തിടമ്പുനൃത്തം

Thidambu Nritham is a form of dance associated with temple festivals. Believed to be over 600 years old, a typical Thidambu Nritham features a man carrying the decorated image of the presiding deity of the temple. Wearing a skirt of pleated cloth, a silk vest, ornaments and a decorated head gear called Ushnipeetam the dancer moves around outside the sanctum sanctorum. Various stages of dancing are involved and the dancer is usually accompanied by a group of artistes, playing percussions and couple of men holding traditional brass lamps.

North Kerala has many rich art traditions, of which "Thidambu Nritham" is one. Thidambu Nritham is popular in Kasaragod, Kannur Districts and in some parts of Kozhikode District. It is performed by Namboothiris and Marar plays on percussion instruments, Chenda. In Thidambu Nritham, persons from Nambissan, Warrier and Unithiri communities serve as assistants of Namboothiris. Ten persons are needed for staging this dance. The dance is performed with the decorated deity of the god of the temple carried on the head. Foot work is most important and this is executed to the rhythms of the Chendas.


Thidambu Nrityam is pure dance, completely absorbed in, and regulated by, rhythm (Thaalam) which is "Layam". Surprisingly, it has not been included among the temple arts of Kerala, though connoisseurs admit that this is an art, and a ritualistic one. As the dancer comes out carrying the replica of the idol on his head, the "Maaraar" (hereditary drummer in temples) makes the characteristic drumming when Thaanthric rites are performed.

The word "Thitambu" suggests the direct manifestation of the deity. Idols being carried on top of elephants during festivals as also replicas beings held on shoulders while dancing to the rhythm of percussion instruments are a common sight in Kerala. But, dancing with the replicas on the heads, is a unique feature in the North.

The origin of Thidambu Nritham cannot be easily traced. Some Braahmanans who had migrated to the North of Kerala at the time of Chirakkal Raja may have introduced this dance from Karnataka where a form of "Nritham" called "Darsana Bali" was in vogue.

Replicas are made of bamboo with which a beautiful frame with intricate designs is created. The priestly dancer, clad in the traditional style after performing the usual rituals, comes out of the sanctorum, and standing under the flag, holds aloft the replica weighing about 10 kg-30 kg on his head and starts the divine dance.

The dance begins with "Kotti Urayikkal" (drumming to make the dancer possessed). The drumming in different Thaalams accompanied by scintillating music
coaxes the performer to dance to each rhythm, creating a holy atmosphere. Each circumlocution is regulated by a different Thaalam.

Thidambu Nritham has undergone some changes in accordance with the trend of the times,. The changes are in the Thaalams, though the basic one remains unchanged. The innovation adds to the novelty and variety of this art, according to him.

There is no scope for emotional expressions in this art. An exception is famous "Kootippiriyal" (parting of lord Krishna and Balarama) at Trichambaram. The occasion is very touching with thousands watching with tearful joy, Krishna and Balarama playing about wildly until the former runs after the milkman carrying milk, and the latter returns to his dwelling some distance away. There is a legend woven round the Thidambu Nritham of Thrichambaram. There was an ardent devotee of lord Krishna - a Namboothiri. He visited the temple everyday, seeking Krishna's blessings. Time flew. He grew old, so old that he couldnot walk upto the temple half a kilometer away. Inwardly crushed at his physical incapacity, he prayed : "Krishna, my dear, I cannot come to you; forgive me". Legend has it that, that night, lord Krishna ran up to him with his brother Balarama and danced along what is called "Pookkottu Nada" just in front of the Namboothiri's house. The wonder and delight of the Namboothiri can well be imagined. The famous festival at Trichambaram which goes on from 22nd Kumbham to 6th Meenam (middle March) is in celebration of that event. During the festival, the "Melsaanthis" of Trichambaram and Mazhoor (Balarama's temple) hold aloft the replicas of the two deities and dance to the scintillating rhythm of percussion instruments.

Another legend goes like this : A Namboothiri used to sit in meditation under a nux vomica tree [Botanical name : Stricnos nuxvomica ; Mal. - "Kaanjiram"]. He had sores all over his body. The fruit that occasionally fell on his body gave him excruciating pain. In agony he cried out a curse : "Let this tree bear no fruit any longer". Even today the tree bears no fruit, though it has leaves. It is interesting that during the festival, the dancing Namboothiri priests place the idols of various gods in a small "Mandapam" under the tree. People pay obeisance to the deities video

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