The Gods of The Hindus: an Examination

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 5521 |

Pages: 12|

28 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2019

Words: 5521|Pages: 12|28 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2019

Table of contents

  1. Dasavatharas
  2. Saptha Thalas
  3. How Rasa is evoked
  4. Various Forms of Koothu


The ten avatars of Lord Vishnu are Matsya (the fish), Kurma (the turtle), Varaha (the boar), Narasimha (the half beast and half man), Vamana (the dwarf priest), Parashurama, Sri Rama, Balarama (the elder brother of Krishna) or Buddha – due to different versions, Sri Krishna, and Kalki. The details of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations are also known as the Bhagavata Purana. Puranas are the narratives of Hindu beliefs, containing the description of the Hindu cosmology and philosophies. Lord Vishnu incarnated in to the earth in nine different forms from time to time in different yugas (eras), Satya or Krita Yuga, Treta Yuga, and Dwapara Yuga, to eradicate the evil forces and to liberate his devotees from the cycles of death and birth and give them moksha. The last avatar, the tenth avatar, is yet to arrive to destroy all unrighteousness and evil at the end of Kali Yuga, or the present era.

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Matsya is the fish from the Satya Yuga. Matsya forewarns Manu, the progenitor of mankind, about an impending catastrophic flood and orders him to collect all the herbs, seeds, and plants of the world in a boat with all living creatures as well. When the flood destroys the world, Manu survives by boarding the boat. Matsya with the help of the snake, Adishesha, pulls the boat safety by tying the boat to Matsya’s horn, with Adishesha as the rope. Other versions of the story also mention that a demon named Hayagriva stole the Vedas and after assuring that Manu had reached safety, Matsya went to retrieve the Vedas and returned them to Brahma. Matsya may be depicted either in animal form or in a combined human-animal form, with the man as the upper half and the fish as the lower half. Matsya is generally represented with four hands—one holding the conch shell, one holding the discus (chakra), one in the pose of conferring a boon (varada mudra), and one offereing protection (abhaya mudra). In order to depict Matsya, place the right hand over the left with both palms facing down and holding both hands in ardhachandra.

Kurma is the tortoise, and like Matsya, is from the Satya Yuga. The narrative of Kurma is called the Samudra Manthan, meaning the churning of the ocean. It starts with Durvasa, a sage, who cursed the gods to lose their immortality, strength, and divine powers. To regain these powers, they had to drink the nectar of immortality to regain their glory. To obtain it, they needed to churn the ocean of milk, a body of water so large they needed Mount Mandara as the churning staff, and the serpent Vasuki as the churning rope. The Devas were not strong enough to churn on their own, so they took the help of the Asuras. Mount Mandara churned, but the force of the churning was so great the mountain began to sink into the ocean. Taking the form of the turtle, Kurma, Vishnu bore the mountain on his back, taking the weight on himself, as they churned the waters. Fourteen precious things arose from the ocean, the last of the fourteen being the nectar of immortality. The Kurma avatar of Vishnu is usually represented in painting and sculpture in a mixed human-animal form, but can also be represented zoomorphically, as a tortoise itself. To depict Kurma, hold both hands in mrigasheersha. Put the right hand on top (facing down) and the left hand on the bottom (facing up) with both palms facing each other and in line with each other. Wrap the other fingers around, except for the thumb and the pinky.

Varaha is the boar, and is the third form of Lord Vishnu to be in the Satya Yuga. Varaha is summoned by the earth because, Hiranyaksha the demon, takes the earth, Bhudevi, and hides her in the primordial oceans (records of the legend narrate that the universe was first filled with only cosmic/primordial oceans). In some versions of the tale, the earth gives a cry of distress as she is kidnapped by the demon; in others, Bhudevi takes the form of a cow and appeals to Vishnu to rescue her from the demon. Hiranyaksha does tapas, and is blessed by Brahma with a boon that makes him indestructible by any animal or human, but since Hiranyaksha had not included the boar in the list of animals that would not be able to kill him, Vishnu assumes this form with huge tusks and goes down to the primordial ocean. In the ocean, Varaha encounters Hiranyaksha, who obstructs his path and challenges him for a duel. In some versions, the demon also mocks Varaha as the beast and warns him not to touch earth. Both fight with maces and finally, Varaha slays the demon after a thousand-year duel. Varaha rises from the ocean with the earth in his tusks and places her above the waters in her original position. Varaha is represented either in full animal form or with the head of a boar and the body of a man. As half-human, half-animal, he is often shown standing with one leg bent supporting Bhudevi. To portray Varaha, hold both hands in Simhamukha but with the thumbs facing outwards, to the side. Hold the right hand over the left hand, with the palms directly over each other, and so that the fingers fit over each other. Wrap the index and pinky finger of the top right hand around the bottom left hand and have both thumbs sticking out towards opposite sides.

