Krishnattam at Kalaa Utsavam 2015 – Indian Festival of Arts of Esplanade


Krishnattam (Dance of Lord Krishna) is a sacred dance-theatre form of the 17th century from Kerala, India. It is a temple art performed at the famous Guruvayur Temple portraying the story of Lord Krishna.

Krishnattam, in a series of 8 plays indicating the 8 main stages of Lord Krishna's life was created by Manaveda, the Zamorin Raja (King) of Calicut, Kerala in 1653. He authored Krishnagiti (Songs of Krishna) a poetic text of padams (songs) and shlokas (verses) in Sanskrit in 8 parts and this is the dramatic text of Krishnattam.

Lord Krishna's life as described in detail in the Hindu scriptures of Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharatam and Harivamsam is presented as song, dance and acting with musical accompaniments (chengila, ilattalam (metallic sounds) , shuddha maddalam, toppi maddalam, idakka ( percussion) in a cycle of eight plays in eight days.

The eight plays are: Avataram (his birth as an avatar), Kaliyamardanam (Killing of Kaliya snake), Rasakrida (Dancing with gopikas), Kamsavadham (Slaying of Kamsa), Swayamvaram (Choosing the groom), Banayuddham (War with Bana), Vividavadham (Slaying of Vivida) and Swargarohanam (Ascent to Heaven). On the ninth day, Avataram is repeated.

The plays are presented as a votive offering to the presiding deity by devotees: Avataram for a birth of a child; Kaliyamardhanam to remove the effect of poison, Rasakrida wellbeing of unmarried girls, to end disputes between couples; Kamsavadham to remove enemies and so on.

In imposing costumes, ornate embellishments and facial make up that takes long hours to paint the performers present the dance drama with elaborate gestures and body movements. The music for dance is sung by singers and each line is repeated several times to give the artists enough time to express themselves as vividly as they can. The singers follow Carnatic (Indian classical) and Sopanam (temple) style of music.

This all-male dance-drama precursor to Kathakali uses masks in the performance.

The troupe engaged in this art, the only one of its kind is maintained by the Temple and gives the performers systematic training from a young age.

It is the first time Krishnattam is being performed in Singapore, earlier a troupe has travelled to Europe and US.

Where: Outdoor Theatre at Esplanade
When: 20, 21 and 22 of Nov 2015
Timings: (Fri) 20 and (Sat) 21 – 7.30 pm and 9 pm
(Sun) 22 – 7pm and 8.30pm

Every performance is 1 hour duration

Admission: Free