Terukkuttu is a Tamil street theatre form practised in Tamil Nadu
India and Tamil-speaking regions of Sri Lanka. Terukuttu
is a form of entertainment, a ritual, and a medium of social
instruction. The terukkuttu plays various themes. One theme is from
Tamil language versions of the
Hindu epic Mahabharata, focusing on
the character Draupadi. The terms
often used interchangeably in the modern times; however, historically
the two terms appear to have distinguished, at least in certain
villages, between two different kinds of performance: while Terukkuttu
referred to mobile performances in a procession,
overnight, narrative performances at a fixed performance space.
5 Further reading
6 External links
The term "terukkuttu" is derived from the Tamil words Teru ("street")
and Kuttu ("theatre"). The word "Kattaikkuttu" is derived from the
name of special ornaments known as kattai (or kattai camankal).
The writer M. Shanmugam Pillai has compared terukkuttu to the Tamil
epic Silappatikaram, calling
Silappatikaram a proto-form of
Silappatikaram story is still performed by the
terukkuttu actors, the terukkuttu drama commences and ends in a manner
similar to the commencement and end of each canto in the epic, and the
actors sing and converse in verse interspersed with prose, the prose
coming after the verse as its explanation. Both
terukkuttu are centered around the chastity and moral power of women
as cherished values.
However, historically, the terukkuttu is not more than two to three
centuries old. The researcher Richard A. Frasca wrote that certain
of his performer-informants believed that the terukkuttu originally
emanated from the
Gingee area. It spread from South
India to Sri
Lanka, and became popular in
Jaffna and Batticaloa. The early Sinhala
Nadagam (open-air drama) closely followed Terukuttu plays in
presentation and in style. The Jesuit priests in
Catholic plays from the Portuguese tradition in Terukuttu
Many scholars note the similarity between terukkuttu and other
neighbouring regional drama forms, such as
Kathakali. However, unlike Kathakali, terukkuttu is less codified,
and is generally considered a folk art rather than a classical art
form. In recent times, some terukkuttu groups have also started
operating as professional troupes.
Many terukuttu performances center around the enactment of Mahabharata
story, with emphasis on the role of Draupadi.
Terukkuttu plays on
Ramayana are performed at Mariyamman festivals, and some of the plays
also involve local deities.
The terukkuttu plays form part of ritual celebrations including the
twenty-one day temple festival starting in Chittirai, the first month
of the Tamil calendar. The terukkuttu performances begin in the
middle of the festival, and continue till the morning of the
The core themes of the terukuttu plays include:
Draupadi Kalyanam (The marriage of Draupadi)
Supattirai Kalyanam (The marriage of Subhadra)
Alli Arjunan (The Marriage of
Arjuna with Alli)
Pancal Capatam (The Vow of Draupadi)
Arjunan Tapam (Arjuna's tapas)
Krishnan Titu (The mission of Krishna)
Abhimanyu Cantai (The defeat of Abhimanyu)
Karna Mokshayam (The defeat of Karna)
Patinettam Por (The Battle of the Eighteenth Day)
Aravan kalappali ("Sacrifice of Aravan in the Battlefield")
The terukkuttu plays are a combination of song, music, dance and drama
along with "clever stage tricks". The actors wear colorful
costumes. The musical instruments used by the terukkuttu musicians
include harmonium, drums, a mukhavinai (an instrument similar to
oboe), and cymbals.
An acting arena is marked at courtyard of a temple, open ground or any
other convenient site and people squat on the three sides of the
rectangular arena. The chorus of singers and the musicians occupy the
place on the rear side of the stage, and the actors use the front
side. Two persons holding a curtain enter the arena, with an actor in
the guise of Ganesha, the elephant-headed
Hindu god. The chorus begins
an invocation to Ganesha, and prayers are also offered to many other
deities. The actor playing
Ganesha now moves out of the arena, and
Kattiyakkaran (jester and sutradhara i.e. the narrator) appears on the
stage. Kattiyakkaran relates the story of the play to be performed and
introduces the characters. Sometimes, the characters introduce
themselves. Kattiyakkaran links the scenes, provides context to the
happenings on the stage and also jests in between the scenes. The
actors sing themselves, supported by the chorus.
