ProjectKutiyattam: Living Sanskrit Theater in the Kerala Tradition

Basic data

Kutiyattam: Living Sanskrit Theater in the Kerala Tradition
01/01/2013 to 31/12/2016
Abstract / short description:
Classical Sanskrit theater has survived as a living performance tradition, continuous with the medieval past, only in one form, the Kudiyattam (“Combined Performance”) tradition of Kerala in the south-west of the sub-continent. This complex, still vibrant, yet endangered artistic tradition — recognized by Unesco as a “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”— is in urgent need of scholarly study and state-of-the-art documentation. Traditional performances of Kudiyattam plays range from roughly thirty to well over a hundred hours (each is usually a single act from one of the classical Sanskrit dramas), with each subsequent day or night of performance adding indispensable elements to the emergent artistic whole. Only two major academic centers in the world are engaged in serious, long-term study of Kudiyattam — the University of Tuebingen, where Dr. Heike Moser, the leading expert on this tradition, teaches and pursues research, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where Prof. David Shulman is now concentrating on the cultural history of Kerala and its classical artistic forms together with several advanced students. The profound complexity of this tradition as well as its intimate links to very ancient Indian sources and to specifically south Indian ritual and artistic genres require the active cooperation of a team of highly trained scholars. Tuebingen and Jerusalem thus seek to combine their efforts in a large-scale project, historically informed and philologically precise, with a wide cultural-historical scope, which is likely to transform our understanding of classical Indian drama and poetics. The project includes detailed analysis of the primary performance texts in the existing repertoire (hundreds of hours of recorded performance, published and unpublished stage-manuals, including palmleaf-manuscripts), publication of a series of monographs on various aspects of the Kudiyattam corpus, workshops and a major international conference in Tuebingen and/or Jerusalem, and two research expeditions to complete documentation of the repertoire before it disappears.
In cooperation with Prof. David Shulman, Hebrew University (Jerusalem / Israel)

Involved staff


Department of Asian and Oriental Studies
Faculty of Humanities
Indian Studies
Department of Asian and Oriental Studies, Faculty of Humanities

Local organizational units

Indian Studies
Department of Asian and Oriental Studies
Faculty of Humanities


Jerusalem, Israel
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Jerusalem, Israel
Nepathya – Centre of Excellence in Koodiyattam
Moozhikulam, Kerala, India
Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed University of Art and Culture (KKM)
Cheruthuruthy, Kerala, India

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