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Namboothiri Contribution to Kathakali

The contribution of the Namboothiri community to the evolution, overall development and promotion of Kathakali dance-drama can never be over-stressed, They had an immense presence in the Kathakali canvas, be it in choreography, lyrics, acting, composing, singing, drumming and perhaps more importantly, in organizing and running of Kathakali troupes with "Kalaris" for training, or as just plain connoisseurs or serious critics. Here is an attempt to rediscover a few of the eminent Namboothiris, and their part in the contribution to this unique art form.



Belonging to Nedumpurakkal Kaplingaat Mana near Cheruthuthy, the place that later became famous for Kalaamandalam, his artistic talents, knowledge and enthusiasm were, in a large measure, responsible for transforming the evolving Kathakali style to the classical and beautiful form that we know today. There is a legend about this tenth century innovator of Kathakali which goes thus : His father had, in addition to his first Antharjanam wife, also married a Waarasyaar (woman of Waariyar community) from Desamangalam Waariyam. Both the wives became pregnant during the same period. The former suspecting that her husband may perhaps be loving the Waarasyaar more, used to consume the sacred ghee kept for the Waarasyaar, rather than her own. The Waariyar child grew up to be a Samskritham scholar, and Kaplingaad child, an excellent artiste.

He became proficient in acting, drumming and singing, but old-timers claim that he excelled more in singing. He was instrumental in the major revamping of the prevalent "Vettam" style and other aspects of the art form, to what came to be known as "Kaplingaadan Chitta" (style). The "Chutti" with "Arimbu", the "Chuttippoovu" on the nose and forehead for "Kathi" and "Thaadi" characters, "Kesabhaaram" and "Kireetam", are all his contributions or improvements. The "Thapas Aattam" in "Raavanodbhavam" is his version. The "Melappadam" before the actual start of the play is said to have been introduced by him. Nakrathundi's act is mainly his version. One cannot forget the contribution of this great Kathakali innovator in raising it to its present form of internationally acclaimed classical status.


He was the first Namboothiri Kathakali performer, quite well known in his time and came to be called "Baali Othikkan". His Illam is in Alathiyur near Thirunavaya, was born during the second half of the ninth century (ME) and is believed to have died around 935.

He began his training under one Sankaran Nair, the then "Aasaan" (teacher) in the Kathakali troupe of the Raja of Vettath, but only at the unusually late age of 25, while most artistes start at 12 or 13. Sankaran Nair was quite reluctant to train a Braahmanan, but gradually accepted the task after Chaangaliyod married his only niece, Ammini. His "Arangettam" was in the role of Sugreevan after three years of rigorous training. He contributed substantially to the development of the Vettam style of Kathakali from "Raamanaattam". His large size apparently gave the audience the feeling that he was really "Baali", and it is said that women swooned upon hearing his thunder-like "Alarcha" (roaring).

Baali Othikkan took over the responsibilities of Vettath Kathakali Yogam after his Aasaan Sankaran Nair's death.

* Add 825 to Malayalam Era year to get Christian Era.


He was the next prominent Namboothiri actor since Baali Othikkan. Born in 1021 (ME) in Ongallur near Pattambi, he started training only at age 30 or so under Krishna Panikkar and Appukuttan Bhagavathar. The late start did affect his performance to an extent ("Meyyu" or body control, especially), but he filled the stage as they say, being a large person and had a desirable stage presence and natural talent. His good-sized and expressive eyes made him particularly famous for certain parts like "Kamaladalam", "Kailaasodhaaranam", "Parvathy-Viraham", etc. in which facial expressions make a difference. His "Cholliyaattam" - dance steps set to the rhythm - was not the best, though. Pulacherry Narayanan died in 1070 (ME).


Like Pulaacerry, he was from Ongalloor. He was a talented Kathakali musician before he took up acting, getting trained under Krishna Panikkar. He performed mostly "Pacha" characters, and he seemed to himself prefer "Bheeman" in Kalyaana Sougandhikam. Though his "Vesham" or features were good, his "Cholliyaattam" (dance steps) was not. Nothing is known about him after he was ex-communicated as a result of "Smaarthavichaaram" (click) of 1080 ME.

He was the younger brother of the drummer Narayanan Namboodiri (vide no. 36). He was taught Kathakali Vesham first by Unniyaattil Gopalan Nair and then by Kesava Kurup, but did not become famous.


Born in Nilayangod of Chathanur in Ponnani Taluk in 1042 (ME), he first got trained for a couple of months under Moothedath Vasudevan Namboodiri, and for two years under Kunjikrishna Panikkar of the famous Kaavungal family in the nearby Thrissur. Soon he started enacting the important characters ("Aadyavasaanam"). Though he started learning only at age 26, it was his natural talent and inordinate interest that brought him to that stage. He started and managed a "Kathakali Yogam" during 1071 - 75 (ME). He was later the leading artiste in Melputhoor Namboodiri's "Kali Yogam". Thereafter, he used to perform in Illams when invited. After performing "Yaagam" (click) and becoming a "Somayaaji" in ME 1084, he quit the stage.

