Saturday, July 20, 2024


Dance - Drama


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.

In 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 her.  

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 generations.

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.