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Seethakali folk art

  • Published
    28th Aug, 2023
Context

The 20-member group is going to perform Seethakali folk art, outside Kerala for the first time as to revive one of the fading dance forms of Kerala.

About
  • In the early times, Seethakali was performed as part of the harvest festival Onam.
  • From Atham star till the 28th day after Onam, the performers who belong to the subaltern communities go from one house to another performing this art.

Key Features of Seethakali:


  • Folk Dance Drama: Seethakali is a traditional folk dance drama that was once performed during the festival days in erstwhile Desinganad (Kollam, Kerala), primarily during the Onam festivities.
  • Dalit Artists: The performance was carried out by Dalit artists belonging to the Veda and Pulaya communities, focusing on presenting episodes from the Ramayana from Sita’s perspective.
  • Vanayatra to Andardhanam: Seethakali portrays the journey from “vanayatra” (exile to the forest) to “andardhanam” (descend into the earth) of Sita, featuring a blend of songs, storytelling, and fast movements.
  • Instruments: The dance drama is accompanied by instruments such as ganjira, manikatta, chiratta, and kaimani.
  • Narrative through Songs: Seethakali’s story is conveyed through songs, with 28 collected over three years, featuring a folk style influenced by Vallappaattu, Kuthirappaattu, and Rakshasappattu.
  • Oral Tradition: Seethakali songs were orally transmitted from one generation to the next, which led to a pause in the tradition.
  • Basic Movements: The dance involves basic steps, striving to preserve the original essence of the art form.
  • Character Ensemble: The performance includes key characters such as Sita, Ram, Lakshman, Ravan, and Hanuman.

Revival Efforts:

  • Documentary: Shajimon created a documentary titled Seethakali – Desinganadinte Dalit Ramayanam, tracing the evolution, popularity, and relevance of the art form.
  • Currently, in Kerala, there is only one registered Seethakali performing group – Perinad Seethakali Sangham.
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