Etymology and History of Kutiyattam

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sat Oct 13 18:11:20 UTC 2012


Thanks for the links to the website from which the CBSE content has been lifted verbatim. The name 'Kulasekhara Varma Cheraman Perumal' intrigued me because 'Cheraman' and 'Perumal' could be considered generic titles individually. But, when combined as 'Cheraman Perumal', the name refers to one unique individual, the king  who was supposed to be a contemporary of Cuntarar, the Śaiva saint of the 8th century. I was looking for any information that might suggest that there was actually a person called 'Kulasekhara Varma Cheraman Perumal'. It looks like there was no such person. This website has simply conflated the Vaishnava saint and the Śaiva saint. This conclusion is strengthened by the following statement in the same paragraph, i.e., "The dance also finds a mention in Ilangovan's 1500-year old Tamil Classic Chilappathikaram as 'Kerala Chakkian Sivanandam'." This is patent nonsense. Apart from giving a very modern form of the author's name, the quoted sentence seems  to combine the name in the epic, i.e., 'kūttac cākkaiyaṉ'   and the name of one of the four brothers of the Tanjore Quartette, Chinnayya, Ponnayya,  Sivanandam, and Vadivelu, of the 19th century! See . That CBSE chose to present material from this type of website to the secondary school students is deplorable.

Regarding the two versions, I doubt if the September 2 version is meant to be a later correction of the version of September 14 that was prepared earlier. See the following two CBSE circulars.

The April circular introduces the program and the pilot. The September circular mentions that the schools had earlier received only the modules on Astronomy and Metallurgy. 


-----Original Message-----
From: Suresh Kolichala <suresh.kolichala at>
To: palaniappa <palaniappa at>
Sent: Fri, Oct 12, 2012 5:19 am
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Etymology and History of Kutiyattam

On Fri, Oct 12, 2012 at 12:07 AM, Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan <palaniappa at> wrote:

Dear Scholars,
There is a CBSE document ( ) on the Web dated September 2, 2012 which says the  following:
"The word Kutiyattam is derived from the word ‘Kuti’ which in Malayalam language primarily means ‘combined’ or ‘together’ while ‘attam’ means acting. Therefore, the word ‘Kuttiyatam‘ means combined acting."
The above document was a product of the CBSE Research & Development Unit. 
But 'Module 10 - Theatre and Drama in India' of the 'Knowledge Traditions & Practices of India' textbook edited by Kapil Kapoor and Michel Danino and probably uploaded on or after September 14, 2012 says the following on page 7. (( )

Although the document was uploaded on September 14, 2012, it is very likely that the content was prepared much earlier. I believe the website version is meant to be a later correction.

"Kuṭiyaṭṭam (or kūṭhiyaṭṭam) is derived from the Sanskrit word kūrd, meaning to ‘to play’. Kuṭiyaṭṭam, the only surviving specimen of the ancient Sanskrit theatre, remains a popular theatre form in Kerala. In May 2001, kuṭiyaṭṭam earned a rare honour when UNESCO declared it a masterpiece of human heritage to be protected and preserved. It is believed that Kulasekhara Varma Cheraman Perumal, an ancient King of Kerala, was the creator of kuṭiyaṭṭam in its present form. His book Āṭṭaprakaraṇa is considered as the most authoritative work on the art form till date."

This entire paragraph appears to be a straight lift from one of these sites. It is also possible that the Wikipedia entry for Kutiyattam had this exact paragraph sometime in the past.

It is interesting that even the Sanskrit word kūrd is possibly a borrowing from Dravidian (Burrow Dravidian Studies VII 1948:375, CDIAL 3411,3412, See DEDR 1705).




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