Chavuttu Nadakam - An Art Form Influenced From Portuguese


Portuguese entered Indian subcontinent with Vasco da Gama in the 15th century. He reached Kapad of Malabar in 1498. Since then Portuguese culture influenced the inhabitants of Kerala and Chavuttu Nadakam is one such contributions. Second one is Valattu paricha veesukali. This musical drama was originated in early 16th century and has been deeply influenced by Kalaripayattu, Koodiyattom etc. They are mostly practised by Christian communities based on stories related to Christianity and Bible.


Since the dance form was passed from generation to generation without any written notes, it differs slightly from place to place, particularly the Malayalam accent of words used for perform. Regional variations are also available and if someone needs to get authenticated knowledge of this dance, he should meet its Guru/Aasan, who is called an Annavi. They play the role of Sutradhaar, similar to Sanskrit plays. The actors should sing the songs and have chorus as well. Tamil mixed Malayalam is used and Ethuka and Mona Prasams are used. Repeated vaitharis are also used.


Since its definition, Chavuttu Nadakam has changed over time and now it’s influenced by western music. Chenda, Violin, Dolak, Damaru and Jalar are the musical instruments used. Some troupes still use Portuguese instruments like Thamber and Clarnet, apart from Band, Ilathalam, Maddalam and Chenda. They use bright velvet and silk costumes for performance. For lady characters, Mridangam, fiddle, Bul bul and tabla are used as instruments. The art form has 12 basic steps (chuvadukal) and 12 Kalasam and 12 Irattipp. Earlier it was practised in open stages of sea shores. Now it’s performed as an indoor drama and stage versions too.  


Chavattunadakam was practised by fishermen of coastal areas when it was originated. Kochi and Kodungallur ports – deeply influenced by Portuguese culture practised Chavuttunadakam. It can be said that this art form became popular through this portal towns. Karlsman Charitham – the first Chavuttunadakam was practised by St. Thomas group of Christians. But the first written one was Brigeena by Chinnathampi annavi. The books/scripts of Chavuttunadakam are called Chuvadukal. In the National award winning movie – Kutti Shrank, there are scenes showing the Chavuttunadakam artists and their performances. Now this art form is included in Kerala school competitions also.    

Article Posted By : Sandhya RanilView All Articles

I have never watched this art form live

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Keywords :
Chavuttunadakam , kerala dramas


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