PĆ¹tana Moksha





Year: 1987 / Director: -

Katakhali is the Indian theatre style par excellence. Native to Kerala, in south-western India, Kathakali in its current form dates back to the second half of the 18th century, when the Rajah of Kottarakkara wrote the majority of the repertoire inspired by the classical Hindu epic of Ramayana and Mahabha¬rata. Its golden age was around the half of the nineteenth century. After, Katakhali suffered the general decadence that affected  the traditional Indian culture under the dominion of the British empire. After the Independence (1947), thanks to the passion of some enthusiast poet and the intelligent effort of the regional government, Kathakali got back to its original splendor, and its verve and popularity are constantly growing. Kathakali’s fame, a myth also for the western stage practice, is due essentially to technical rigor and to its actors’ legendary training.

Pùtana Moksha (Pùtana’s Salvation)
Answati Tirunal Tampuran 1756-1794
Following the tradition, the performance starts with a part of pure dance, the Pakuti Purapaddu (literally “Introduction”). The curtain drops and two twin characters, Krishna (the male energy) and his Sakti (or the feminine energy) appear on stage. The dance refers to a cosmogonic symbology: the dissolving of obscurity and the creation of the cosmos through dance. Then there is a long acted dance called “Pùtana Moksha” taken from the Bhagavata Purana, a collection of stories of the post-vedic period.
The piece was “restored” according to the original tradition (it was variously reduced in the last decades). Evil king Kamsa knew from a prophecy that one day he would be killed by the god Krishna. After trying unsuccessfully to prevent him from being born (his mother is the king’s sister), Kamsa sends an ogress-killer, Pùtana, to Ambadi, the city where the newborn god is hidden. The scene opens with the tirannoku, a typical Kathakali technique, in which the characters introduce themselves slowly revealing themselves from behind a curtain.
Pùtana is a grotesque character in her moves and make-up: her introduction is a parody of the courtly love scenes, in which the heroine gets ready to meet her beloved: instead of an elegant aristocratic toilette, the clumsiness of an ogress. Resorting to a magic power, Pùtana turn into a beautiful girl and can finally go to Ambàdi. Here begins a long description of the city: palaces decorated with gem stones, girls dancing and playing on fresh water rivers, peacocks spreading their tail. Pùtana, even if impressed by such beauty, remembers her mission: kill young Krishna. She looks for him in his house: her wickedness wavers at the sight of the baby, until she starts nursing him with her breasts covered in poison, but with the milk Krishna sucks her life out as well. The witch loses her angelic appearance and falls on the ground, painfully convulsing. A light appears: dying, Pùtana gets back to her demonic appearance and only after touching the body of the god gets to the Moksha, the final union with the divine, a liberation and salvation from the rebirth cycle.          



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