Narasimha, is the last incarnation of Vishnu to be in the Satya Yuga. The demon Hiranyakashipu—twin brother of Hiranyaksha, the demon overthrown by Vishnu in his previous incarnation as Varaha—obtained a boon from the god Brahma that he could not be killed by human or animal, from inside or outside, by day or by night, and that no weapon could harm him. His son, Prahlad, on the other hand, was a devotee of Vishnu, as Sage Narada had fostered a love for Lord Vishnu while he looked after Kayadu, Prahlad’s mother. Despite Hiranyakashipu’s many attempts to kill Prahlad, Vishnu protected him, until finally Hiranyakashipu challenged his son and asked where Vishnu was at that moment and angrily kicked a pillar. Narasimha took Hiranyakasipu and dragged him to the threshold of the door (neither inside nor outside the house) and placed him on his lap (neither sky nor the earth) and there killed Hiranyakasipu with his claws (without weapons), at twilight (neither day nor night). The incident is often depicted in art, with Narasimha appearing out of the pillar with numerous hands. Seated images of Narasimha are also found in which the lion face has a pacific expression. To show Narasimha, hold the right hand in tripataka and the left hand in simhamukha. Hold both hands infront of chest.

Vamana is the first avatar to be in the Treta Yuga. King Mahabali was a generous man and was also a devotee of Lord Vishnu who engaged in severe austerities and won the praise of the world. This praise led him to think of himself as the greatest person in the world. He believed that he can help anyone and can donate whatever they ask. Even though he became benevolent, he became pompous of his activities. He conquered the three worlds and did yagnas to declare himself the King of the three worlds. Vamana made his appearance on the last day of the yagnas. King Bali offered him to ask for anything he wants as it was the last day of the yagna and had to give any alms to whoever in need. Sukracharya, Bali’s guru, with his senses could regonize the small boy as Lord Vishnu and stopped King Bali to offer him whatever he asks. King Bali out of his generosity continued with his offerings and asked the boy his requirement. Vamana politely said he just needs three feet of land. King Bali laughed told the boy to measure the land by himself and to take the land. Immediately Vamana started growing bigger and finished measuring the earth and sky in two feet and requested Bali to show where he can measure the third foot of land. King Bali didn’t want to break his promise and bowed his head to measure the third foot. Vamana kept his foot on Bali’s head and pushed deep into the Netherworld, or Pataala, by the force of his third step on his head. Vishnu in this form is often identified as Trivikrama, or the “God of the Three Strides”. Just before King Mahabali was pushed out of the earth, he was given permission by Vamana to visit his people once a year. The Onam festival is a celebration of welcoming Mahabali home to his lost kingdom. The images of Vamana usually show him already grown to giant size, one foot firmly planted on earth and the other lifted as if to take a stride. If shown small in stature, the sculptures may depict him as a dwarf brahmacharin (monastic student) dressed in the deerskin, loincloth, and sacred thread of the student. To depict Vamana, hold both hands in mushti. The right hand is in line with shoulder and in front of chest, showing the umbrella that Vamana holds. The left hand should be turned downwards at waist level, with the back of the hand facing up.