Although his training was only for a relatively short period, his talent, good face and large eyes pushed him to the forefront. His "Kathi", and especially "Keechakan" was the best. He died in ME 1110.


Thottam Matthathil Sankaran Namboothiri (Potti) of Thakazhi was born in 1055 (ME). Deeply interested in literature and the arts, especially in Kathakali, he brought Kesava Panikkar "Aasaan" (teacher) to his place at the age of 18 and started learning Kathakali. When the Aasaan had to leave after a year, Thottam went to Chambakkulam and continued studies under Sankara Pillai, and assisted by Kunjupilla Panikkar. After that he learned "Koodiyattam" (click) under Kochunarayana Chaakyaar. By then he became proficient to enact major characters ("Aadyavasaava Veshams).

His Braahminic background, handsome features, studies in dramatics ("Naatya Saasthram"), and able role transformation brought him to top levels. He left his famous feminine roles and became more popular "Pacha" and "Kathi" roles like Nalan ("Nalacharitham" 2nd day), Rugmaangadan, Bheeman ("Kalyana Sowgandhikam"), Duryodhanan ("Utharaaswayamvaram"), Keechakan, Raavanan, ("Raavana Vijayam"), Roudra Bheeman, Sundara Braahmanan, etc. Ekalochanam, Paarvathee-viraham, etc. were his favourites, but often prolonged them unnecessarily. He believed that actors should concentrate more on expressions, eyes and body stance ("Meyyu'), than on the dance ("Nrutham"), though his own Meyyu and Alarcha (roar) were not the best.

The famous dancer Udaya Sankar, a friend of world-renowned Anna Pavlova, came to Kerala in ME 1109 to learn Kathakali and chose Thottam as his "Guru", and later installed him as the chief instructor in his dance center at Almora in the foothills of the Himalayas. He died on stage in ME 1118 while enacting Dussaasana Vadham in the centre to an audience of nobles and royalties!


He is from Kandallur in Karthikappally Taluk and was Maankulam Kesavan Namboothiri's son. He got training from Keerikkat Karutha Sankara Pillai, and later from Kochu Pilla Panikkar and Kurichi Kunjan Panikkar. Meanwhile he got stage experience with Keerikkat Kochu Velu Pillai.

He combines innate talent, practice, and good facial and body features. His favourite "Pacha" characters are: Arjunan in "Kaalakeya Vadham", Bheeman in "Kalyaana Sougandhikam", Dakshan, Brihannala, Nalan, Baahukan, Rugmaangadan; "Kathi": Keechakan, Raavanan ("Raavana Vijayam"), Duryodhanan in "Utharaaswayamvaram" and Baanan. His specialities include Arjunan in "Santhaanagopalam", Krishnan in "Rugminee Swayamvaram", and "Doothu" and "Kachan".


Though a southerner by birth, he is considered in the Kathakali circles as a northerner since his major training was under Vaazhenkada Kunchu Nair. He was born on 16 Karkitakam 1090 (ME) in Cheruvally Illam of Aalapuramkara in Ernakulam district. Though his Kathakali initiation ("Kacha Kettal") was during his school days, his rigorous training was after he went and stayed in his mother's Illam ("Ammaath") of Perunthalakkaat in Kongad of Palakkad district, under Kunchu Nair. Pattikkaamthody Ravunni Menon had also taught him for a while, after which he was with Kalaamandalam and P V S Naatyasangham, Kottakkal. Though considered a prime ("Aadyavasaanam") actor, he mostly depicted the white-, and black-beard ("Vella Thaadi" and "Karutha Thaadi") characters and "Minukku Vesham". For a while he trained students at home. He was also a political worker for some time.


Kumbham 27, 1111, was when he was born in Punnayam of Perumbavoor. Although he began his Kathakali training in his native place, the bulk of his training was in Darpana Dance Academy of Ahmedabad, established by Mrinalini Sarabhai, under Kavungal Chathunni Panikkar, the chief trainer there. Simultaneously he was also getting stage experience in Darpana's Kathakali performances. He depicts major "Pacha" and "Kathi" characters and also "Minukku" such as Naaradan, Sudevan, etc. He is considered quite good.


Among those who are alive and performing today, Nelliyod is rated as the best "Thaadi" (bearded characters - red / black / white). Though of slightly smaller build, he is rated second only to the famous Nanu Nair in the recent history of the art. Born in 1940 in their ancestral home of Cheranellur of Ernakulam district as the son of Vishnu Namboodiri and Parvathy, the entire family had later moved to the Wandoor area in Malappuram district.

