Kattaikkuttu Sangam
Transforming Culture
Transforming Lives

Music Theatre of South India

Kattaikkuttu is the theatre of the rural people in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu, India. It speaks their language and is acted by performers who share similar social and cultural backgrounds with the spectators.

Kattaikkuttu uses song, music, dance, make-up and costumes, drama and ritual. All-night performances are powerful, high-energy, intense and long duration events that temporarily recreate the mythical world of kings, gods and sages on earth. The stirring quality of the music, the actors' singing and their passionate embodiment of mighty mythological characters keep local audiences spellbound. All-night performances are intense events. Their rootedness in rural Hinduism can trigger emotional responses in spectators and performers causing some of them to fall into trance-like states at particularly dramatic moments in the story.

Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam's volunteer Ffion Wynn Evans about her experience of an all-night Kattaikkuttu:

"The make-up begins, children squeeze into the tiny green-room, desperate to steal a look and watch the performers' transformation into Maharaja, Maharani and Joker. Older villagers, as eager to steal a glimpse of the transformation, chase them away.

At around 10:30pm I hear the familiar sounds of the drums pulsating through the air, followed by the high-pitched mukavinai and harmonium. Children sprint to the front, pushing, shoving and jumping on the ground - grabbing the best seats in town! Suddenly hundreds of people rush out of their homes, some with blankets, some without, all ready for the night's Kuttu…."

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Most traditional Kattaikkuttu performances are based on selected episodes from the epic Mahabharata adapted to the local situation. Plays feature universal emotions and dilemmas of valour, jealousy, hatred, love, grief and despair, loyalty to one's family and friends, and folly.

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