Following Vamana is Parashurama, and also is in the Treta Yuga. Shri Parashuram left home to do devout austerities to please Lord Shiva. Considering his extreme devotion, intense desire and unmoved and perpetual meditation, Lord Shiva was pleased with Shri Parashuram. He presented Shri Parashuram with divine weapons. Included was his unconquerable and indestructible axe shaped weapon, Parashu. Lord Shiva advised him to go and liberate the Mother Earth from ill-behaved people, extremists, demons, and those blind with pride. Later, Parashurama, clipped the thousand arms of King Kartavirya Arjuna, a powerful king, one by one, with his Parshu and killed him, because the king stole his father’s sacred cow. Indra was so pleased that he presented this most beloved bow named Vijaya to Parashurama on instruction from Lord Shiva. But, when Kartavirya Arjuna's sons discovered that Parashurama killed their father, they killed Parashuram's father. Because of this, Parashuram, vowed to exterminate the Kshatriyas, going around the world 21 times. He attacked Kartavirya Arjuna's sons, killed all of them in battle, and then proceeded on a mission to exterminate the rest of the Kshatriyas and Kings around the world. He played important roles in the Mahabharata and Ramayana, serving as a mentor to Bhishma, Karna, and Drona. To show Parashurama, hold the right hand in ardhapataka and raise it high on a diagonal. With the left hand, keep it at the side of body with dola, or keep in ardhachandra on left thigh.

Rama, follows Parashurama, and is also from the Treta Yuga. King Dasharatha wanted to pass over the kingdom to his eldest son, Rama, which was objected by his second wife, Kaikeyi. Kaikeyi, by the evil influence of her crooked servant, Manthara, asked the King to crown his son Bharata as the next King and send Rama to exile for 14 years and it thus happened. His wife, Sita and Lakshmana, his beloved younger brother also accompanied him. While they lived their lives in the forest a demon lady, Surpanaka, who was the sister of Ravana came to see Rama requesting him to marry her. Lakshmana was angered and cut her nose off. She got greatly annoyed and sought vengeance through his brother. She provoked Ravana to marry Sita, saying that she will be the best suitable and beautiful wife for you, thus making Sita part from Rama. By their wicked plan, Surpanaka went to Rama’s ashram in the form of a beautiful deer. Sita got mesmerized upon seeing it and requested Rama to get that deer for her. Rama ran after the deer and the deer skipped off from him and took him far away from the ashram. Sita got upset about the delay in Rama’s return and sent his brother Lakshmana to find him out. Lakshmana didn’t agree to it and finally when Sita got angry he agreed and went but only after giving her strict instruction not to enter out a line, the Lakshmana Rekha, which he drew with this divine power until he returns back. During this time Ravana came and Sita was taken away to Lanka. On his way to Lanka, he encountered with the huge vulture bird named Jadayu who was the friend of Dasharatha. He fought with Ravana and was injured very badly. Jadayu was left out handicapped but not dead just to meet Rama and inform him about the kidnap of Rama’s wife Sita. Jadayu died immediately after he passed the information to Rama. Finally, they reached the sea which Lanka was on the other side of. There was no way in crossing the sea. The army of monkeys which had accompanied Rama led by the powerful leader Hanuman, built a bridge of huge stones across the sea to reach Lanka. In Lanka, Ravana threatened Sita many times to marry him but was rejected all the times. Rama and his army reached Lanka through the new bridge and attacked Ravana. Ravana was killed in battle by Rama and Sita was at liberty. Rama is represented as a standing figure, holding an arrow in his right hand and a bow in his left. His image in a shrine or temple is almost invariably attended by figures of his wife, Sita, his favourite half-brother, Lakshmana, and Hanuman. References to Rama as an incarnation of Vishnu appear in the early centuries. There was, however, probably no special worship of him before the 11th century, and it was not until the 14th and 15th centuries that distinct sects appeared venerating him as the supreme god. Rama’s popularity was increased greatly by the retelling of the Sanskrit epics and is conceived as a model of reason, right action, and desirable virtues. To show Rama, hold the shikara on your left hand and raise it high so that your hand is level with your head. With the right hand, hold kapitha at thigh level slightly away from the body.

