Terukkuttu Folk Dance, Tamil Nadu

Terukkuttu is a street dance form, popular in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is performed as a street theatre in a courtyard of temples or in any convenient open grounds. The actors or performers wear colourful clothes and enact on various themes based on the Hindu epic Mahabharata specially focusing on the character of Draupadi. Terukkuttu are often considered by many to be similar to the dance theatre form, Kattaikkuttu. Although Terukkuttu is a mobile performance in a procession and Kattaikkuttu is performed in a fixed arena, the Tamil epic, Silapattikaram has been considered as the primitive form of Terukkuttu in the work of writer M. Shanmugam Pillai.

The word Terukkuttu is derived from the Tamil word ‘teru’ meaning street and ‘kuttu’ meaning theatre. The performance is an amalgamation of entertainment and rituals giving valued social messages of chastity and moral power of women. Terukkuttu plays include song, dance, music, drama and ‘clever stage tricks’. Terukkuttu musicians use harmonium, drums, ‘mukhavinai’ and cymbals to create the dramatic music in every play. The Terukkuttu drama commences with the chorus chanting prayers to Ganesha and other deities. An actor guise as Lord Ganesha remains on the stage at that time.

Next the Kattiyakkaran or the narrator who also acts as the jester enters to describe the story of the play. He also links the scenes and provides context to the happenings in the play in between. There are series of songs sung by the actors themselves along with the chorus. This folk art is a part of ritual celebration during the twenty one day temple festival in the first month of Tamil calendar, Chittirai.

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