Ashtapadiyattam is an art form from Kerala, a dance-drama based on Geethagovindam of Jayadeva envisioned by Kalamandalam Krishnan Kutty Poduval, a maestro of kathakali percussion, who excelled in the art of chenda. This art represents musical sentiments from subtle emotions of character by refinement of aesthetics.
We have heard of ramanattam, which is kathakali and krishnanattam, which is an offering to Sri Krishna carried out by Guruvayur Devaswom. But what is ashtapathiattam?
The dance drama celebrates the mythological Radha-Krishna love. The kathakali drummer- scholar Krishnan Kutty Poduval has conceptualised the long-lasting theatre tradition.
Art historians differ over the antiquity of ashtapathiyattam. It is believed that it is 130 years old, given that the only available text for this traces to Kochite Ramavarman Thirumuklpad, who codified it before staging the debut show in 1884 under the patronage of the then Edappaly Raja.
Another section traces ashtapathiyattam to an age before the birth of kathakali and krishnanattam and after the times of poet Jayadeva, who lived in the 12th century in Eastern India, and penned the Gita Govindam. That has couplets grouped into eights called ashtapaths.
Rajan Poduval, son of Krishnan Kutty Poduval of Kalasagara, which completes the 24th year of its functioning, is a dancer himself and has won the senior fellowship award from the Ministry of Culture, Government Of India. He is into reviving this extinct form of dance and presenting it on the stage, in the true spirit of our classical tradition.
Rajan Poduval says, “My father believed in the second notion, hence he prescribed his ashtapadiyattam characters to rudimentary costumes of kathakali and krishnanattam.
What is new?
The re-invented art form has a mix of Kerala’s stage-art forms accommodating the make-ups and movements of kathakali, mohiniattam and bharathanatyam, besides that of the 20th century experimental ballets. What is more, it has Jayadeva and his wife Padmavathi themselves making appearances, worshipping lord Krishna and writing the lust-filled lyrics in 12 chapters.
“I have seen my father’s ashtapadiyattam trysts and I am trying to retain his share of ancientness, but then you have to compromise a bit in the new one,” Rajan Paduval adds with a smile.
The conglomeration of cultures could be seen while Krishna Radha and Sakthi sport a kathakali outfit. The gopis are in bharathanatyam and mohini attam attire and Jayadeva - Padmavathi couple wears a dress that has streaks of Bengali and Oriya aesthetics.
It is interesting to note that the programme is emphasising on guru-sishya relationship and is being staged for the first time in Chennai, almost three decades after it was re-introduced in Kerala with Vinayam as Jayadeva, Kalamandalam Maya Vinayam as Padmadevi and Sadanam Krishnadas as Sri Krishna.
The show was premiered at Narada Gana Sabha on Monday at 6.00 pm. Padma Subramaniam and Guru Janarthanam were honoured.