Balarama, in certain Vaishnava lists, is the eighth avatar, and is from the Dwapara Yuga. Balarama was a son of Vasudeva. The evil king Kamsa, the brother of Devaki, was intent upon killing the children of his sister because of a prediction that he would die at the hands of her eighth son. Balarama’s essence was therefore transferred to Rohini, who also wished for a child. He is often depicted with a drinking cup, pitcher, axe, shield and sword. Balarama may have originated in Vedic times as a deity of agriculture and fertility. Balarama spent his childhood as a cow herder with his brother Krishna. He killed Dhenuka, an asura sent by Kamsa, as well as wrestlers sent by the king. After the evil king died, Balarama and Krishna went to the ashram of sage Sandipani's at Ujayini to study. He later married Revati, the daughter of King Kakudmi, ruler of Kushasthali. Other legends identify him as the human incarnation of the serpent Shesha. To portray Balarama, hold right hand in pataka at shoulder level in front of chest. Hold left hand in mushti and turn downwards. Left hand should be at waist level, with the back of the hand facing up.

Gautama Buddha, is viewed as an avatar according to some lists, though Buddha himself denied that he was a god or an incarnation of one. Buddha may be depicted in Hindu scriptures as a preacher who deludes and leads demons and heretics away from the path of the Vedic scriptures. Another view praises him as a compassionate teacher who preached the path of ahimsa (non-violence).

Krishna, is the ninth avatar, and was in the Dwapara Yuga. Krishna is often described and portrayed as an infant eating butter, a young boy playing a flute as in the Bhagavata Purana, or as an elder giving direction and guidance as in the Bhagavad Gita. The stories of Krishna appear across a broad spectrum of Hindu philosophical and theological traditions. They portray him in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero, and the Supreme Being. The principal scriptures discussing Krishna's story are the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Vishnu Purana. Many stories about Krishna are told, from the days of his childhood to when he was the King of Dwaraka. To depict Krishna, bring left hand near right cheek. Hold left hand in mrigasheersha facing inwards and the right hand is also in mrigasheersha but facing outwards. This is to show the flute that he carries.

Kalki is the final avatar, and will be in the Kali Yuga. It is said in the scriptures that lord Vishnu will come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. Some represent him as an amalgam of a horse’s head and a man’s body. The name Kalki is a metaphor for eternity or time. Its origins may lie in the Sanskrit word kalka which means foulness or filth. Hence, the name translates to the 'destroyer of foulness,' 'destroyer of darkness," or 'destroyer of ignorance.' Kalki Avatara is depicted with right hand in pataka and the left hand in tripataka. Right hand is infront of chest, while left hand is at waist level.

Saptha Thalas

Thala, the musical measure of time. There are seven basic thalas which are divided and further sub-divided to give raise to a total of 175 thalas. Musical compositions, instrumental accompaniments, and dance are regulated by Thala. Thala is of two kinds, Margam and Desi, and each of them is again of three kinds, Shudha, Saalaga, and Sankeerna. Thala is the product of Kaala (time), Kriya (single unit counts made by hand), and Mana (measure) in simultaneous action. The main Seven Principle Thala’s are Dhruva, Mathya, Roopaka, Jampa, Triputa, Atta and Eka. All these seven thalas are made of 3 basic Angas:

  1. Laghu – I
  2. Drutham – O
  3. Anu-Drutham – U

How Rasa is evoked

The earliest known developed theory of rasa as an aesthetic concept is found in Natyasastra, attributed to Bharatamuni. As per BharataMuni, Rasa has come to refer to the ultimate experience of a transcendent and love. This love engages pure emotions in any one of the several eternal relationships with divinity. The word’s meaning have been associated with a botanical substance, a sensory substance, an ontological significance, an aesthetic delight, a transcending other worldy experience and ultimately a theological experience within. The text lists nine rasas: 1) srngara: romance or passion 2) hasya: comedy 3) karuna: compassion 4) raudra: fury 5) vira: heroism 6) bhayanka: horror 7) bibhasta: revulsion 8) adbhuta: amazement 9) shanta: tranquility. Although these rasas are each connected with a particular emotion (bhava), they were not in themselves emotions, exactly. Rather Bharatamuni describes rasa as an aesthetic taste experienced by the audience after witnessing the portrayal of emotional components on the stage. These components of emotion were categorized into 4 different types: sthayibhavas (foundational emotions). Vyabhicaribhavas (transient emotions). Anubhavas (emotional reactions), vibhavas (catalysts of emotions).