Study of the "Puraanams" and "Ithihaasams" in the early years, and keen interest in "Koothu", "Koodiyaattam", "Ottanthullal" and "Krishnanaattam" helped him over and above the rigorous training, to transform himself into the specific character which he plays. His red-bearded characters, such as "Simhika", "Nakrathundi" and "Soorpanakha" are all famous for such transformation, with small and subtle movements and expressions. In addition to "Thaadi", he is well known also for "Kuchelan" and "Aasaari".

His nine years of training covered all the standard characters, partly under Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair at Kottakkal, and partly in Kalaamandalam. He uses his Samskritham background ("Kaavyams") for an occasioned literary effort through translation of some Kaavyams. He is widely travelled both within the country and abroad, performing in about 25 countries (except China), and has won a large number of awards.


Born on 18 Kumbham 1119, he started his training under Kokkot Narayana Pillai. Later he had training under Vaikom Karunakaran, Chengannur Raman Pillai and finally under Kalaamandalam Krishnan Nair. He was known primarily for his female roles, though "Pacha" and Krishnan were also of his repertoire. He operates a training center in the name of Navarangam in his native Mayyanaad


There are some among the senior Kathakali artistes who may not be considered by many as very good looking, but who often make up in their classical performance. Kalaamandalam M P S, perhaps like the famous Kalaamandalam Padmanabhan Nair, is certainly one among them; and again like him, M P S is rated as one of the best teachers.

Born in Moothedath Pallisseri Illam near Wandoor in 1943, he was a student of Kathakali for 10 years in Kalaamandalam after passing the Pre-University course. He learned the basics from V P Ramakrishnan of Darpana (Mrinalini Sarabhai) fame and at Kalaamandalam from Gopi, Ramankutty Nair, and advanced studies under Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair. He then served there as faculty for 30 years, including as Principal from 1996 to 1998.

M P S has performed in the U K, Europe, U S, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc. and had been a visiting professor in California and Wisconsin Universities. He is now writing a book on Kathakali and organizing a Training centre at Cheruthuruthy. Leela is his wife, and they have three sons - Arun, Narayanan and Sankar.


Born in 1947 in Narippatta Mana of Karalmanna (Palakkad district) he started learning Kathakali only after successfully completing high school. His main "Aasaan" was Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair and his main fellow-student was Sadanam Krishnan Kutty. The Guru's Hanumaan and these students' Lavan and Kusan used to be a hit. He had received Central Government scholarship, junior fellowship and a State Government gold medal, while a student. He taught at Sadanam and Kalaamandalam, and later, in the School of Drama of University of Calicut.

He is in the forefront among Namboothiri Kathakali actors, though he may not be rated as a top artiste. His good facial features and Cholliyaattam, though the eyes are  small, shines better in characters in which "Aattam" dominates. He is at ease with "Vellathaadi" (white-beared), "Pacha", "Kathi" and "Minukku". He has travelled widely at home and abroad, in Italy, Poland, England, Finland, Qatar, Muscat and Dubai. His wife is Kodakkatt Kuthully Arya Devi, and daughters Rajitha and Girija have been learning dance, Kathakali and classical music.


Born on Medam 29 of 1130 (ME) to the late Divakaran (Kunchunny) Nambudiripad and the late Sreedevi Antharjanam (Chovvoor), he had schooled up to the tenth standard. He and his elder brother must have inherited the fine artistic talents of their father, who was a good drama and mono-actor. He joined the Gandhi Seva Sadanam of Perur (Palakkad district) in 1966, and got training mainly under Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair, and later under Balakrishnan and Ramankutty, both of Sadanam, and V P Ramakrishnan Nair (Darpana fame). He then joined the Kalaamandalam and got training from Gopi, Padmanabhan, Vazhenkada Vijayan, and M P S Namboodiri.

Later he specialised in "Thaadi" under Sadanam Krishnan Kutty and Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair and rose to become one among the best "Thaadi Veshams". Now he does most of the Thaadi and "Kari" characters, and some "Minukku" like Kuchelan, Naaradan, Braahmanan, etc. In addition to most Indian cities, he has also performed abroad in Italy, Poland, London, Paris, etc.

His wife (Kaipanchery) Usha is a school teacher, and they have a daughter Sreesha and a son Sreejesh who has learned "Thaayampaka".


Born to Puliyannoor (Tripunithura) Subrahmanian Nambudiripad and Umadevi Anthar- janam, and married married to Madhu Namboodiri of Pulloor Mana (Karikkaad, Manjeri), Haripriya who had completed her master's degree in science, B Ed and a course in fashion design, left her teaching career and fashion design institute, and learnt Kathakali first under R L V Damodara Pisharody, and then under FACT Padmanabhan and Kalaamandalam Vasu Pisharody.

She has staged over a hundred performances as a member of both Tripunithura Women's Kathakali troupe as also the Coimbatore Kathakali Club, and presented the "Kathakali Vettom" programme of Amritha TV.


