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Kathakali Yogams

Around 23 Kathakali Yogams have been identified as having been established by Namboothiri families, most of them cited in the excellent book "Kathakali Rangam" by K P S Menon. These are first listed here and then further discussed briefly. However, no details could be obtained about Desamangalam, Nalloothanchery and Nilayangod Yogams.
1.  Olappamanna
2.  Mappaat
3.  Purayannur
4.  Edamana
5.  Mudappilaappally
6.  Pulloor
7.  Poomully
8.  Chennaas
9.  Nedumpally
10. Mallissery
11. Vaaranakkott
12. Mullappilly
13. Vaadhyaan
14. Koodalloor
15. Valiyamana
16. Maranaatt
17. Poonkudil
18. Thaazhakkaatt
19. Valloor
20. Chiramangalath
21. Kiraangaatt
22. Desamangalam
23. Nalloothanchery
24. Nilayangod


Olappamanna Mana of Vellinezhi in erstwhile Valluvanaad Thaluk was a major feudal landlord of the time, and an "Ashtagrihathil Aadhyan". During the second half of the tenth century (ME) there were two Apphan Nambudiripads who were instrumental in establishing a Kathakali Yogam. This was perhaps one of the early and long-lasting training centres that had contributed much to the development of this unique art form.

The social, family and financial circumstances of the times also favoured the running of the Yogam by Valiya Apphan (Vasudevan, 982 - 1056 ME) and Cheriya Apphan (Chithrabhanu, 984 - 1063 ME) Nambudiripads. The top trainer of the period, Sanku Panikkar was brought from Palakkad to train the seven selected students, assisted by Cholayil Krishnankutty Bhaagavathar, who left after four months and was replaced by Karumanassery Krishnankutty Bhaagavathar. Training began in 1018 with Unneeri Menon and Ittiraricha Menon of Kalluvazhi, Kollengattil Achyutha Menon of Mannur, Pallath Achyutha Menon of Cherayi and Thekkumparambath Govinda Panikkar of Kuruvattoor as students. Ittiraricha Menon's exceptional talent and attractiveness were recognized, nurtured and promoted by both Apphans.

By 1030, the fame of the Yogam spread throughout Kerala. When Sanku Panikkar left, Unneeri Menon replaced him as trainer, and when he left in 1032, Ittiraricha Menon became the trainer. Arimboor Raman Menon was among the new students. In 1035, Cheriya Apphan Nambudiripad started a separate Yogam at their place in Ezhakkattiri with a new set of costumes and Kollengattil Achyutha Menon as trainer. The trainees included Itteenaan, Chathu and the famous "Thaadi" Kuttirama Menon. Pallath Menon and Chembolly Krishna Panikkar were also in this Yogam. The death of Cheriya Apphan in 1063 was also the end of that Yogam. But the Vellinezhi Yogam continued even after the death of Valiya Appan in 1056.

The youngest of their elder brother's five sons, Chithrabhanu (Anujan) continued to manage the Yogam. He could sing and play "Chenda". It was under his initiative that the great Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon got trained there. After his death in 1068, his eldest brother Vasudevan Nambudiripad's eldest son Narayanan (Kunjunny) Nambudiripad looked after the Yogam. He was not only a Vedams and Saasthrams scholar, but also an exponent of music, Naatyasaasthram and especially Kathakali. It was during those periods that Olappamanna Mana reached its pinnacle of wealth and nobility.

In the Yogam, Kalluvazhy Kunjan Pisharody and his student Kunjan Nair, followed later by Vellinezhy Ramankutty Bhaagavathar, handled music. The drums were played by Vellinezhy people, and on special occasions Kurunkaad, Kaanthenkaavu, Chittan, etc. Theekkulath Sanku Nair, Aalath Achyuthan Nair, Kallankandath Krishna Panikkar, Othenathu Raman Nair, etc. had already started their training even in Valiya Apphan Nambudiripad's time. Olappamanna Yogam used to invite and felicitate the great artistes of the time, including Nalanunni, Easwara Pillai Vichaarippukaar, Kesava Kurup, Kandoth Krishnan Nair, etc.