Rasa mentioned as a two-fold experience felt by the dancer and his expression through his art and the experience of the audience (Sahrdayas) who receive the art. The creator undergoes an emotion and is so overwhelmed by it that she seeks a medium for the expression of his feelings. The audience receives this emotion through the dancer’s dance and thus undergoes the emotion felt by the creator. Thus the word `Rasa' is once again created by the creator and then is re-created by the viewer. The extent to which the reader undergoes the emotion felt by the creator depends upon the intelligence of the creator in presenting it.

Bharatamuni describes this as the sentiment or aesthetic pleasure (Rasa) arises as a result of the harmonious blending of the appropriate vibhavas, anubhavas and vyabhicaribhavas. This means the realization of Rasa results from the union of Vibhava, Anubhava and Vyabicaribhava, and its alignment with the permanent mood known as Sthayibhava. Bharata says that there are eight Sthayins or the basic mental states, thirty three Vyabhicarins or accessories and eight Sattvika bhavas or involuntary physical reflexes. These forty nine, taken together, make for Kavya Rasabivyakti. Rasas are born of these, when they are represented in a universalized state. He says, "It may be noted that these forty nine emotions in their generalized form are the source of Rasa".

The union of the Vibhava, Anubhava and Vyabhicaribhava results in the awakening of the Sthayibhavas, which in turn results in the emergence of Rasa. Vibhavas are the determinants, anubhavas, the consequents and Vyabhicaribhavas, stand for the transitory mental states, which is a necessity for the realization of Sthayibhava or the basic disposition. Emotions felt by the creator are dancer to the viewer only through Vibhavas and Anubhavas. Vibhavas are essentially of two kinds-the Alambhana Vibhava and the Uddipana Vibhava. Alambhana Vibhava refers to the person or the object in respect of whom the emotion is experienced and whose appearance, ideal or perceptual, is directly responsible for the evocation of the emotion: Uddipana Vibhava refers to the situation or the environment in which that person or object is placed and which ishelpful in intensifying the emotional experience. The Alambana Vibhava is otherwise called the basic stimulus and the Uddipana Vibhava, the outside stimulus.

The external manifestations brought out as a result of the emotions evoked by the Vibahvas are termed, the Anubhavas. These, according to Baratha, are divisible into Vacika or those that are expressed by words and Angika or bodily expressions. Again, the emotion felt by the spectator as a result of the external expression of the characters on stage, such as gestures, words and so on are termed Anubhava. Rasas evoke in the audience as an emotional climax accompanied by a sense of joy. This is the aesthetic pleasure of Rasa. The Vyabhicharbhavas are temporary or transitory moods that tend only to develop the sthayibhava or dominant mood. The dominant mood could be love, anger or pathos. Since the freedom of knowing the whole scale of possible responses (the known), situates the experience of pure awareness or the self (the knower), rasa (the process of knowing) produces the experience of the threefold unity of the knower, the known, and the process of knowing. The emotional response to a particular situation on stage or a particular predicament of the protagonist uplifts the audience out of the mundane of life and gives aesthetic bliss. Rasa, the aesthetic theory, may lead the audience to a state of unbounded bliss.

Dance in Silappathikaram

Silappathikaram (The Tale of Anklet) is one of the Five Great Epics of Tamil literature. A Jain-Poet referred to by the pseudonym Ilango Adigal is credited with this work. The nature of this book is non-religious and has a moralistic undertone. The epic revolves around the female protagonist Kannagi. This epic has been dated to likely beginning of the Common Era (CE). The story involves the three kingdoms of the ancient era, Chola, Pandya and Chera dynasties. The author took up 2 principles, chastity and virtue and incorporated them into a theatrical style. Silappadhikaaram is not just poetry. It is a combination of “iyal-isai-natakam”, dance-music-drama. This is a supreme example of theatre.