Born to Sankaranarayanan Namboodiri and Devi of Kodanaatt Mana, Sreekrishnapuram (Palakkkad district) and brought up in Mumbai, Priya is a gifted Kathakali student who has been learing Kathakali for more than a decade under Kalaamandalam Gopalakrishnan. She started her training from a tender age and had her Arangettam at the Guruvayur temple. She participated in numerous Kathakali performances both in Kerala and Mumbai along with her Guru and other renowned artists. She has proved her talent by enacting a variety of roles including "Pacha", "Kathi", "Vellathaadi" and "Minukku".

She has participated twice and won first and second prizes at the K K Raja Memorial Cholliyaattam Competitions held at Tripunithura. She has participated in the Shivali Young Dancers Festival in 1998. She also had the very fine opportunity of presenting the Kathakali style in a unique venture "Ashtanaayika" presented by the Nehru Centre, Mumbai in 1999. The presentation covered all the classical dance forms of India.



Chuduvaalathoor Moothedath Illam, a kilometer east of Shoranur railway station, was traditionally a leading Sanghakkali (click) family, and had the "Vaakyaavruthy" of the Palakkad Chathira Sangham. However, during the eleventh century ME, there were at least three Kathakali artistes, two singers and a Chenda drummer, spread over three generations, and beginning with Ittiravi Namboodiri.


Born as the eldest of five children of Moothedath Vasudevan Namboodiri and his second wife from Perinthalakkaat, in ME 984, after the usual studies in Sanskrit, Ittiravi (colloquially Itteeri) learned classical and Kathakali music under his elder and step brother, Narayanan (of his father's first marriage from Moothakorambu) who had studied classical music from Thiruvananthapuram during Swathy Thirunaal's period. Soon he became proficient as a "Ponnani" (prime singer).

The Kadathanaatt chief (Thampuran), recognizing that Ittiravi was the only musician fully versed in the Kaplingaadan style employed him in his new "Yogam" (troupe). His deep voice caused his singing to be heard over a long distance. His lovable character made him a favourite of everyone, and especially of Kathakali performers.

While there he developed a skin disease, which did not improve in spite of treatment. But he recovered fully after two years of deep devotion and worship of Sivan at Chuduvaalathoor combined with regular "Soorya Namaskaaram". Thereafter, he returned to Kadathanaatt Kali Yogam, but left it when the Thampuraan died (1022 ME).

Itteeri had won awards at Kadathanaatt, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. He is said to have had a deep and clear voice.

He wrote two "Aattakkatthaas" - "Parasuraama Vijayam" and "Daarika Vadham", a musical drama "Savithree Charitham", and a "Pathinaalu Vritham" "Santhaana Gopaalam". His musical tradition was continued by his son Vasudevan from his second marriage, but not by his four younger brothers. Itteeri died in his 99th year in the Karkitakam of ME 1083.


Next to famous Idamana Sambhu Embranthiri, North Malabar boasted of Kundunkara Parameswaran Namboodiri, popularly known as Kundunkara Bhaagavathar. He was a Namboothiri from Cherupazhassi near Kuttyaattoor. Cherukunnu Kumaran Nair was his son and "Sishyan" (disciple).


He was Ittiravi's step-brother (and teacher) Narayanan's eldest son who, after the usual Sanskrit and other basic education, leaned Kathakali music under Ittiravi, and became famous at an early age. He was also active socially, was well liked by the local community, and so his family prospered. He taught Kathakali music to many in true Gurukulam style, but the prominent among them were Vellinezhi Ramankutty Bhaagavathar and Mundaaya Venkitakrishna Bhaagavathar.

Knowledge of "Sruthi", perfection of rhythm ("Thaalam"), excellent voice control even at high pitch and clarity of diction were his strong points. Like his teacher and uncle Ittiravi, he too followed the Sopaanam style. But he used to introduce his own innovations, being knowledgeable in music, as he was in all aspects of Kathakali.

Since he had to look after the management of the family and properties, he did not join any Yogam nor travel much. For a while he had his own troupe, which staged performances in Chuduvaalathoor and nearby localities. Vasudevan Namboodiri died in ME 1094.


Vasudevan Namboodiri, popularly known as Apphan Namboodiri was born in 1038 ME in Thaamarakkulam Illam of Thaazhakkad in Kozhikode district. He was trained by Pozhaayi Chathu Nair and was his "Singidi" in Manniledath Yogam. Later he became a Ponnani singer in Kaaramvelli Kurup and other Yogams. He was blessed with a voice ("Saareeram") and ability to manage Cholliyaattam. Unlike many South Malabar singers who had begun to introduce local styles, he consciously kept out of it.


