elaborate and extensive improvisations of the text on the stage and conveys it to the audiences using body postures, attitudes and facial expressions and this is again followed by gestures and symbols of the hands.

For retaining the strong and distinctive local flavour of Kerala, Koodiyattom has been hailed by UNESCO as a ‘masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity’.