Kovalan, the son of a wealthy merchant in Kavirippattinam, married Kannagi. Kovalan met the dancer Madavi and fell in love with her and he spent all his wealth on the dancer. Their only fortune was a precious pair of Kannagi anklets, which she gave to Kovalan willingly. Kovalan went to sell one of Kannagi's anklets and at the same time, Pandava’s Queen had just been robbed of a similar anklet by a wicked court jeweller. The jeweller happened to see Kovalan with Kannagi's anklet, and immediately seized it and informed the King. Guards apprehended Kovalan, who was then killed on the King's orders. The widow Kannagi comes to Madurai, proves Kovalan’s innocence, then tears off her one breast and throws it at the kingdom of Madurai, which goes up in flames.

When the author introduces Madhavi and her dancing debut in the Chola capital, he displays an incredible comprehension of the technicalities of Tamil music and dance. Madhavi, daughter of Chitrapathy, learnt dance from the age of 5 and mastered the art of classical Bharatanatyam at the age of 12. Madhavi performed eleven different types of dances according to the epic. The Kadalatu kathai of Silappathikaram refers to this 11 varieties of dance collectively known as deivavirutti (associated with deities). Like Natya Sastra, Silappadhikaaram also gives a description of dance stage and location for the stage. First six of the eleven dances are done in standing position and the other five are performed in lying position. They are:

  • Kodukatti: Siva’s triumphal dance after destruction of Tirpura by fire. This is the dance Lord Shiva performed after burning the triple cities of 3 Asuras.
  • Pandarangam: Brahma was entertained by Siva with this dance after Shiva’s win over the Triple Cities of demons.
  • Alliyam Koothu: This is a dance about Lord Krishna’s victory over Kamsa’s elephant.
  • Malladal: This describes the wrestling contest between Kamsa’s emissaries (Bana) and Lord Krishna at Kamsa’s palace.
  • Thudi Attam: This is Muruga’s dance after defeating the demon Surapadman.
  • Kudaikuttu: This is about Lord Muruga’s victory over the demons.
  • Kurakuttu: Krishna’s amorous dance (with Clay Pot over head) before Vanasura to secure the release of Anirudh (Today’s Karagattam).
  • Pedadal: Krishna’s son Manmathan dances dressed as a eunuch(Peda) to divert the attention of Vanasura to secure the release of his son Anirudh.
  • Marakkal Addal: When demons sent poisonous creatures like snakes and scorpions against Kotravai (Goddess Durga), she danced with stints (Stick dance). This is known as Marakkal literally “wooden legs” (Today’s Poikkal Kudirai).
  • Pavai Koothu: Goddess Lakshmi’s dance to enchant Vanasura and to enter his fort.
  • Kadayam Koothu: This is the dance performed by Indrani (dance like a farmer) at the north gate of palace of Vanasura.

In three other places in the epic he narrated the hunters dance during worship of Durga, cowherds dance praising Lord Krishna and tribal dance. There is an interesting thread that runs through all these mythological episodes. This is about a fight between the good and bad and the ultimate victory of good over evil. The author talks about Kuravai dance, which is associated with war operations during those days. A victorious king is joined by soldiers and they dance on the deck of the king’s chariot. These are spontaneous expressions of joy over victory. A Kuravai dance portrayed in the epic gives the picture of seven girls standing in a circle and dancing to the melody “Mullaippann”. The seven girls represent the seven musical notes of Tamil scale – Kural, Tuttam, Kaikkilai, Ulai, Ili, Vilari and Taram.

Silappathikaram consists of 30 Kadhai and out of 30, 8 Kadais discusses about Dance. The following 8 Kadhais discusses about several information about dance. 1)3rd Arangetru Kadai, 2) 6th Kadal Aadu Kadai, 3) 8th Veni Kadai, 4) 12th Vetuva Vari Kadai, 5) 17th Ayichiyyar Kuravai, 6) 24th Kundra Kuravai, 7) 29th Vaazhthu Kadhai. Vaazhthu Kadai talks about 4 dances and provides lot of details about these dances: Ammanai, Usal, Kandukam, Vallai Pattu.

The author talks about many details about Bharatanatyam and Arangetram. As per the author, the dancer should start her dance at the age of 5, and must learn dance for 7 years. She should perform (arangetram) at the age of 12 in front of a king and audience on a stage (Arangam). The dancer should be accompanied by a singer, nattuvanar, flute, and harp musicians. The stage should be minimum of 40 feet long and 35 feet wide. The stage should be at least 5 feet above the ground and 20 feet above the stage. The light should be such a way that the shadow of a dancer and shadow of pillars should not fall on the stage.

