Archive for December, 2009

Koodiyaatam a traditional art form of Kerala. Koodiyaatam means combined acting which signifies Sanskrit drama presented in the traditional style in temple theatres of Kerala and is the only surviving specimen of the ancient Sanskrit theatre. This time my visit to the God’s own country gave me the opportunity to see this marvelous act of Koodiyaatom. The act turned me wordless. Koodiyaatam has an attested history of a thousand years in Kerala, but its origin and evolution are shrouded in mystery. It seems that Kutiyattam is an amalgam of the classical Sanskrit theatre of ancient India and the regional theatre of Kerala. It is believed that Kulasekhara Varman Cheraman Perumal, an ancient king of Kerala, who ruled from Mahodayapuram reformed Koodiyattam, introducing the local language for Vidusaka and structuring presentation of the play to well defined units. He himself wrote two plays, Subhadraharana and Tapatisamvarana and made arrangements for their presentation on stage with the help of a Brahmin friend of him called Tolan. These plays are still presented on stage. Apart from these, the plays traditionally presented include Ascaryacudamani of Saktibhadra, Kalyanasaugandhika of Nilakantha, Bhagavadajjuka of Bodhayana, Nagananda of Harsa, and many plays ascribed to Bhasa including Abhiseka and Pratima. The Kutiyattam performance was confined to the temple precincts of Kerala in specially constructed theatres called Kutampalams. The 2,000 year old Sanskrit drama tradition Kutiyattam, performed in Kerala, southern India, strictly follows the Natya Shastra

Natya Shastra is an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music. It was written at an uncertain date in classical India and is traditionally attributed to the Sage Bharata. The Natya Shastra is incredibly wide in its scope. While it primarily deals with stagecraft, it has come to influence music, classical Indian dance, and literature as well. It covers stage design, music, dance, makeup, and virtually every other aspect of stagecraft. It is very important to the history of Indian classical music because it is the only text which gives such detail about the music and instruments of the period. Thus, an argument can be made that the Natya Shastra is the foundation of the fine arts in India. The most authoritative commentary on the Natya Shastra is Abhinavabharati by Abhinava Gupta.

The Natya Shastra delineates a detailed theory of drama comparable to the Poetics of Aristotle. Bharata refers to bhavas, the imitations of emotions that the actors perform, and the rasas (emotional responses) that they inspire in the audience. He argues that there are eight principal rasas: love, pity, anger, disgust, heroism, awe, terror and comedy, and that plays should mix different rasas but be dominated by one.

Each rasa experienced by the audience is associated with a specific bhava portrayed on stage. For example, in order for the audience to experience sringara, the playwright, actors and musician work together to portray the bhava called rati.

The main musical instruments used in Koodiyattam are Mizhavu, Kuzhitalam, Etakka, Kurumkuzhal and Sankhu. Mizhavu, the most prominent of these, is a percussion instrument which is played by a person of the Ambalavas Nambiar caste, accompanied by Nangyaramma playing the kuzhithalam. Koodiyattam has been performed by Chakyars and by Nangyaramma. The name Koodiyattam suggests a combined performance of Chakyar and Nangyar. The main actor is a Chakyar who performs the ritualistic Koothu and Koodiyattam inside the temple or in the Koothambalam. Chakyar women, Illotammas, are not allowed to participate. Instead, the female roles are played by Nangyaramma.

In the modern world, the late Natyacharya Vidushakaratnam Padma Shree Guru Mani Madhava Chakyar has been the best-known face of Koodiyattam. He was known for mastery of Rasa Abhinaya with special reference to Netrābhinaya. He has been a major force in popularizing Koodiyattam by taking it out of the Hindu temples, performing across India with his troupe, and teaching it to non-Chakyar caste members. He has also adapted, choreographed and directed well-known plays such as Kalidasa’s The Recognition of Sakuntala, Vikramorvaśīya and Mālavikāgnimitra; Bhasa’s Swapnavāsadatta and Pancharātra for performance in the Koodiyattam style.

Mani Madhava Chakkiar’s disciple and nephew Mani Damodara Chakyar is also a renowned Koodiyattam performer of traditional devotional Koodiyattams, such as Anguliyanka, Mattavilasa, Mantranka, Ezhamanka.

Twinkle Twinkle Big Stars…

Posted by on Dec-21-2009

Raziya always loved to gaze at the star lit sky from the deck. Once I told her that we are looking at the light omitted from them many light years back. “How unromantic!” she said. Reaction as usual.

But I always wondered how the stars affect and control our lives. I’m talking out of our own experiences. As I understand it, everything in this universe is connected and sometimes it goes beyond our understanding. I remember writing a post about Indian astrology and the concept of Navagrahas in Sailorsdiary.

This time it’s about Cancer and Pisces, right after hearing Raziya reading out the daily horoscope from a website. As a matter of fact I’m a Cancerian and Raziya, a Piscean woman. Look how we are connected to water!

Cancer is ruled by the moon and yes, I’ve the mood swings in times like the moon. My element is water. As the news paper said, and it’s true, the strength lies in the ability to nurture others, in being compassionate, caring and fiercely loyal. Like a Crab- hard outside, soft inside. And we are clannish towards my family and group (read Mariners). Cancerians are good with memory, emotional impressions to be precise, we even recollect dreams. We easily come up innovative solutions, have wonderful imagination and makes decisions based on logic (I love this website).

And then, we could be jealous (who is not!), sometimes feels insecure (of course not when Raziya is around) and lazy (always when Raziya is around) and becomes unorganized and hate discipline (not when I’m Captain Brown). Cancerians are the most compatible with Pisces and Taurus.