The training came to an end in 1080 on the death of Kunjunny Nambudiripad, but the artistes continued to be supported at the time of the scholarly and pious Neelakandhan (Kunchu) Nambudiripad. But this slowed down after 1085 when Parameswaran Nambudiripad died and Kunchu Nambudiripad had to manage the family affairs. When he also died in 1111, the great Olappamanna Kali Yogam, which had contributed so much to this unique art form for almost a century (1018 - 1111), though effectively for 62 years till 1080, had to be wound up.

Kunjunny Nambudiripad's eldest son Vasudevan Nambudiripad was both a scholar and a Kathakali connoisseur, and had written an Attakkathha "Dhruvacharitham", which was staged in the Mana. In 1084 his efforts to revive the Yogam failed. The Mana had two full sets of costumes. Pattikkamthodi Ravunny Menon continued to sincerely be loyal to the Mana for making him what he became, and the members of the Mana continued their support to the end.


The Mappaat Mana is in Munnoorkod of erstwhile Valluvanaad Thaluk in Palakkad district. In ME 1050, one Parameswaran Nambudiripad (d.1073) acquired a costume set and started a Kali Yogam headed by Unneeri Menon, and off and on with Ittiraricha Menon, Chembolly, Thekkumpurath and Pallath, and Mannur Krishnankutty Bhaagavathar for music, Kalluvazhi Sankaran Nambeesan for Maddalam and Kurunkaad for Chenda. Kandappa Kurup had his training there. This Yogam1 continued till 1056, but there were four Kali Vattams2 thereafter.

His second son Sreekumaran Nambudiripad, himself a Maddalam drummer, had a Kali Vattam during 1058 - 59 with Theekkulath Sanku Nair, Kallankandath Krishna Panikkar, Korambi Rama Panikkar, etc., Gopalakrishna Bhaagavathar for Ponnani, and the early drummers continued. In 1060, his elder brother, another Parameswaran Nambudiripad had a Vattam with Kandappa Kurup, Arimbur Raman Menon, Kongad Raman Nair (female roles), Kuttirama Panikkar (Thaadi), etc., and Kavassery Maanu Bhaagavaathar for music, Angadippuram Sekhara Panikkar for Maddalam and Munnoorkkod Vythu Pattar for Chenda.

Then in 1075, his younger brother Sreekumaran Nambudiripad (jr.) conducted a Vattam with the same Kandappa Kurup, Kodenkurussy, Kolapparabmbil Kitta Panikkar, and Killikurissimangalam Madhavan Nair (female roles), with Pattaazhi Apphan Namboodiri for music, Thiruvilwamala Krishnan Nair for Maddalam and Kelu Nedungadi for Chenda. This Sreekumaran Nambudiripad who was highly knowledgeable in Kathakali, died in 1116.


Chithrabhanu (Kunjikkavu) Nambudiripad the fourth in the line of Purayannur (Illam in Kulukkallur in Palakkad district) made arrangements in 1070 to start a Yogam in Cherumundasseri where they had a place in which he had taken up permanent residence. In addition to being a Kathakali enthusiast, he was an expert on elephants and oxen as well as getting physical with hands ("Kayyadi" and "Kayyaankali"). The Yogam was actually established in 1071 with Nalloor Kunchu Panikkar as the chief trainer and performer. The group included Konthu Panikkar, Kuttirama Panikkar (Thaadi), Pattakkal Raman Nair of Cherumundasseri (female roles), Pattaazhi Apphan Namboodiri, Kurunkaad and Thiruthi Namboodiri for music, Madhavan Nair (Maddalam) and Aalikkal Govindan Nair (Chenda). Kadambur Gopalan Nair and Kunchunni Panikkar had their initial training there. After a year, the costume set was given to Edamana who ran a Yogam for 18 years. Chithrabhanu Nambudiripad died in 1083.


