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The Interplay of the Vernacular With Sanskrit in Subhadrādhanañjayam on the Kūṭiyāṭṭam Stage


· Heike Oberlin Eberhard Karl Universitaet Tuebingen (Tuebingen, Germany)


07/28 | 15:30-15:50 UTC+2/CEST


Kūṭiyāṭṭam, “performing together / interplay”, is the name of the sole Sanskrit theatre with an unbroken tradition of at least a millennium. Its home is Kerala in the extreme Southwest of the Indian subcontinent.

Kūṭiyāṭṭam combines the Sanskrit and the Prakrit dialects of the drama texts with the regional language Malayalam in a unique way. The Malayalam explanations of the Sanskrit and Prakrit dialogues and long insertions typical for Kūṭiyāṭṭām play an important role of and on stage. These elaborations are handed down in the actor families. If no jester Vidūṣaka is present, these additional Malayalam texts are not vocalised but translated word by word including grammatical information into the most sophisticated hand gesture language known in any theatre tradition. Furthermore: While reciting the prose and verses of the dialogues a simultaneous translation into hand gestures takes place. Once the Vidūṣaka appears on stage he takes over and translates and explains all scenes via voce into Malayalam.

With special reference to Kulaśēkhara Varmman’s play Subhadrādhanañjayam (The wedding of Subhadrā and Arjuna) the lecture wants to 1) explain this basic technique of the interplay of Sanskrit, Prakrit and the vernacular Malayalam and 2) how, with the help of this technique, typical Kerala features melt with the Mahābhārata theme in Kūṭiyāṭtam performances.