Among the disciples of one famous Maanu Bhaagavathar of Kavassery were two notables - Pattaazhi Apphan Namboodiri and Erathu Panku Nair. Maanu Bhaagavathar himself had contributed much to the development of Kathakali music. Pattaazhi Apphan Namboodiri was with the Purayannur Mana Yogam in 1071 ME, with Kombi Achan's Yogam in 1073, but stayed much longer with Mappat Mana Yogam.


The Illam was in Perigod of Ponnani Taluk. During his stay at Thrissur with his uncle, Vidwaan Apphan Namboodiri, for studying Sanskrit, and the "Saasthrams", the Vidwaan found out to his dismay that the young student was more interested in music than in the Saasthrams. Later, the Vidwaan, who was himself also a musician, and prompted by his musician wife Kaavamma of Raamanchi Madham, taught Vasudevan music and helped in refining his rendering of Kathakali Padams, which he had begun to sing by just listening to others out of his latent talent. Vasudevan Namboodiri then completed his music training at Moothedath.

Kurunkaad's major exposure occurred when he was with the Poomulli Mana Yogam, and occasionally in Kolazhi Subrahmanya Iyer's "Kali Vattam". His last performance was in the 4-day Kathakali festival at Kavalappara Kottaaram in Thulam month of 1083 ME, acclaimed as one of his best performances. The Kavalappara Chief presented him with four "Putavas" (shawl) and forty rupees.

Soon after his return from the monthly visit to Guruvayur in Makaram the same year, he contracted smallpox and died a few days later. He was lean, fair and handsome, and his music was pleasing to listen to. He was an excellent "Singidi" (assitant) singer, but did not have the extra-attributes necessary to become a "Ponnani" (lead) singer. Vasudevan Namboodiri had married twice, the first in 1060 and then in 1078 ME.

24. THIRUTHI NAMBOODIRI (ME 1051 - 1116)

Hailing from Chettupuzha near Thrissur, Thiruthi Namboodiri (name not known) was somewhat famous as a singer in the erstwhile Valluvanaad Thaluk and Cochin State. His music teachers were Pattaazhi Apphan Namboodiri and Thiruvilwamala Appukkuttan Bhaagavathar. He was a member of the Purayannoor and Nedumpalli Kali Yogams and in Kolazhi Subrahmanya Iyer's Kali Vattam. He died at age 65 in Dhanu of 1116 ME.


Though not among the top Kathakali musicians, he was quite popular. Hailing from Valiyoonnu near Kuttippuram, he got trained under Pattaazhi Apphan Namboodiri. Narayanan Namboodiri died at age 78 in Medam of 1130 ME.


Perunthalakkaatt Kesavan Namboodiri belongs to an earlier generation (1885/86 to Dec 12, 1958), about the time of Venkitakrishna Bhaagavathar, and almost equally capable, though a notch below him in voice quality. He was thoroughly knowledgeable in the stage proceedings. He was ever ready to sing all night if needed. His diction was excellent, and had a natural talent for rendering according to the nature of the character or stage - Pacha, Kathi, major, junior, etc.

His Illam is in Kongad in Palakkad district. He schooled in Ottapalam and Palakkad and completed the tenth standard. He started off as a "Panenkali" or "Sanghakkali" performer, and learned Kathakali acting from one Appunni Poduval who hailed from the same place. He used to enact both male and female roles, and his "Lalitha" and "Sairandhri" were considered very good. When his normally fair, tall and well-built body became lean, he stopped acting and took to singing. He had inherited his musical talent from his mother, and had already memorised most of the stories, but became a good musician as a result of singing several times with Vellinezhi Ramankutty Bhaagavathar and Pattaazhi Aphhan Namboodiri. He served as a Bhaagavathar in the Olappamanna and Nedumpally "Kali Yogams".

His parents were Perunthalakkaatt Sreedharan Namboodiri and Umadevi Antharjanam, and his wife, Velappurath Kuttimalu Amma, but had no issues. He was instrumental in starting a Lower Primary School in his village, and served as its Head Master.

He was the son of Ittiravi from his second marriage in 1060 ME. He kept up the music tradition established by his father. Other than that, not much is known about him.


Thaamarakkulam Narayanan Namboodiri born in 1063 got trained by his uncle Apphan Namboodiri as early as age 20. He got stage practice as "Singidi" to his uncle in the Yogams of Kaaramvally and Koothali. Then he became "Ponnani" singer in the Yogams of Kodoth, Koranaathu Achyutha Menon, C C Kunhiraman Nambiar, Muthassara, Mallissery, Kaaramvally, Vaaranakkot and Vengayil, and then for ten years in Parassinikkadavu Yogam. He retired around 1126 ME.


Hailing from the Kathakali land of Vellinezhi, he got trained under Kunchu Panikkar in Edamana Kali Yogam, while serving as "Santhi" in Chethallur temple. Thereafter he became a "Singidi" to Ramankutty Bhaagavathar in the Olappamanna Kali Yogam. Apart from natural talent, he had a good voice too. He died in 1116 ME in his fifty first year.