Edamana of erstwhile Valluvanaad Thaluk had initiated the training of five or six students for Kathakali in 1069 under Othenath Raman Nair. In 1072, they bought the Purayannur costume set, brought in top level artistes and ran a first class Yogam. Ittraricha Menon and Thekkumburath were in it for the first two years. The famous Pattikkanthodi and Koppan ("Aasaari" fame) had got some rich experience there doing medium level roles. Ottapalam Subrahmania Bhaagavathar was the Ponnani with his own student Kunchu Panikkar as his Singidi in music. The great Maddalam drummer Venkicha Swamy was a member of the Yogam during the first four years.

After Othenath Raman Nair's death, Kodenkurussi Sankunny Menon became the head trainer and also brought in Kunchu Kurup. No real greats came out of this "Kalari" (training centre). Sankunny Varier became a good musician and Vaazhankandathil Kuttikrishna Varier a Maddalam drummer. Kizhakkathil Krishna Panikkar (Moothaan) and Paarakkaat Raman Nair became mid-level performers. In 1080, Edamana Kali Yogam was operated by Karippattu Narayanan Mooss, in which Kandappa Kurup, Kunchu Kurup, Wandoor Krishnan Nair and Venkitakrishna Bhaagavathar were members.


This Mana is in Mankada Pallippuram of Valluvanaad Thaluk. One Jathavedan (Chaathappan) Nambudiripad who was scholarly capable, popular and a Kathakali enthusiast, arranged for Kandappa Kurup to train several students in 1067 and conducted their stage initiation ("Arangettam") in 1068. Olappamanna costume was used in the Yogam, the two Manas being on friendly terms. The Yogam continued for three years after Chaathappan's death in 1092, i.e., till 1095, and occasionally therafter, till 1101. Ittiraricha Menon, Othenath Raman Nair, Kandappa Kurup, Itteenaan Panikkar, Thekkumparambath Govinda Panikkar and Wandoor Krishnan Nair (female roles), and for music, Gopalakrishna Bhaagavathar, Kanna Kurup, Themmadathil Appu Menon, Erathu Panku Nair, Vellinezhi Ramankutty Bhaagavathar, etc. were all in the Yogam at one time or another. During 1068, the later greats like Ramunni Menon, Koppan Nair, Malakaattil Sankunny Nair and Thekkinkaad were junior artistes. Chempaarakkal Krishnan Nair, a favourite of Chaathappan, Sankaran Nair, Thekkinkaattil Ramunni Nair and Velu Komaram were in the Yogam during the 1093 - 95 period.


Pulloor Kuttaanikkaad, also known as Cheraankunnu, is in Elankoor of Eranad Thaluk, around 6 kM east of Manjeri. It was one Madhavan Namboodiri who established the Kali Yogam in 1068, with Kallankandath Madhavan Nair as the chief trainer, and the Arangettam of the students was a year later in 1069. They introduced a novel idea of training curtain operators ("Thiraseela") too. They also made a prayer song invoking Subrahmania Swamy of Karikkaad temple their "Graama Kshethram". The Yogam continued till 1071, during which period, after the death of Madhavan Nair, Krishna Panikkar became the lead trainer. Though many artistes came out of the Yogam, the two famous ones were Cherupaarakkal Krishnan Nair and Vadakkethil Sankaran Nair. The Yogam was functional again during 1082 and 1083.


Poomully Mana is situated in Peringod, about 3 kK from Koottanad in Palakkad district. This very rich family had, at one time two members very keenly interested in Kathakali, the "sixth Thampuraan" Sankaran Nambudiripad and the ninth - Thuppan (Subrahmanian) Nambudiripad, who in 1063 ME started a Yogam. They decided that to their Yogam must have an actor equally or better than Ittiraricha Menon, at that time arguably the best at least in South Malabar. Azhakunkumaarath Madhavan Nair of Kuthanur met these expectations, and later came to be known as Poomully Madhavan.

