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Day 1 – Q 2. When your friend from the US visits you in India, she is mesmerized to see the Kathakali dance performed by local dancers of Kerala. She is wondering as to what do the colours of the face make up mean and what the premise of the dance is. How would you explain these to her? Discuss.

  • IASbaba
  • January 31, 2022
  • 0
Art & Culture, GS 1, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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2. When your friend from the US visits you in India, she is mesmerized to see the Kathakali dance performed by local dancers of Kerala. She is wondering as to what do the colours of the face make up mean and what the premise of the dance is. How would you explain these to her? Discuss. (10 Marks)

जब आपकी यूएस की दोस्त भारत में आपसे मिलने आती है, तो वह केरल के स्थानीय नर्तकों द्वारा किए गए कथकली नृत्य को देखकर मंत्रमुग्ध हो जाती है। वह सोच रही है कि चेहरे के रंगों का क्या मतलब है और नृत्य का आधार क्या है। आप उसे ये कैसे समझाएंगे? चर्चा करें।

Approach

Candidates need to directly address the question with giving simple introduction on the kathakali and then write features and explain the symbolism of face and dance expression and colours involved in the kathakali has.

Introduction

Kathakali originated as part of the bhakti movement and is believed to have been performed by soldiers of the kingdom, as the plays were written by a prince himself. Kathakali is a blend of dance, music and acting and dramatizes stories, which are mostly adapted from the Indian epics and it is one of the eight classical dances of India. 

Body

Colours of face make up:

  • Kathakali dancer emphasizes on their facial expressions instead to depict various emotions. Here body movements are specifically controlled.
  • While most other dance forms like Bharatnatyam and Odissi focus on hand gestures and body postures. 
  • Some characters have a green face representing heroic or excellence as a warrior with red dots or lines on their cheeks or red-coloured moustache or red-streaked beard representing evil inner nature, while others have a full face and beard coloured red, the latter implying excessively evil characters.
  • The characters in Kathakali fall into certain broad categories distinguished by their typical make-up. 
  • The face of the artist is painted over to appear as though a mask is worn. The lips, the eyelashes and the eyebrows are made to look prominent. A mixture of rice paste and lime is applied to make the chutti on the face which highlights the facial make-up.

Premise of dance:

  • Kathakali is typically structured around ‘Attakatha’ meaning the story of attam or dance. 
  • ‘Attakatha’ are plays that were historically derived from Hindu epics like ‘Bhagavata Purans’, ‘Mahabharata’ and ‘Ramayana’ which were written in certain format that allows one to determine the dialogue portions that is the Pada part and the action portions that is the Shloka part of the performance. 
  • The make-up code followed in ‘Kathakali’ conventionally typifies the characters of the acts categorising them as gods, goddesses, saints, animals, demons, and demonesses among others. 
  • The most popular stories are Nala Charitam, Duryodhana Vadham, Kalyanasowgandhikam, Keechaka Vadham, Kiratham, Karna and Shapadham. 
  • However recently, stories from other cultures, such as the story of Mary Magdalene from the Bible, and Shakespeare’s King Lear have also been adapted into Kathakali scripts to popularise the art.

Conclusion

Based on geographical locations, traditions, rituals many forms of dance have originated over time each having its uniqueness. Even though all might have different forms and emotions they show similar theme of devotion to Almighty, Culture, Heritage etc. Kathakali is one such cultural dance mostly adapted from the Indian epics.

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