Parameswaran Namboothiri was born in 1937 in Kuncharakkaatt Mana of Poovakkulam village near Koothattukulam in Kottayam district. After completing primary education, he learned the basics of art (drawing/painting) under G Krishna Warier and Kurichithanam Sankaran Namboothiri. At the same time he learned music under Chembil Chinnappa Bhaagavathar. He learned more Karnatic music under Olappamanna Vasudevan Nambudiripad, a favourite disciple of the renowned Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhaagavathar. Meanwhile, he got trained also in photography under Easwara Kurup.

Then he joined the P S V Naatyasangham of Kottakkal and got trained in Kathakali music under the famous Vasu Nedungadi. Within six months he had his first stage performance ("Arangettam"). In 1968, he joined the Naatyasangham as a music teacher. He taught music to his younger brother P D Namboothiri, Narayanan, Pradeep, Madhu, etc.

Even during his busy life as a Kathakali musician, he kept nursing his artistic talents. He was capable of awakening the sleepy audience, but he did not achieve much fame, nor did he seek popularity; many did not know him. Even after retirement, he continued his stage performances. Presently he is pursuing his other interests of agriculture, handicrafts and art.

His family consists of his wife Santha Antharjanam, daughter Jayasree (herself a musician) and a son Jayesh who had been seriously injured in a car accident. Parameswaran Namboothiri had received the Irinjalakuda K N Pisharody Memorial Kathakali Club Award and a Gold Medal from the Ramapuram Sreeramaswamy Temple, but none from the Government.


Born in 1943, of Sankaran Namboodiri who was a music connoisseur and Aksharaslokam (click) exponent, and Sreedevi Antharjanam, in Maatambi Mana of Sreekrishnapuram in Palakkad district, Subrahmanian Namboodiri studied up to seventh standard before taking up music. He was trained in the basics of Karnatic music by Poomulli Raman Nambudiripad and Kalaamandalam Ramankutty Varier and in the Kathakali music by Kalaamandalam Neelakandhan Nambeesan, Sivaraman Nair and Kavungal Madhava Panikkar.

He served on the music faculty of Kalaamandalam during the three decades of 1968 to 1998, and is now settled in Cheruthuruthy. Apart from his memory, good sense of rhythm, decent diction and open voice, he is one of the best stage managers, after the late Kalaamandalam Nambeesan. He has travelled with the Kalaamandalam troupe throughout India, as well as Europe and the USA.

After two sons Sasi and Narayanan were born, his first wife Parvathy died, and after two years, he married his second wife Arya Devi of Koodathinkal Illam near Piravam in Ernakulam district, and they have a daughter Sangeetha.

32. VENMANI HARIDAS ( ME 1122 - 1181)

He was born in 1122 (ME) in Venmani Mana in Vellarappilly (Ernakulam district) with Narayanan Nambudiripad as father and Devasena as mother. At age 13 he joined Kalaamandalam and got trained under Neelakandhan Nambeesan and others, and had some training in Karnatic music too. He possesses most of the qualities necessary for a musician, and performs well in both music-dominated and dance-dominated ("Cholliyaattam") stories.

Since 1976 he has been teaching music in "Margi", Thiruvananthapuram. Sarath and Harith are his sons. Sarath has been acting in TV serials. Haridas died in 2005.


The very fact that Paalanaad Divakaran Namboodiri was the top disciple of the inimitable Unnikrishna Kurup, puts him in a high place among Kathakali musicians. He had earlier obtained a firm footing both in the classical Karnatic music and in Sanskrit language, which helped him to rise to such levels. He shines well in the music dominant stories like "Nalacharitham" and "Kuchelavritham".

Born in 1953, he has a degree and training in Sanskrit, and teaches in Pulamanthol Higher Secondary School. In addition to most places in India, he has toured to London, Dubai, Honkong, etc.

His wife Sudha from Ezhikode Mana also had music training, and their children Deepa and Sudeep are also learning Karnatic and Kathakali music.


Gireesan belongs to Maravanchery Mana of Arangottukara (Thrissur district). He was born to Maravanchery Thekkedath Sankaranarayanan Namboothiripad alias "Maravanchery Vallyettan", who acted in Mayalayam films namely Suhruthu, Nidhi, Aswatthaamavu and Nokkukuthi, apart from several stage plays including Adukkalayil Ninnu Arangathekku. After SSLC he did Kathakali Sangeetham (music) Diploma and graduation with Central Government Scholarship for 10 years in Kerala Kalaamandalam. He studied Carnatic music under Poomulli Raman Nambudiripad, and later under Kalaamandalam Kodandarama Iyer; Kathakali music under Kalaamandalam Unnikrishna Kurup, Kalaamandalam Gangadharan, Madambi Subrahmanian Namboodiri and Kalaamandalam Rama Varier.

