Kuravanji is a type of dance-drama distinctive to the Tamils. As an entertainment
its emphasis is balanced between the classical and folk arts.
There are hundreds of Kuravanjis in Tamil. The earliest patron
of this art was King Rajaraja Chola. He constructed a platform in the big
temple at Thanjavur for holding Kuravanji performances during the annual
festival; it goes by the name Kuravanji Medai.
each Kuravanji, the heroine, a dancing girl falls in love
with the local presiding deity or the ruler of the land. She appears to the god
of love to grant her wish and describes the divine being's state procession, the
natural wealth of the area, its fertility. Fortune telling by reading the palm
is also one of the features of Kuravanji. In addition to the gypsy women,
songsters, instrumental musicians and dancing girls add to the charm of the art.
The heroine entreats her maids to relieve her suffering by bringing her lover to
Till some decades ago, the Kuravanji's were regularly performed
in temples and the artistes kept themselves trim and in form. With the passing
of the legislation prohibiting dancing by devadasis in temples, the practice of
performing Kuravanjis was given up. The rustic tunes sung by the kurathi waxing
eloquent on the prosperity and greatness of her mountainous abode, have a
naive simplicity about them. Compositions like the 'Thirukkutrala Kuravanji' are
noted for their poetic value. The Viralimalai Kuravanji is noted for its musical
value. In the Azhagar Kuravanji and the Thirumalai Andavar Kuravanji music and
literature are equally balanced.
In Thiruk Kutralak
Kuravanji, a mountain lass is invited to read
the palm of a virgin of a rich family who has in love with the local deity. When
the lass returned home with rich presents, her husband grew suspicious,
quarreled with her and ultimately there was a reconciliation between them. This
has been developed into a dance-drama and enacted in temple courtyards for
In Sendil Kuravanji, a dance-drama centering round the theme
of the presiding deity of Tiruchendur, the heroine Madana Mohini appears
on the scene. Spending her time in the delightful company of her friends.
She sees Lord Arumuga coming in procession and falls in love with him.
The heroine asks her friends about the identity of the person coming in
procession. They reply that the person is Sendil Murugan. Madana Mohini's
love sickness is forcibly pictured in a series of couplets addressed by
her friends. One of her friends conveys her message to Lord Muruga. The
gypsy woman from Kandamalai now appears on the scene and describes the
Vasalvalam and Desavalam i.e. the prosperity of the land, in fascinating
songs. She reads the palm of the heroine and predicts that her desire
will be fulfilled. Madana Mohini dreams as if she is united in wedlock
to Lord Muruga and gives valuable presents to kurathi. Singan, the husband
of kurathi, now comes in search for her. This is an episode which provides
a lot of mirth and merriment. All the anger of singan gets quenched at
the sight of the valuable presents obtained by his wife from Madana Mohini.
With a benedictory song, the play comes to a close.