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‘Santhana Gopalam’ – Kathakali dance/drama at the Ayyappan Temple !

The yearly Utsavam and 36th Annual Mandala Pooja is being celebrated at the Ayyappan Temple, Vartak Nagar, Thane West from 22nd December, 2013 to 1st Janaury, 2014 –

‘Kathakali (Malayalam: കഥകളി, kathakaḷi; Sanskrit: कथाकळिः, kathākaḷiḥ) is a stylized classical Indian dance-drama noted for the attractive make-up of characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the anchor playback music and complementary percussion. It originated in the country’s present day state of Kerala during the 17th century and has developed over the years with improved looks, refined gestures and added themes besides more ornate singing and precise drumming.’ (source: wikipedia)

Yesterday evening, I attended the ‘Santhana Gopalam – Kathakali dance/drama’ – written by Mandavapilli Ittiraricha Menon (1745 AD to 1809 AD) – Based on a story from Hindu Epic Mahabharata.


The Story of ‘Santhana Gopalam’ goes like this –

Once the famed Kshatriya warrior Arjuna comes to visit his friend Lord Krishna in his kingdom of Dwaraka. And, Lord Krishna requests Arjuna to stay with him for few days. One day in the court .. a Brahmin carrying the dead body of a newborn baby comes to meet Lord Krishna. He complains that .. ‘this is the body of my ninth baby .. my wife has delivered dead. All the previous eight babies were also born dead. This can happen only in a country which has ‘Raja Dosha’ (the Sin of a Ruler).’

In response to his complaint, Lord Krishna does not say anything to the Brahmin. Witnessing this scene in the court .. Arjuna proclaims .. he can save the Brahmin’s next baby child. Initially, the Brahmin is not interested in accepting Arjuna’s offer .. but, Arjuna repeatedly brags about himself and persuades the brahmin to accept his offer. In addition, Arjuna proclaims further that he will jump into fire and die .. if he does not fulfill his promise made to the brahmin and save the tenth baby child. Looking at the confidence of Arjuna, the Brahmin agrees to visit Arjuna again to seek his help .. whenever his wife delivers the tenth baby child.


Several months roll by and an occasion comes when the Brahmin’s wife delivers a baby child once more. In anticipation that Arjuna can save this child, the Brahmin visits Arjuna and invites him to his house. Arjuna builds a strong castle made of arrows and asks the brahmin’s wife to deliver the baby while within this castle made of arrows, so that mother and child are safe. Brahmin’s wife delivers, but the child instantaneously disappears. The Brahmin is absolutely disappointed and unhappily sends Arjuna away from his house. Arjuna travels across the entire world in search of the baby child .. but even the God of Death, Yama , does not know the whereabouts of the ‘disappeared’ baby. Then, as promised to the brahmin, Arjuna tries to kill himself by jumping into the fire. At this very instance, Lord Krishna stops Arjuna from killing himself and takes him to Vaikunta where Lord Vishnu resides. Arjuna, to his surprise, finds all the ten children of the Brahmin safe and sound, in the custody of Lord Vishnu and his consort Goddess Lakshmi. The objective of the story is to focus on ‘humbling’ of proud Kshatriya warrior Arjuna by Lord Krishna as well as singing praise of Lord Krishna, the eternal God and savior of humankind.

The Kathakali dance/ drama was performed by the Kalamandalam Gopalakrishnan & his team.


About Raman Ramamurthy

I am a Management consultant, an avid reader, play Lawn tennis in my leisure time and love Music. Presently, I am settled in India along with my wife and my son.


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