He received various awards even while a student, and has been AIR and Dooradarsan guest artist for the last several years. He has also sung in several published cassettes, and as team member of Kanaka Rele Troupe, visited USSR, North Korea, Singapore and Honkong. Presently he is working as music teacher and accompanist in Nalanda Nrithya Kala Mahaa Vidyalaaya affiliated to University of Mumbai. He is the accompanying singer of Mohiniyaattam.

35. ATHIPPATTA RAVI (b. 1971)

Born to Krishnan Namboodiri and Umadevi Antharjanam in 1971 (September 26) in Athippatta Mana, Vellinezhi (Palakkad district), the home ground of Kathakali. His early music training was under Vellinezhi Subrahmania Bhaagavathar, and Kathakali music training under Kalaamandalam Unnikrishna Kurup, and became State First in "Yuvajanotsavam" (youth festival) in 1986. After Kurup's death, he continued his training under Paalanaad Divakaran, and had his first stage performance in 1990, in Vellinezhi Kaanthalloor temple. He got trained also under Kalaamandalam Sreekumaran.

Ravi holds a D Pharm, B A and B Ed, and teaches Malayalam in Kundoorkunnu High School. His wife is Sheena of Myaalpaazhoor Mana.




He was the younger brother of "Vidwaan Kurunkaad". Before he became a Kathakali drummer (Chenda), he had already become a famous "Thaayambaka" drummer, next only to Malammekkaavil Govinda Marar. The story goes that in an annual "Utsavam" Thaayambaka at Poomulli Mana, Marar for the first time performed the "Panchaari Kooru" with tremendous applause, followed by relatively lack-lustre performance by Kurunkaad. But during the rehearsals the next year, Krishnan Namboodiri hid himself in the back yard of Marar's house for three nights and surreptitiously learned the sequences and nuances of Panchaari Kooru from Marar. That year he performed excellently and even introduced his own innovations, much to the delight of the audience and sincere praise from Marar himself! Once he switched to Kathakali, he seldom performed Thaayambaka.

During that period, he was the number one in "Kali Kottu". Deafness during his middle age did not adversely affect his performance; he was the best in coordinating the drumming with the hand and foot movements of the actors, especially for the "Thapas" of Ravanan. The present drumming style for the "Thira Nokku" (curtain raiser) of "Kathi" is said to have been developed by him. He was the main "Chenda" drummer in the "Yogams" of Mappaatt, Poomulli and Kombi Achan. He was also an expert Kathakali costume ("Koppu") maker. He died in 1053 ME.


He was the eldest son of Vasudevan Namboodiri, the Kathakali musician, but took up Chenda drumming and became a proficient in it at a young age. He learned it from his father. Though an excellent drummer, he performed only in his own and the neighbouring Illams.

But he had many students, some of whom became very famous. Among them were the inimitable Kuttan Marar, Kelu Nedungadi, Thiyyadi Nambiar and Kinaayath Sankaran Nair. Narayanan outlived them and died on Edavam 4, 1132 (ME).


Born in Kanni of 1064 ME in Moothamana Illam in Thalappilly Thaluk of the then Cochin State, he started his Chenda training at age seven under Sankaran Nambeesan of the same area. Then at age 15 he joined the Kali Yogam of Naaykaali Kunjiraman Nambeesan and became quite well known at a very young age. It was the north Travancore connoisseurs who recognized his talents while he was with the Yogams of Ezhikkara Edapparathu Panikkar and Kottully Sankara Pillai. After returning to his native place, he became the main drummer in the Yogams of Manjeri, Kavalappara, Punnathur and Manakkulam, in the Kali groups of several prompters and the Kali Vattams of C C Appukutty Nambiar and Sankaran Thampan.

Moothamana is rated among the top Chenda drummers after Kuttan Marar's time. Being humble, he was liked by all. His popularity and performance were not affected even after he became somewhat weak since 1120. His drumming had a musical quality. Severe diabetes took his life on Dhanu 1, 1131. His elder brother Sankaran Namboodiri was a "Saasthraangam" performer, but could play on Chenda and Maddalam, though he did not become popular in Kathakali.


Madhavan Namboothiri and Vishnu Namboothiri are popularly known as Vaaranaasi Brothers among the Kathakali-lovers of Kerala. The former is an exponent of "Chenda" and the latter, of "Maddalam". Both are sons of Narayanan Namboothiri and Droupathy Antharjanam of Vaaranaasi Illam in Mavelikkara.