Though the troupe used to stay at Poomully Mana, the Yogam did not undertake training. The death of Madhavan Nair in 1065 broke Aaraam Thampuraan's heart, and the Yogam was wound up. But the Poomully people used to encourage and felicitate the other Yogams when they came there. The second and the stronger Yogam at Poomully were during the Pattikkaamthodi period.

In 1076, the 6th and 8th Thampuraans restarted a Yogam and training Kalari. The idea was to encourage local talents. Konthunny Panikkar assisted by Govinda Pisharody trained five boys, of which Govindan Nair and Sankunny Nair later became top artistes. Wanting the best for music and drums, they brought in Gopalakrishna Bhaagavathar, Kanna Kurup, Kurunkaad Vasudevan Namboodiri, Venkichan Swamy and Kaanthenkavil Nanu Menon. Since Kulankara Kunjikrishnan Nair was their favourite, he participated in most of the Yogam performances.

During the Malabar tour of Ayyappa Kurup's Yogam, with several stagings at Poomully, Thiruvalla Kunjupilla impressed them so much that he stayed there for months during 1079 and 1080, and trained and perfected Sankunny Nair's "Lalitha" scenes. After 1087, the outsiders were let go, and Kesavan Nair had by then risen to "Ponnani" level. The Peringod set and the loyal Govindan Nair and Sankunny Nair used to stage several performances.


Thrivikraman Nambudiripad of Chennamangalathu (Chennaas) Mana of Eravimangalam in Malappuram district, an ancient and famous "Thanthri" family, ran a Kali Yogam during 1084 to 1089. It had Kallankandath Krishna Panikkar, Koppan Nair, Poomully Sankunny Nair, Pallikkurup Ravunny Varier, and for a couple of years, Govinda Pisharody as the major artiste, and the Ponnani was Kammara Bhaagavathar. The Yogam also arranged Madathil Govindan Nair of Ongallur to teach four local boys, but they did not turn out to be good performers. The Yogam used to have a lot of performances in the Kottakkal and Kozhikode Kovilakams.


Also known as Thamaranalloor, the Illam is in Irinjalakuda, and have Thanthram status in Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram. In ME 1084, one Parameswaran Nambudiripad (d. 1116) started a Yogam with Kizhuthaanni Govinda Panikkar, Kavalappara Narayanan Nair, Appunny Poduval, Kaattaalathu Madhavan Nair and Appukunjan Mooss for "Vesham", Venkitakrishna Bhaagavathar and Thiruthy Namboodiri for music, Ambat Gopalan Nair for Maddalam, and for Chenda, Kinaayathu Sankaran Nair and Purayathu Gopalan Nair. For middle level, Mannur Sankaran Nair and for minor, his disciples Vandiyil Gopalan and Madhavan.

Believing that it would be difficult to manage such a collection of major artistes, he had only mid-level artistes for the next two years - Unniyaattil Gopalan Nair, Kizhuthaanni Govinda Panikkar and Thekkinkaattil Ravunny Nair. The two minors were promoted to mid-level. The two minors were Panikkar's sons Ayyappalathu Govindan and Kunjan. It also had Thiruthi Namboodiri and Vellakkat Narayanan Nair.

During 1088 and 1089 the Yogam was top class with Karunakara Menon, Kunchu Kurup, Thekkinkattil Ravunni Nair, Venkitakrishna Bhaagavathar, Sankara Bhaagavathar, Thiruthi Namboodiri, Madhava Varier, Kuttan Marar, etc.


Mothassara Mallissery Narayanan Namboodiri (Perinchellur Taliparamba Graamam) had a Kali Vattam during 1095 - 96 with Chanthu Panikkar, Thamarakkulam Achhan Namboodiri, Kammara Nair and Puliyaampally Marars.


In 1103, Cheriya Subrahmanian Namboodiri of Vaaranakkott Illam of Chirakkal Thaluk organized a Kali Yogam with Chanthu-, Ambu-, Chinda Panikkars, K R Kumar of Vellinezhy, Kariyattil Kumaran Nair, Vasu Nambeessan, Kammaran Nair, Pollekkaatt Narayanan Nair, Panengot Narayanan Nair and Puliyaampally Marars. During 1103 and 1104, Kanna Marar (since dead), Rama Marar and Puthiyedathu Krishnan Nair were trained. Next year, Kottaikkaduthu Moolassery Kelu Nair ran the Yogam.


