Folk arts

Theru Koothu

Theru koothu is said to be one of the traditional and prominent art forms of Tamil Nadu. This art form comprises of three branches of Tamil namely Eyal, Isai and Drama. This art form is practised widely in the districts of Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, South Arcot and Kancheepuram. This art form is mainly classified in to two categories namely, the Southern Style and the Northern Style. The Southern Style is practised in the South Arcot Districts and Pondichery and Northern Style is practised in the districts of Tiruvannamalai, Vellore and Kancheepuram. The Northern Style uses the musical instrument namely Mugaveena. Northern Style artistes wear stiff skirts. The Therukoothu art form is mostly performed in Villages during the months from Panguni to Purattasi.

A Therukoothu team comprises of 15 artistes. Therukoothu is also referred to as “Sama”. The head of the team is called as “ Vathiyar ” who trains the artistes. The Therukoothu is mostly considered as one of the temple rituals. Wooden (Kattai) covered body is one the significant features of this Therukoothu art form and hence it is also called as Kattaikoothu. The artistes who perform this art form generally cover their shoulders, arms, heads with big crown, Chest with cover made up of wood. Artistes cover their waists with sarees and show their hips as large as possible which is considered very important in this art form. Music is an important part of Therukoothu art form. Dolak or Miruthangam, Jalra (Thaalam), Harmoniyam (sruthy box) are the musical instruments employed in this art form. In most of the Therukoothu groups, either Mugaveena or Flute is played. The accompanists play musical instruments and simultaneously sing loudly from the background in resonance with the songs sung by Therukoothu artistes performing on stage.

“Therukoothu” is also performed in the tamil month of Maasi during the ritual of “Manmadan Erippu” (Burining of effigy of Manmadan). Some of the incidences played in Therukoothu are as follows:

  1. Draupadi’s Wedding
  2. Subhadra’s Wedding
  3. Raja Suya Yagam
  4. Molestation of Draupadi
  5. Arjuna’s Penance
  6. Kuravanji dance performances
  7. Keechaka Vadham – “Slaying of Keechaka in Mahabharatam”
  8. Lord Krishna as a Messenger
  9. Abimanyu’s Fight
  10. King Karna’s Liberation
  11. 18th day of Mahabarata War

Therukoothu is an art of living for people in the northern districts. People of these districts hav
e gained good knowledge of history and epics through this art form. They can easily identify even the minute mistakes in their theatre plays. Non – Government Organizations and many Government Departments use this ancient art of Therukoothu for their Propganda.

Kai Silambattam

In Kai Silambattam, the Dancers wear ankle-bells and hold anklets or Silambu in their hands, which make noise when shaken. Since the Music Instrument namely silambu is kept in the hands, it is also called as Kai Silambattam. This art form is also referred as Pambai Silambattam. In order to differenciate from the martial art forms of Silambattam, this art form is called as Kai Silambattam. Kai Silambattam is normally practiced in the districts of Vellore, Tiruvannamali, Kancheepuram, Dharumapuri and South Arcot (Vilupuram District). This art form is Temple based. This art form is valued as one of the ways of workship and praise of the temple deities. Though practicing of this art form pertains to Amman Temple, it is also performed as sub art form during other ocassions such as special star days, Thaipoosam day along with in Kaavadiyattam art form and in the Ear boring ceremony and Bride-groom Marriage processions.

This art form is also showcased in cultural programmes and general public stages. Kai Silambam and Pambai are the Musical instruments used for this art form and hence it is referred by title name. Among these two instruments, Kai Silambu is regarded as the main instrument and Pambai is regarded as a general instrument. There is no restriction on the number of artistes performing this art form. In general, two / four / six or Eight artistes perform this art. There is no age restriction for this art form. Any one who possess good physical stamina can perform this art form. This art form is traditionally learnt from senior artistes. There are no prescribed costumes for this art form. The artistes wear Silambu in their legs.

Kokkali kattaiyattam

This art form is performed by artistes who dance by using lengthy wooden sticks tied to their legs. Since the lengthy wooden sticks tied to their legs resemble the legs of Crane Bird (kokku), it is called as Kokku Kattaiyattam and later in practice, came to be known as Kokkali Kattaiyattam. This art form is prominent in Vellore District. Though this art form is confined to temple, it is now widely spread and also performed during Public functions and Social functions.

This art form is connected with Gangai Amman Temple festival. This art form is performed by the Devotees of Gangai Amman. The Artistes observe fasting during their performance. Only male artistes perform this art. There is no age restriction for this art form but only needs physical stamina. Mostly, the number of artistes performing will be in even numbers. Thappu, Chatty, Dolak (Dole) are the musical instruments used in this art form. There is no restriction on the number of Kokkali Kattai Artists, but only four artistes will be playing musical instruments.

The height of the stick used for Kokkali Kattai art form ranges from 60 c.m. to 150 c.m. This stick is made of wood from trees like Aal, Kalyana Murungai, Thanakku, Nulaa and Agathy. The artistes initially check the stability of the wooden stick and choose the good ones for their performance. The wooden sticks are beautified by pasting colourful papers and paints. The artists normally widen their hands side ways so as to earmark their area for performance. During performance, the artists leave and maintain sufficient space for their walk in the procession.

Servaiyattam

This art form is performed with the help of a Musical instrument called “ Servai ” and hence the name. This art form is performed by Kurumbars and therefore it is also called by different names such as Kurumbarattam, Servaikoothu and Kurumba Koothu. Kurumbars are a class of tribal people said to be migrated from the states of Andhra and Karnataka. Kurumbars are worshippers of Lord Shiva. Their important Deity is Lord Veerabadra. The breaking of coconut shell on the head of a Kurumba community man by the priest of that community is called “Thalaikai Udaithal”. The important musical instrument of Servaiyattam is Servai. Apart from Servai, musical instruments such as Flute, Jalra, Kilu Kiluppai are also used for the performance of this art form. Only male artistes perform this art form. There is no age restriction for the artistes. Six to twele artistes participate in the performance of this art form.

The songs played in Servaiyattam are mostly related to the temples where the performance is conducted. It is important to sing songs of Lord Veerabadra. Also, Pandava‘s forest exile, Kamatchi Amman Virutham, Manmathan Story, Natarasar patthu, Themmangu Songs and Gummi Songs are also sung. Comedy songs are also sung in between main songs.