Born on 28 August 1931, he took a B A degree from S B College Changanassery in 1957. His first teacher in "Chenda" was Ariyannoor Narayanan Namboothiri. He continued practising Chenda along with Kalaamandalam Krishnan Kutty Poduval in Sreekulam Kalaasamithi of C B Pandaarathil. Later he joined as a teacher in Kerala Kalaamandalam and was promoted as Head of the Department of "Chenda". He had 45 years of stage experience to his credit. He received a gold medal and several awards, and was also a First Grade Artiste of All India Radio and Dooradarsan. He had performed in France, UK and the US.

He has a son Narayanan who teaches in Kalaamandalam and a grandson, Madhu who is also a Kathakali artiste and Kathakali story writer. Madhavan Namboothiri passed away on 25-5-2002.


He began his training in "Chenda" the New Year day (January 1) of 1960 under Aayamkudy Kuttappan Marar, which continued for five years. His inaugural performance ("Arangettam") was a "Thaayambaka" at Kumaranelloor temple in December 1961.

Since 1963, he started taking part as a drummer in Kathakali performances, and was with Kalaamandalam for a year in 1972-73. There, under the supervision of the famous Krishnan Kutty Poduval, he got trained by Pallassana Chandra Mannadiyar and Achunny Poduval. He has participated in performances all over the country. He has received several awards from various clubs and organizations. He teaches in Kalaakendrams at Kutamaloor and Amayannoor, and serves as the President of the Saasthreeya Kalaa Vidyaalayam at Amayannoor.

Born in 1948 (August 24) to Vasudevan Namboothiry and Parvathy Antharjanam (Edanaatt Illam) he married Sreedevi (Mangaatt Illam, Onamthuruthu) in 1970. They have two sons, Manoj who is a college teacher, poet and a Chenda performer, and Vinod who works in a publication office.


Krishnan Namboothiri was born on January 20, 1951, as the son of the famous Kathakali actor Maankulam Vishnu Namboothiri. At the age of 12 he got Chenda training under Vaarnaasi Madhavan Namboothiri. He continued his school and college education, took an M Sc degree and serves in Zoology department in S D College, Alappuzha. He has enough stage experience when Madhavan Namboothiri used to take Krishnan with him for Kathakali performances. He recently received the Kottarakkara award of the Kollam Kathakali club. He can be considered as one among the top Kathakali Chenda performers.


He belongs to Vaarappatti of Kothamangalam, born on Chingam 24, 1127 ME. During his high school days, he began his training on Chenda drumming under the Thaayambaka exponent Kaanjirangaat Sankunny Marar. There after he joined Kalaamandalam and was trained under Appunny Poduval and Chandra Mannadiar. He is presently a Chenda instructor in "Margi" Kathakali Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.



Born on 22 January 1937. Along with high school education, he started learning "Maddalam" under Karuvatta Kumara Panicker, and higher studies under Vennimala Rama Varier. He had his "Arangettam" at Mannur Mattham Kottaram Siva Temple in 1955. Later he continued training under eminent teachers like Kadavallur Sankunny Nair, Chalakkudy Narayanan Nambeesan, Kadavallur Aravindakshan, Kalaamandalam Appukutty Poduval, Kalaamandalam Nambeesankutty and Kalaamandalam Narayanan Nair.

Vishnu Namboothiri has presented "Maddalam" concert along with his elder brother, Madhavaan Namboothiri on "Maddalam" in different parts of India. He has also been recognized through awards. He has been performing for the past 40 years and had shared the stage with leading artistes like Maankulam Vishnu Namboothiri, Kalaamandalam Krishnan Nair, Guru Chengannur Raman Pillai, and Kudamaloor Karunakaran Nair.

Vaaranaasi brothers could give a new life to the Kathakali "Melam", especially in the southern parts of Kerala and spread the northern style there.



Satheesan, the elder brother of Gireesan (vide No. 34), also hails from the Maravanchery Mana of Arangottukara (Thrissur district). He was born to Maravanchery Thekkedath Sankaranarayanan Namboothiripad alias "Maravanchery Vallyettan", who acted in Mayalayam films namely Suhruthu, Nidhi, Aswatthaamavu and Nokkukuthi, apart from several stage plays including Adukkalayil Ninnu Arangathekku. He is a "Chutty" (make-up) teacher. After SSLC, he did Chutty Diploma and graduation with Central Government Scholarship for 5 years in Kerala Kalaamandalam. As the team member of several Kathakali troupes, he visited many European countries including France, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, and Asian countries including Honkong. He has been doing Chutty profession for Kathakali in Kerala and other parts of India for the last 18 years. He did Chutty for Mohanlal in his famous Kathakali-based film "Vaanaprasthham".

| Article No:21.3 | Last update of this article:5th July 2008 |
Article by : 1. K P C Narayanan Bhattathiripad, Padinjaredath Mana, Peruvanam, Cherpu - 680 561, Thrissur dist.
Phone : 0487-2348109

2. K D Nambudripad, Koodallur Mana, M 10/12, Malaparamba Housing Colony, Kozhikode - 673 009. Phone : 0495-2371333

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