Edakkaat Mullappilly second "Kaaranavan" Narayanan ran a Kali Vattam during 1111 and 1112 at Ezhunnelliyedathu with Karunakara Menon, Kochugovindan Nair, Adukkadan Krishnan Nair, Pulappatta Kesava Panikkar and Nanu Nair (1112). Karunakara Menon died during this period.


Ittithayan Namboodiri (d. 1123) of Vaadhyaan Mana of Achipra (Malappuram district), leader of Thirunaavaaya group, used to have a Yogam during 1107 to 1111. He had Koppan Nair, Unniyaattil Gopalan Nair, Kottappady Madhava Panikkar, Raman Nair, Kavunkal Sankarankutty Panikkar, Karunakara Panikkar, Kochunny Panikkar for part of the time, Kariyattil Kumaran Nair, Kunchu Poduval, Narikkattiri Namboodiri, Chethallur Sankunny Varier, Manjeri Velu Komaram, Punnathur Madhavan Nair, Nelluvayi Govindan Nair and Kadavallur Sankunny Nair. Vaadhyaan were supporters and promoters of the Kavunkal Panikkars, as were Koodalloor.


The then senior Nambudiripad of Koodalloor, 9 kM from Pattambi and 3 kM from Koottanad (Palakkad district) had a Kali Vattam during 1102 and 1103. In the Yogam were Pattikkamthody Ravunny Menon, Kavalappara Narayanan Nair, Kuttirama Panikkar, Kunjan Panikkar, Swarnathu Maani and Moothamana Namboodiri. Kavunkal Sankarankutty Panikkar had most of his training here. Kunchu Nair's "Arangettam" was in this Yogam's "Kali" in Vazhenkata temple. The Kavunkal Panikkars, after their Arangettam in front of their "Paradevatha", the Trichur Thevar, had invariably their second stage performance at Koodalloor.

Twenty years later during 1122 - 23, Brahmadathan (Kunchunny, 1070 - 1150) Nambudiripad organized a training session where Thekkinkattil Ravunny Nair trained several students, of whom Kalamandalam Gopi and V P Ramakrishnan (of Darpana) obtained fame. Balakrishnan who went to Chennai to teach Kathakali, had an untimely death as a result of snake-bite. Kunchu Nambudiripad took the troupe that also included Sankunny Varier and Gopala Panikkar, to Mumbai to raise funds for starting a High School at Chathannur.


For four years during 1086 - 89, one Kuttan (Apphan) Nambudiripad managed the Koranoth Kali Yogam out of his own funds.


Also called Maraatt between Wandoor and Pandikkad, the Mana ran a Yogam and a training centre. The famous "Thaadi", Krishna Panikkar known as Thaadi Krishnan was trained there under Unneeri Menon. After the dissolution of Maranaatt Yogam, Krishna Panikkar joined Olappamanna and Mappaat Yogams.


Poonkudil Illam of Mankada Pallippuram (Malappuram district) had a Kali Vattam for four years since 1068 with Kunjan Menon, Kuttirama Panikkar, and for music, Angadippuram Govinda Menon. During the four years, Itteeraan Panikkar, Kodenkurissi and for Thaadi, Mannaarmala Chami Menon.


