Man, being a social animal, is very much dependent upon his family and society. As man grew, his needs increased and so did the society in which he lived. The culture that man acquired during his process of growth was handed over through generations. Today, we view the world through this knowledge which was handed over to us by our ancestors.
Our land Kerala is a place rich in both culture and in tradition. According to our heritage there are things that we should do for the better good of the individual and society and certain things that should not be done at all. The former is known as “Rituals” and the latter as “Taboo”. We can see that worship and rituals go hand in hand in our places. In the beginning man worshipped nature. Later on, it became the people of the past with a heroic stature. All these began to take a form according to the imagination.
Man used different means to worship, of this the earliest was ‘drawing’ using ‘powder’. Even before we learnt to paint using different coloured paints, he used powder paint to put his imagination to work. There are many varieties of Kalamezhuth for Deavathaaradhana, Maanthrikaanushttanam, Garbhabali, Thaanthricapooja etc. Kalamezhuthu of Mannan, Vannan, Malayan, Velan, Pulluvan, Ganakan, Munnuttan, Pulayan, Kanisan and caste related to temple like Theeyattunni, Theeyadinambyar, Theyyampaadikurup (nambyar), Kallattu kurup, and that of Kerala Brahmins Thanthric Pathmam etc. But all are varied in nature and look.
Among the different ways of worship and rituals “Kalamezhuthupattu” is one of the most important one found in cultural Kerala. This is a ritual art form that combines drawing, music, instrumentation and dance. It is a traditional art form of Kerala performed by the Kallatt Kurup. It is believed that in Kerala mural paintings developed from Kalamezhuthu. A Kalam is drawn in a three dimensional (3D) way. No gadgets or tools are used for the drawing. It is the sheer skill of the artisan who has only his bare hands to draw the magnificent pictures. Five basic colours are used for the purpose which are;
1. White – Rice powder
2. Black – Ash of wheat husk
3. Yellow – Turmeric powder
4. Green- Powdered dried leaves of castor, coral wood, dirris, tree etc.
5. Red – A mixture of turmeric powder and quick lime.
Kalamezhuthupattu originated basically as a method of worshipping Goddess ‘Bhadhrakaali’. As the story goes, after killing ‘Darikan’, the Goddess born out of all 3 Gods- Brahma Vishnu & Siva was still very angry .They tried various means to pacify her and finally managed to calm the angry Goddess. Siva advised her to go to earth as a Goddess for human beings and asserted her that they would worship her with Kalamapattu. It is a traditional art that is strictly followed by the ‘Shaivites’ and the worshippers of Goddess Kali. As time passed many changes have come in to the form of this art. Originally it was performed only in temples and at Brahmin homes. But now it has been taken up by every cast in the Hindu religion, done according to their beliefs for different purposes and in different manners.
Creation, protection and destruction are the three phases in which the program goes through. In Kallatt style of drawing there are 18 ‘Roopakkalams’ for ‘Shaivites’, 11 Kalam for Upadevas, one round Kalam called ‘Pathmakkalam’ for ‘Thiruvilayanattu Bhagavathy’ and 29 different types ‘Nagakkalams’. There is much importance for sword in Kalampattu.
In Kalampattu the poojas are done to the sword, placed on the peedam, which is the representation of Deity. We can see most varieties of weapons in each Kalam. The style of song adopted is ‘Sopana sangeetham’ which originates from folk tradition. The presentation of these songs shows the nature of Kerala traditional songs. In every song there are prayers and explanations describing the incarnations (avathara) of every Lord. For background music the instruments like ‘Nanthuni’ and ‘Kuzhithaalam’ are used.
Many varieties of singing styles like ‘Uchapattu’, ‘Ammana chaya’, ‘Niram paadal’, ‘Kesadipaada varnana’, ‘Sthuthi’, ‘Katha paduka’ etc. are adopted in Kalamezhuthupattu. The singer has the freedom to change the ragas according to the demands of the situation. The rhythms which are mostly used for singing are Tripuda, Eka, Adantha and Panchari.
This custom is done by the Velichappadu (Komaram) who steps very rhythmically into the drawn Kalam. Chembada, adantha, chemba, tripuda, panchaari, anchadantha, lekshmi thaalam, ekathaalam etc are the thaala is used for performing the dance. Chenda (Drum), Elathaalam (Cymbals), Kuzhal (trumpet), are the instruments used for background music for the dance. The ritual which began as a form of worship has now blossomed into a beautiful form.
It combines all the artistic talent of a human being done in its original form without any artificial aid. There is drawing perfected in its state of infancy itself-singing which combines literatures, rhymes and, also dancing which is the most primitive form of communication. It also has the freedom and scope for change and reform and is adapting and adjusting to the modern times. This flexibility in itself ensures that Kalamezhuthupattu is going to be around here for a very long time. The criterion for any great art is the test of time and their art form has surely succeeded that test. There is a two way relationship found on the earth. The human beings treated as children give belief and worship the Nature, the “Mother Goddess” and in turn the Mother gives fertility, prosperity and abundance to them.
Kalampattu done by Kallatt Kurup depends on different worships and rituals. Since each part of this function has its own significance as the whole, the Kalampattu remains as it was (there are no modernisations). The rules and methods to build a temple have been described in detail in the ancient scriptures. According to Kallat Kurup, if a Kalamezhuthupattu is performed it is equivalent to building a temple. This ritual has great similarities to the ceremonies of building a temple.