Pisces… Raziya is reading about her sign now. The compatibility first…
“Pisces and Cancer will have an instant rapport with each other that will run deep. Both have a compassionate attitude towards others in distress and will be ready to help. Both are blessed with artistic talent and they will share a love for admiring beauty. While Pisces tends to be an imaginative dreamer, Cancer is an imaginative worker. They may have minor quarrels but these will end amicably in bed. Their extraordinary sexual chemistry will send up sparks. They will enjoy the sensual pleasures of sex especially in a luxurious, romantic setting, – flowers, candles, silk cushions – the works.”

“They can almost read each other’s minds and just one glance is enough to communicate a lot. Both will be extremely affectionate and express their affections quite openly. Both suffer from mood swings and are extremely creative. They live in a world of their own, a world that packs in a great deal more emotion than the average sign. Their sex life will sizzle as they try experiments in bed. Their chemistry will be intense and exciting.”

Pisces, again, is a water sign. They are gentle, soft and accept their surroundings and easily adopts. They rarely get angry. Religion and mysticism attract them. They are great dreamers and sometimes have trouble distinguishing dreams from reality (Wow!).

“They are incurable foodies and love to indulge in a wide range of cuisine from all over the globe. Their dreamy nature makes them fond of things like poetry, sunsets, waterfalls, candles and other romantic things. They love to travel to exotic places and immerse themselves in new, exciting experiences.”

“Fine arts like music, literature, painting or designing are ideal career choices for Pisceans as it helps them explore their creative and dreamy side. Pisceans make good architects, lawyers and caterers.” (I’m blown out!)They are remarkably receptive to new ideas and environment which is an advantage in these careers and can gain them fame and money. (Oh… Raziya…)

Pisces Celebrities: Rupert Murdoch, Mikail Gorbachev, Michaelangelo, Sidney Poiter and Raziya Fredrick Brown… 😉


The shadow of the Bodhi tree

Posted by on Dec-12-2009

Most of the humans we call ‘great’ had spent their life in pursuit of a remedy of the eternal state of sadness and suffering of human race.

And Siddharta Gautama was one among them.

Tracing his biography is a challenge in itself as history and myth are blended in ‘his story’. He was born around 565 B.C. in Lumbini in modern day Nepal. According to the legend he lived many lives and was born again to reach the state of ‘the enlightened one’.
Gautama was born to live a life of a king- his father was the king of Kapilavastu in Magadha. He had every luxury he could imagine around him. At his birth a sage is said to have predicted “If he remains at home, the child will become the Wheel-rolling King. If he leaves home, he will become the great teacher, the Buddha.” His father wanted to groom him to a king and, out of his concern, barred him religious teachings. But his son was lost into thoughts in times, into deep and seemingly endless phases of meditation.
Later he came across the “four sights” that changed his life forever. On a journey in his chariot he saw an old crippled man, a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and finally an ascetic.
All men who are born eventually have to die. Sickness comes to everyone so is old age. Renouncing worldly possessions is the way to attaining peace and salvation.
He was depressed and started contemplating on the ways to over come the sufferings in life. It ended in what is termed as ‘the great departure’. He left his family and fortune behind and went for a hard and tiresome journey in search of truth which leading to his enlightenment.
Thus started a journey of a thousand miles…
He meditated under a papal tree, now know as the Bodhi tree, in Bodh Gaya in India. After 49 days of meditation he attained enlightenment. From then on he was known as ‘Buddha’ or the ‘Awakened One’.
In the beginning he wondered whether or not he should teach the ‘Dharma’ to human beings. Human beings are often overpowered by greed, hatred and delusion, they would not be able to see the true dharma, which was subtle, deep and hard to understand. But soon he became a teacher.

The Buddha delivered his first sermon at Sarnath. In this sermon he shared the knowledge he had gained through meditation.

He traveled vastly and taught his doctrine and discipline to diverse range of people. The community of Buddhist monks continued to spread his teachings after his death.

From what I learned from his life, he is serenity personified. His mind, just like his teachings, is like the sky without the clouds. It is beyond the clutches of emotions.

In the present world the advent of technology or the after math of industrial revolution haven’t given us more happiness or peace. Our problems and the crisis we face keep increasing. Could be because we are still overpowered by greed, hatred and delusion.

Zen & the Art of Being in Love

Posted by on Dec-6-2009

Love is always sweet in the memories, they say.

I had realized it when I joined a ship as a cadet, putting an end to my days in the campus. Thus the days of separation began.

All of a sudden I lost the presence of the girl who was close to my heart. I wanted to run back to the shade of that giant tree, share a joke with her and hear her laughing. I wanted to see her eyes. But I know I couldn’t.

My love for her just grew deeper. “The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost” I knew I won’t lose her; still a very strange and dark fear grew inside my heart. Love was biting me like hell.

I was rich with her love and I didn’t want to go bankrupt. If you have Love, you don’t need to have anything else, and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you have. I was paying the prize for succumbing to that irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.

When you are in love your beloved is more important to you than yourself. Your happiness depends on her. Whenever she is happy so are you. Her one smile or one comment makes your day.

The desire for money or power could be quenched easily; when you have it you are happy. But that’s not the case when you want to possess a woman. You are trying to have someone in flush and blood, she has her own likes and dislikes, she has her choices and freedom, and she is an individual. In another words, when you are in love you are demanding the impossible.

But once your love is returned you are elated to a sublime state of existence. Love sets you free. Love, when scrutinized, is also a form of slavery. Love is contradictions.

Its thorns hurt and provoke you badly, sometimes severely. It keeps you weighting. But when you are in love, all of them are trivial.

Being in love is the season of spring you will have between the cradle and the grave.

And I love being in love.