The Namboothiris of Thazhakkaat Mana of Trikkarippur are called "Thirumump" (click : Matriarchy Among Namboothiris). The then Kaaranavar, Vasudevan Thirumump (d. 1081) started a training centre in 1069 and also making a complete costume set. Initially, the trainer was Gopala Panikkar. After four months, the famous "Aasaan" Eachara Menon was brought in. The students included Chanthu-, Ambu-, Chinda Panikkars, Vallayil Chanthu and Kaavil Raman. The Aasaan's son Karunakara Menon and Kuttikrishnan Nair also helped as instructors and were with the Yogam throughout. Eminent North Malabar artistes became members of this Yogam, among whom were Kesavan Nambeesan for six years, "Thaadi" Kuttirama Panikkar for seven years and Kulangara Kunhikrishnan Nair, Wandoor Krishnan Nair and Poomully Sankunny Nair for one year each. Locally popular South Malabar artistes like Cherukunnu Thekkumbaadan Narayanan Nair Karuvalloor Vaayakkodan Kannan Nair, Korothkaaranda Rama Poduval, Karol Vishnu Namboodiri, etc. were members of the Yogam at middle and other levels. By 1077, Chanthu- and Ambu Panikkars were elevated to higher levels. During their early training period, Edamana Namboodiri was Ponnani with Peralasseri brothers as his Singidi. In 1071, Vaavallipathy Narayanan Nair and Kannappa Kurup were Ponnanis with Kesavan Nair and Vasu Nambeesan as Singidis. In 1072, Kavasseri Ramankutty Bhaagavathar and Samikutty Bhaagavathar were appointed as Ponnanis. Vasu Nambeesan's final training was here.

The main Maddalam drummers were Manayakathu Raman Nair and Achuthan Nair, Chenda, Themmadathil Kunhiraman Nair, and Chutti, Naduvaprathu Thirunelli Illathu Sankaran Namboodiri. The costume set was made under the supervision of this Namboodiri.

An unpublished Aattakkattha "Kamsa Vadham" written by Vasudevan Thirumump was staged there, and continued to be performed by the Yogam. After the demise of Thirumump in 1081, since none else at Thaazhakkaatt had any interest in the Yogam, it was run under the supervision of Kallyaatt Nambiar during the next year. After the "Petty-Vechu-Kali", the final performance of the Yogam, Kodoth Kammmaran Nambiar brought the entire troupe to his place in Kuniyil and continued the activities.


During the late 1040s, Valloor Achhan Namboodiri ran a Kali Vattam for 4 - 5 years, prompted mainly by Unneeri Menon of Nalloor Valappu family in Kalluvazhy of erstwhile Valluvanad Thaluk (Palakkad district). The training was in Nalloor Kalari. There Unneeri Menon trained his own nephew Konthu Menon and a relative in Manjaloor branch, Kunchu Panikkar. During 1049, the Yogam staged several times in the Saamoothiri and Kottakkal Kovilakams.


For two or three years from 1099, Chirumangalath Nambudiripad - CMC - ran a pompous Kali Vattam using Kavalappara costumes and using Paaliyath Cheriya Kunjunny Achan's Kalaabhyudayam's scenes as background, similar to what is used in Tamil dramas. He staged ticketed performances in Palakkad, Parappanangadi, Tirur, Lakkidi and Pattambi. Though he managed it in 1100 also, he suffered much financial difficulties. Chirumangalam was a partner in the ticketed programmes organized by Kuthiravattath Sankaran Thampan during 1105.


Though short-lived, the Kiraangaatt Kali Yogam was a well-managed one. Its expensive costume set was the best ever seen by the connoisseurs. The "Kesa-bhaarams" (head-gear) ["mudi"] of "Kari" and "Karutha Thaadi" were made differently. And such special care was noticed in almost every item.

The main artistes of the Yogam included Kesava Kurup and Ambat Sankara Menon.

Footnote:  1. Kali Yogam - A training institution usually in feudal homes where a full-fledged Kathakali troupe - actors, musicians, drummers, etc. - are housed, costumes are hand-crafted and maintained, and performances are staged.

2. Kali Vattam - It is more like a Kathakali club which, for a period - a couple of years, usually - organises Kathakali performances at various places.

| Article No:21.3.1 | Last update of this article:9th February 2006 |
Article by : K D Nambudripad, Koodallur Mana, M-10/12, Malaparamba Housing Colony, Calicut - 673 009
Phone : 0495-2371333

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