A strict disciplinarian, Koodiyattam exponent Ammannur Parameswara Chakyar , never performed outside Koothambalams

For Ammannur Chachu Chakyar Smaraka Gurukulam, Irinjalakuda, the New Year commences with a 12-day Koodiyattam festival. Interestingly, this year, the 34th in the series, the festival is dedicated to the memory of Guru Ammannur Parameswara Chakyar, the late Koodiyattam maestro and the elder brother of Padmabhushan Ammannur Madhava Chakyar.

For many, especially among the new generation of the aficionados of Koodiyattam, Parameswara Chakyar may be a stranger. Admittedly, they are not to blame because he was a stickler to tradition, publicity-shy and soft-spoken.

Tradition entails three processes: preservation, innovation and dissemination. Interestingly, Parameswara Chakyar and his younger brother Madhava Chakyar have been manifestations of the dual facets of tradition, namely preservation and innovation. Even as the latter ventured to come out of the Koothambalam to stage Koodiyattam on myriad stages across the world, Parameswara Chakyar took an uncompromising stand by sticking to the tenets laid by his forebears.

Follower of tradition

A traditionalist to the core, he was not sore that encomiums and accolades eluded him thanks to his orthodox outlook. He used to say, “I have entrusted everything to Koodalmanikyam swami whom I have been serving all through my life”. Since his debut in 1929, Chakyar had been presenting koothu and Koodiyattam at the Koodalmanikyam temple, Irinjalakuda twice every year.

Ask him why no performance outside Koothambalam. His explanation sounds logical. According to him, the spiritual ambience of the Koothambalam cannot be realised in any other venue – a factor that has inspired him most. Moreover, the time prescribed for the commencement of Koodiyattam in a Koothambalam is 9 pm which enables the audience to sit through the performance after dinner. But invariably, the shows outside begin in the evenings which clashes with the daily chores that are peculiar to the lifestyle of the members of his community. True, he led an ascetic life throughout until his death in 2008 at the age of 93. Till then the variegated rituals kept him busy throughout the day.

Meticulous training 

An embodiment of austerity and humility, Parameswara Chakyar attributed all his artistry to the rigorous training he had under his uncle Ammannur Chachu Chakyar. As for koothu, uncle taught him only two slokas; the rest had to be mastered by listening to the celebrities of those times. The slokas had to be rendered every day in the sama pada position from four to six in the morning. It was uncle’s mother Savithry who used to supervise these sessions. Sophisticated techniques of nethrabhinaya were tutored by uncle himself to suit the demands of varied characters. The first vesham presented at Koodalmanikyam temple Irinjalakuda, was Vibhishana in Toranayudhham .

Innumerable are the veshams that he had donned that too in all the major temples. But Parameswara Chakyar’s Hanuman in Anguliyankam from Saktibhadra’s Ascharya Choodamani, had been a class of its own so much so he turned a role model for other Koodiyattam artistes for the enactment of this character. Impressed by his amazing dexterity in the presentation of this role, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi documented him many years ago in the Koothambalam of Koodalmanickam temple.

A strict disciplinarian, Parameswara Chakyar was an outstanding teacher and a scholar widely accepted by Koodiyattam artistes. His disciples include Muzhikkulam Kochukuttan Chakyar, Ammannur Kuttan Chakyar, G Venu, Ammannur Suraj Nambiar, Ammannur Rajaneesh and Pothiyil Narayana Chakyar. He is also the recipient of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi award, Senior Fellowship and ‘Guru Dakshina’ of the Central Department of Culture.

G S Paul

GS Paul is an eminent art columnist and critic. He has been writing for national dailies such as The Hindu for more than three decades. Currently, he is the Editorial Advisor of India Art Review.

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