Various Forms of Koothu

Koothu means dance or performance in Tamil, it is a folk art originated from the early Tamil culture. That's why the dancing deity, Lord Nataraja is often referred to by numerous names such as Koothapiran, Koothuandavan and Kootharasan. The deity at the Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram is known from the Sangam period as "Thillai Koothan", the cosmic dancer of Thillai. Koothu is mentioned in the Sangam literatures about the development of iyal (literature), isai (music) and natagam (drama). Koothu is of two types – Aga Koothu (internal) and Pura Koothu (external). Aga Koothu means the type of dance which are born inside our heart and enjoyed by our soul. Pura Koothu means the type of dance which is performed by the bodily expressions accompanied by music Orchestra. Much of the Koothu forms fall under Pura Koothu.

Koothu is an informal dance structure, the performances generally depict scenes from ancient epics, like the Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Tamil classical epics. There will be no dialogues instead only songs. Artists are trained to sing in their own voice and in a high pitch to reach entire crowd, since no was technology available at that time. The artists dressed up with complex heavy costumes and have very bright elaborated makeup. They put on a high towering head dress, sparkling shoulder plates and wide colorful skirts. Usually the whole troop will be played by males, even female characters will also be performed by males.

Theru Koothu is classified as a type of Nattu Koothu. Theru means street, koothu means folk dance. Hence, Theru Koothu means street dance. Theru Koothu is often regarded as one of the oldest open-air dance dramas in Tamil cultural tradition. During the early days, this particular dance was practised by the common masses for mental relaxation or just to pass off the time. This dance drama originated during the 10th century A.D. In the olden days, each temple was attached to at least one theatre, in which performences took place during special temple festivals. Even now, the folk dance dramas of the Tamils are generally referred to as Therukoothu. The labor class were usually the actors and audience for Theru Koothu. Originally, this particular dance form originated among the farmers community and later it was passed on to the laborer community and to the ordinary masses. Like all other traditional art forms this ancient art form also started with the religious performances. The instruments mainly used for Theru Koothu were harmonium, mridangam, cymbals, mukhaveena, and flute. These plays were based on aesthetic essence, value, and religious affiliations. Some of the most popular Therukoothu dance dramas were Madurai Veeran, Kathavarayan, Ramayanam, Harischandra, Nallathangal, Valli Thirumanam, Pavalakkodi and Arjuna’s Penance.

Types of Theru Koothu includes Nattu Koothu, which are of about the state and culture of different peoples in Tamil culture; Samaya Koothu showcasing religious topics; and Pei Koothu showing martial events and war of the country. Silappathikaram mentions numerous Koothu forms that existed at that time. Ancient Tamil literary work 'Kootha nool' mentions that dance originated in performing drama and drama originated in dance. In ancient times, there was no proper separation between the dance and drama. Initially dance and drama were considered as one and the same art form, but with the passage of time both these art forms were gradually separated from one another.

Nattu Koothu is a famous folk dance form of storytelling. This dance is a major source of frolic, fun, and pleasure for the villages and it’s generally performed during the village temple festivals. The performance comprises dialogue interpretation, storytelling, dance, singing, and music. Voicing a dialogue in loud volume is a need to catch a huge audience's attention towards them since modern sound equipment is not used during the act.

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Valli Koothu, also known as Deva Koothu forms an artistic bridge between the desi (folk) and the margi (classical) traditions. Devakoothu is significant as it brings a woman on a sacred stage; that too a labourer from the once untouchable castes. It was concieved when Valli began to be worshipped by many people and many created a distinguished Koothu narrating her life story. Devakoothu is not the typical Theyyam since it has elements of lasya like the undulating movements of the hands and body. It also has a strong resemblance to Nangiarkoothu and Mohiniyattam. Male musicians provide chenda (percussion) and ilathalam (cymbal). To perform this Deva Koothu, the performer must pass through many soecific requirements, such as a 41 day penance spent in isolation, and therefore can only b

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The Gods of the Hindus: an Examination. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 1, 2023, from
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