When Theatre Makes the Ritual Work

Imitation, Materialization and Reactualization in the Malayali Ritual Theatre Muṭiyēṯṯu’

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.19.2017.02.02

Keywords:

goddess worship, Kerala, possession, South India, Bhadrakāḷi, Muṭiyēṯṯu’

Abstract

When Theatre Makes the Ritual Work. Imitation, Materialization and Reactualization in the Malayali Ritual Theatre Muṭiyēṯṯu’

In Muṭiyēṯṯu’, a ritual theatre performed in some Hindu temples of central Kerala (South India), ritual and theatre are intricately woven to form a cluster that plays a well-defined role in the cult of the goddess Bhadrakāḷi. It ‘works’ as a ritual because of the realistic theatralization of key portions of her myth, the generation of sacrificial violence and ritual pollution, as well as the embodiment of the goddess using an array of musical, dramatic and performative components. With its overt theatrical essence, Muṭiyēṯṯu’ displays all the features corresponding to and expected by Bhadrakāḷi in a specific condition and is thereby seen as a most effective offering to appease, please and worship her. The ethnographic data provided in this article highligh how the Hindu logic of imitation allows the materialization of the goddess—and its culmination in possession—using theatrical and performative tools to create life, hence giving substance and ritual legitimacy to Bhadrakāḷi’s physical manifestation that is at the core of the power assigned to Muṭiyēṯṯu’ in its traditional context.

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Published

2017-08-28

How to Cite

Pasty-Abdul Wahid, Marianne. 2017. “When Theatre Makes the Ritual Work: Imitation, Materialization and Reactualization in the Malayali Ritual Theatre Muṭiyēṯṯu’”. Cracow Indological Studies 19 (2):33-60. https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.19.2017.02.02.