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Thidambu Nritham

About Thidambu Nritham

Thidambu Nritham (dance with the replica of the deity) is a ritual dance performed in Temples of North Malabar. This is one among many rich art traditions of North Malabar. It is mainly performed by Namboothiris, and rarely other Brahmin communities. North Malabar is well renowned for its deep rooted culture and tradition. This northern part of present Kerala State is home for several prominent religious destinations that make it a heaven for several unique religious and ritual art forms including Theyyam. Thidambu Nritham is one such ritual art form
Thidambu nritham, as the name conveys, is an elegant dance carrying the decorated image of the deity ( thidambu) on the head. Thidambu nritham is commonly performed by Namboodhiris upper caste Hindus. This art form is staged both inside and outside the temple. Ten persons are needed for staging this dance. The dance is performed with the decorated deity of the Devi carried on the head. Foot work is most important and this is executed to the rhythms of the drums
The dancer wears a striking costume a skirt of pleated cloth, a silk vest, earrings, bangles, necklaces and a decorated turban called ushnipeetam. The performance unfolds in various stages like Urayal, invoking the deity,Thakiladi adantha, Chembada, Pamchan etc. The dancer is usually accompanied by a group of artistes, five of whom play the percussions and two hold aloft the lamps
This ritual art form is believed to be over 600–700 years old and follows the principles of dance laid down in Natyasasthra the ancient treatise on performing arts compiled by Sage Bharatha in the second century B.C. The origin of Thitambu Nritham cannot be easily traced. Tulu Brahmins who had migrated to the North Malabar during Kolathiri might have introduced this dance from Karnataka where a form of "Nritham" called "Darsana Bali" was in vogue. Replicas are made of bamboo with which a beautiful frame with intricate designs is created. The priestly dancer, clad in the traditional style after performing the usual rituals, comes out of the sanctorum, and standing under the flag, holds aloft the replica weighing about 10 kg on his head and starts the divine dance. Another legend goes like this : A Namboothiri used to sit in meditation under a nux vomica tree [Botanical name : Stricnos nuxvomica; Mal. - "Kaanjiram"]. He had sores all over his body. The fruit that occasionally fell on his body gave him excruciating pain. In agony he cried out a curse : "Let this tree bear no fruit any longer". Even today the tree bears no fruit, though it has leaves. It is interesting that during the festival, the dancing Namboothiri priests place the idols of various gods in a small "Mandapam" under the tree. People pay obeisance to the deities here

Thidambu Nritham begins with "Kotti Urayikkal", drumming in different rhythm, which would persuade the performer and the viewer to an equal extent. The performer will dance with the rhythm holding the "Thidambu" on his head and will create a holy atmosphere. This unique ritual art form has undergone changes over the period of time. Even though the basic concepts of Thidamabu Nritham have not changed, slight change happened in its Thaalam, which has added more novelty and variety to this art. There is no scope for emotional expressions in this art. An exception is famous "Kootippiriyal" (parting of lord Krishna and Balarama) at Trichambaram. The occasion is very touching with thousands watching with tearful joy, Krishna and Balarama playing about wildly until the former runs after the milkman carrying milk, and the latter returns to his dwelling some distance away. There is a legend woven round the Thitambu Nritham of Thrichambaram. There was an ardent devotee of lord Krishna - a Namboothiri. He visited the temple everyday, seeking Krishna's blessings. Time flew. He grew old, so old that he couldnot walk up to the temple half a kilometer away. Inwardly crushed at his physical incapacity, he prayed : "Krishna, my dear, I cannot come to you; forgive me". Legend has it that, that night, lord Krishna ran up to him with his brother Balarama and danced along what is called "Pookkottu Nada" just in front of the Namboothiri's house. The wonder and delight of the Namboothiri can well be imagined. The famous festival at Trichambaram which goes on from 22nd Kumbham to 6th Meenam (middle March) is in celebration of that event. During the festival, the "Melsaanthis" of Trichambaram and Mazhoor (Balarama's temple) hold aloft the replicas of the two deities and dance to the scintillating rhythm of percussion instruments









Photos submitted by : Kodoth Rajan

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