The text of a terukkuttu play is a series of songs related by a theme.
Each song is rendered in a raga, structured in form of a classical
song. It is preceded by viruttam, chanting of four-line verses in the
same raga as the song. After the song, an actor delivers a speech
based on it.
The French theater group, Théâtre du Soleil, used elements of
Terukuttu, including the two stories The Vow of Draupadi, and The
Karna in their play, A Room in India.
^ Sarachchandra, Ediriweera R. (1966). The Folk Drama of Ceylon.
Colombo: Department of Cultural Affairs, Ceylon. p. 116.
^ a b c d Varadpande, Manohar Laxman (1990) . History of Indian
Theatre. Abhinav Publications. pp. 39–44.
ISBN 978-81-7017-278-9. OCLC 18270064.
^ Srinivas, Smriti (2004) . Landscapes of Urban Memory. Orient
Longman. p. 23. ISBN 81-250-2254-6.
^ Bruin, Hanne M de (1999). Kattaikkuttu: The flexibility of a south
Indian theatre tradition. E. Forsten. pp. 85–99.
ISBN 978-90-6980-103-2. OCLC 42312297.
^ Barfoot, C.C. (1993). Theatre Intercontinental: Forms, Functions,
Correspondences. Rodopi. p. 116. ISBN 90-5183-575-2.
^ Frasca, Richard Armando (1984). The Terukkūttu : ritual
theater of Tamilnadu (Ph.D. thesis). University of California,
Berkeley. p. 140. OCLC 13876271.
^ W. T. A. Leslie Fernando (24 December 2003). "Daily Mirror".
Archived from the original on March 23, 2004. Retrieved
^ W. T. A. Leslie Fernando. "Did Sinhala drama originate in
Christmas?". Retrieved 2007-11-21.
^ a b Hiltebeitel, Alf (1988). The Cult of Draupadi: Mythologies: From
Gingee to Kuruksetra. University Of Chicago Press. pp. 146–149.
ISBN 978-0-226-34046-3. OCLC 18739841.
^ Richmond, Farley P.; Darius L. Swann; Phillip B. Zarrilli (1993)
. Indian Theatre: Traditions of Performance. Motilal
Banarsidass. p. 309. ISBN 978-0-8248-1322-2.
^ "From Street Theater to Kattaikuttu". November 4, 1999. Retrieved
^  Symbol of sacrifice: Online edition of The Hindu, August 17,
^ a b Green, Jesse (6 December 2017). "Review: 'A Room in India'
Overflows With Astonishing Visions". The New York Times.
^ edited by Stanley Sadie. (1980). "Introduction to Indian Music: Folk
Music". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Oxford
University Press. ISBN 978-1-56159-174-9. CS1 maint: Extra
text: authors list (link)
Frasca, Richard Armando (1990). Theatre of the Mahabharata: terukkuttu
Performances in South India. University of Hawaii Press.
ISBN 978-0-8248-1290-4. OCLC 21147946.
Gentes, Mary Josephine (1987). Hinduism through village dance
drama : narrative image and ritual process in South India's
terukkuttu and Yaksagana ritual theaters (Ph.D. thesis). University of
Virginia. OCLC 20052719.
Frasca, Richard Armando (1998). "The Dice Game and the Disrobing
(Pakatai Tuyil): A terukkuttu Performance". Asian Theatre Journal.
University of Hawai'i Press. 15 (1): 1–44. doi:10.2307/1124097.
Bruin, Hanne M de (1999). Kattaikkuttu: The flexibility of a south
Indian theatre tradition. E. Forsten. ISBN 978-90-6980-103-2.
Shivaprakash, H S (2007). "Regional theatres (ix. Terukuttu)".
Traditional theatres. Wisdom Tree. ISBN 978-81-8328-075-4.
Kattaikkuttu or terukkuttu
Works based on the Mahabharata
The Great Indian Novel
A Throw of Dice
Amba Ambika Ambalika
Chitrangada: The Crowning Wish
Daana Veera Soora Karna
Draupadi (1931 film)
Draupadi Vastrapaharanam (1934)
Draupadi Vastrapaharanam (1936)
Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki
Sri Krishnarjuna Yuddhamu
Jai Shri Krishna