Dr. PN Prabhavathy Presents a Paper on A Unique Topic

An international conference on “Incorporating Elements of Theatre into Pedagogy at Different Levels of Education” was organised by the Nirmala Institute of Education (with IQAC) in association with the Directorate of Higher Education on 4 and 5 November 2022 in Panaji, Goa.

Dr. PN Prabhavathy (Assistant Professor, School of Kalayoga, CVV) presented a descriptive paper titled ‘Loṣṭaciti and Cuṭalakkūttu – A Rare Blend of Vedic Rites with Theatre’.  The ritual of Loṣṭaciti is a rare Vedic cremation ritual and Cuṭalakkūttu (a variant of the theatre form ”Nangiār Kūttu”) integrated with it. This is also a significant instance where a woman artiste assumes centre stage of a Vedic ritual. This research brings to light this ritual which takes place in Kerala. It has taken place only a couple of times in the past couple of centuries. I was unable to get any evidence of parallels to this ritual from anywhere else in the country.

Recently, this ritual was restored and conducted in Thrissur, during the extended cremation rites of an Akkittirione who has done Atirātra yaga. If the Akkittiri dies and he is survived by the Pattanāḍi, then and only then is Lośṭaciti performed. 

Cuṭalakkūttu literally means theatre (Naṅgyārkūttu) at the cremation site. Naṅgiār is the feminine gender for Nambiāra caste In Kerala that specialises in ritual theatre.

Asthi sanchayanam is done and the remains are collected in an earthen pot, which is then placed in a śāla (a shed). Amidst the rituals, the Naṅgiār performs the theatrical presentation of the 10th chapter of Śrī Mahā Bhāgavatam popularly known as Daśamam Kūttu in two sessions daily, for three days consecutively.

The paper is evidence of the integral nature of theatre to the Vedic way of life and the prominence of women in ritual performances and rites. It also opens doors to research to find similar instances of ritual theatre with ethnic variations.

The paper is published in the International Conference Issue of “Bhairavi” Peer Reviewed Refereed Visual and Performing Arts Research Journal  (ISSN 0975-5217, UGC – Care list (Group-1), pp. 24 to 30, Issue 24, 2022).