Terukkuttu or Kattaikkuttu is a Tamil street theatre form practised in Tamil Nadu state of India and Tamil-speaking regions of Sri Lanka. [cite book
last = Sarachchandra
first = Ediriweera R.
title = The Folk Drama of Ceylon
publisher = Department of Cultural Affairs, Ceylon
location = Colombo
origyear = 1966
oclc = 63859810
pages = 116
] Terukuttu is a form of entertainment, a ritual, and a medium of social instruction.cite book
last = Varadpande
first = Manohar Laxman
title = History of Indian Theatre
publisher = Abhinav Publications
origyear = 1987
year = 1990
isbn = 978-8170172789
oclc = 18270064
pages = 39-44
] The terukkuttu plays use themes from the Tamil language versions of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, focusing on the character Draupadi. [cite book
last = Srinivas
first = Smriti
title = Landscapes of Urban Memory
publisher = Orient Longman
origyear = 2001
year = 2004
isbn = 8125022546
oclc = 46353272
pages = 23


The term "terukkuttu" is derived from the Tamil words "Teru" ("street") and "Kuttu" ("theatre"). [cite book
last = Barfoot
first = C.C.
title = Theatre Intercontinental: Forms, Functions, Correspondences
publisher = Rodopi
year = 1993
isbn = 9051835752
oclc = 29909259
pages = 116
] The word "Kattaikuttu" is derived from the name of special ornaments known as "kattai" (or "kattai camankal").

The writer M. Shanmugam Pillai has compared terukkuttu to the Tamil epic Silappatikaram, calling Silappatikaram a proto-form of terukkuttu. The Silappatikaram story is still performed by the terukkuttu actors, the terukkuttu drama commences and ends in a manner similar to the commencement and end of each canto in the epic, and the actors sing and converse in verse interspersed with prose, the prose coming after the verse as its explanation. Both Silappatikaram and terukkuttu are centered around the chastity and moral power of women as cherished values.

However, historically, the terukkuttu is not more than two to three centuries old. The researcher Richard A. Frasca wrote that certain of his performer-informants believed that the terukkuttu originally emanated from the Gingee area. [cite book
last = Frasca
first = Richard Armando
title = The Terukkūttu : ritual theater of Tamilnadu (Ph.D. thesis)
publisher = University of California, Berkeley
year = 1984
oclc = 13876271
pages = 140

terukkuttu spread from South India to Sri Lanka, and became popular in Jaffna and Batticaloa. The early Sinhala Nadagam (open-air drama) closely followed Terukuttu plays in presentation and in style. [cite web
url = http://www.dailymirror.lk/2003/12/24/feat/1.asp
title = Daily Mirror
author = W. T. A. Leslie Fernando
date = 24 December 2003
accessdate = 2007-11-21
] The Jesuit priests in Jaffna also presented Catholic plays from the Portuguese tradition in Terukuttu style.cite web
url = http://www.lankalibrary.com/rit/drama.htm
title = Did Sinhala drama originate in Christmas?
author = W. T. A. Leslie Fernando
accessdate = 2007-11-21

Many scholars note the similarity between terukkuttu and other neighbouring regional drama forms, such as Yakshagana and Kathakali.cite book
last = Hiltebeitel
first = Alf
title = The Cult of Draupadi: Mythologies: From Gingee to Kuruksetra
publisher = University Of Chicago Press
year = 1988
isbn = 978-0226340463
oclc = 18739841
pages = 146-149
] However, unlike Kathakali, terukkuttu is less codified, and is generally considered a folk art rather than a classical art form. [cite book
last = Richmond
first = Farley P.
coauthors = Darius L. Swann, Phillip B. Zarrilli
title = Indian Theatre: Traditions of Performance
publisher = Motilal Banarsidass
origyear = 1990
year = 1993
isbn = 9780824813222
oclc = 20594132
pages = 309
] In recent times, some terukkuttu groups have also started operating as professional troupes. [cite web
url = http://www.bowdoin.edu/news/archives/1bowdoincampus/000747.shtml
title = From Street Theater to Kattaikuttu
date = November 04, 1999
accessdate = 2007-11-21


The terukuttu performances center around the enactment of Mahabharata story, with emphasis on the role of Draupadi. terukkuttu plays on Ramayana are performed at Mariyamman festivals, and some of the plays also involve local deities.

The terukkuttu plays form part of ritual celebrations including the twenty-one day temple festival starting in "Chittirai", the first month of the Tamil calendar. The terukkuttu performances begin in the middle of the festival, and continue till the morning of the penultimate day.

The core themes of the terukuttu plays include:
* "Draupadi Kalyanam" (The marriage of Draupadi)
* "Supattirai Kalyanam" (The marriage of Subhadra)
* "Alli Arjunan" (The Marriage of Arjuna with Alli)
* "Pancal Capatam" (The Vow of Draupadi)
* "Arjunan Tapam" (Arjuna's "tapas")
* "Krishnan Titu" (The mission of Krishna)
* "Abhimanyu Cantai" (The defeat of Abhimanyu)
* "Karna Mokshayam" (The defeat of Karna)
* "Patinettam Por" (The Battle of the Eighteenth Day)


The terukkuttu plays are a combination of song, music, dance and drama. The actors wear colorful costumes. The musical instruments used by the terukkuttu musicians include harmonium, drums, a "mukhavinai" (an instrument similar to oboe), and cymbals.

An acting arena is marked at courtyard of a temple, open ground or any other convenient site and people squat on the three sides of the rectangular arena. The chorus of singers and the musicians occupy the place on the rear side of the stage, and the actors use the front side. Two persons holding a curtain enter the arena, with an actor in the guise of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god. The chorus begins an invocation to Ganesha, and prayers are also offered to many other deities. The actor playing Ganesha now moves out of the arena, and "Kattiyakkaran" (jester and "sutradhara" i.e. the narrator) appears on the stage. "Kattiyakkaran" relates the story fo the play to be performed and introduces the characters. Sometimes, the characters introduce themselves. "Kattiyakkaran" links the scenes, provides context to the happenings on the stage and also jests in between the scenes. The actors sing themselves, supported by the chorus.

The text of a terukkuttu play is a series of songs of songs related by a theme. Each song is rendered in a raga, structured in form of a classical song. It is preceded by viruttam, chanting of four-line verses in the same raga as the song. [cite book
title = The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
publisher = Oxford University Press
chapter = Introduction to Indian Music: Folk Music
isbn = 978-1561591749
] After the song, an actor delivers a speech based on it.


Further reading

* cite book
last = Frasca
first = Richard Armando
title = Theatre of the Mahabharata: terukkuttu Performances in South India
publisher = University of Hawaii Press
year = 1990
isbn = 978-0824812904
oclc = 21147946

* cite book
last = Gentes
first = Mary Josephine
title = Hinduism through village dance drama : narrative image and ritual process in South India's terukkuttu and Yaksagana ritual theaters (Ph.D. thesis)
publisher = University of Virginia
year = 1987
oclc = 20052719

* cite journal
last = Frasca
first = Richard Armando
year = 1998
title = The Dice Game and the Disrobing (Pakatai Tuyil): A terukkuttu Performance
journal = Asian Theatre Journal
volume = 15
issue = 1
pages = 1–44
doi = 10.2307/1124097

* cite book
last = Bruin
first = Hanne M de
title = Kattaikkuttu: The flexibility of a south Indian theatre tradition
publisher = E. Forsten
year = 1999
isbn = 978-9069801032
oclc = 42312297

* cite book
last = Shivaprakash
first = H S
title = Traditional theatres
publisher = Wisdom Tree
year = 2007
isbn = 978-8183280754
oclc = 85833550
chapter = Regional theatres (ix. Terukuttu)

External links

* [http://www.kattaikkuttu.org/katinfo1.html Kattaikkuttu or terukkuttu]

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