Vellinezhi: The village that nurtures art
A bus is moving through the rain, overcoming the turns, curves, slops and steeps, fighting the leaves sticking out from the branches of the trees. Getting drenched by the rain drops flying with the wind, the journey through the country roads ended at Vellinezhi. This is the village which got written with the names of great Kathakali artists. Not only Kathakali, there are lot more arts and artist in this land of Kunthipuzha.
Achuthan Kutty, who got retired from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, is the person who introduced Vellinezhi to us. This region is also known as Valluvanad. He was waiting for us at the front of the house in North Vellinezhi. Vellinezhi doesn’t have much lodging facilities, so he welcomed us to stay in his house. The houses we saw on the way from Shornur to Vellinezhi can be categorized into two. The first category are the old houses built with attics, wooden windows and tile roofs. The second category are the modern concrete houses which appear between them. Achuthankutty’s house seemed like the house in the second category. But when we enter inside it turned out to be like an old tharavaad which has a corridor and rumbling wooden doors. We talked while sipping black coffee in a room full of cupboard filled with books. Lots of arts starting from Kathakali to Carnatic music and from statue making to Parichamuttu exits in this Vellinezhi village. An artist group is organizing a plan to explain the art patriot of this village to the tourists. Achuthan Kutty is the Chief Coordinator of this group. He is known as Achoottiyettan among the villagers. He happily took over the responsibility to introduce the art, artist, and life to the tourists.
We first went to the place where Kathakali outfits are made. Kothavil Raman Kutty and his sons, Govindan Kutty and Unni Krishnan, and their two helpers are the ones who make these outfits. Raman Kutty was shining a crown in his workplace near his house. It takes an effort of one month to complete a crown for an artist. As well as it takes a month to make the ornaments too. There are eight ornaments for Kathakali. Thoda, Chevipoovu, Hasthakadakam, Vala, Tholpoottu, Paruthikaayamani, Kollaaram, Padiyaranjaanam are the eight things for male costume. For female costume, it will be these eight ornaments with slight differences. Kathakali outfits are made with the wood from Gmelina trees. The specialty of this wood is that it is light in weight and durable. A crown costs almost 35000 rupees. And the ornaments also costs among same. Raman Kutty said that, even if there are many buyers there are only very few who makes it. His family is the only one who makes Kathakali ornaments in this village.
Organizations like Kalamandalam, Sadanam, Kottakkal are the ones asking for Kathakali outfits. Even when he’s speaking constantly, he’s focusing completely on the crown for Kalamandalam. Ornaments are done, but crowns are remaining. By saying that he stopped the conversation. There’s an elephant standing close to the workplace. He made it for a candidate for election campaigning. Like Aranmula, Vellinezhi also has its own mirror makers called Adakkaapathur mirror.
Krishna Kumar, who is a member of Goldsmith family, is the one who’s making it. Krishna Kumar continues making mirror as a tradition which was started by his father. He makes mirrors in a shed close to his house. First he makes the shape of the mirror using wax. Then he covers the exterior with well grinded sand. The he covers it again using rough sand having one inch thickness. Then the heats the mould and takes out the wax and pours bronze by melting it. And when it gets filled, he gets the bronze like the shape of the mould which was like the shape of wax. Then it gets polished. To make even a small mirror using this method, it takes 6 days to finish it. And it will cost 5000 rupees. Krishna Kumar makes mirrors which will cost up to 35000 rupees. Krishna Kumar states he gets a lot of orders by phone from different places in Kerala.
Krishna Kumar’s elder brother Hari Govindan is a sculptor. Afterwards we went to his house who’s staying in Vellinezhi itself. Here also there is a workplace close to house. This workplace is built different from other work sheds using a sculptor’s skills. He arranged it in a way which maximum light enters to the shed. There are some models of statues which he has already completed.
Vellinezhi also has two artists named Kalanilayam Rajivan and Kalanilayam Pathmanabhan who can complete the work of wooden Kathakali outfits, by attaching stones and giving colours to it, so they can be used in stage. They work late night. They said, it will take one month to complete the work of a crown like this. Apart from that, they also work on making Kathakali outfits using fibers too. There are different colourful decorating objects scattered all over the place. They are sitting on a mat in the middle of it and are developing the beauty of a crown. Even when it’s late at night, they don’t seem tired while they talk and work.
We were late when we reached Shankaranaashan’s house who is a Parichamuttu master. He along with his family warmly welcomed me. Master recalls that, in olden days Parichamuttu was mandatory for weddings. But then it turned out to be just a competition among Youth Festivals. He is a teacher who gives Parichamuttu classes at schools now. Long ago he played this art at houses. Even though he’s 82 years old he continues to perform this play excitingly.
The present most popular form of Kathakali, namely Kalluvazhi Chitta originated in Olappamanna Mana, which is in Vellinezhi. It is also the birth place of poet Olappamanna and Sumangala. Mana is presently “Ettukettu”. One part of it is homestay and people actually reside at the other part. The homestay owner O.N. Dhamodaran said that many foreigners come to stay here at the mana and to see Kathakali and Kalampaattu. There is a big number of arts such as Pulluvan paattu, Chumar chithramezhuthu, Kaikottikali, Chendakottu, etc which got rooted in Vellinezhi. A few days won’t be enough to watch the every art in this village. There are no proof of any war or riot happened here in the land of Vellinezhi. Achoottiyettan claims that, many of the arts took place here because of the peaceful atmosphere in Vellinezhi. However, there is something which is protecting and taking care of the art in this land.
Moreover, the people in Vellinezhi will not give up their arts for anything which they received naturally. The experience in Vellinezhi proved that it’s the opposite of the opinion which says that; when generation pass by, arts fade. Each and everyone in this land uses their traditional arts. We didn’t hear any difficulties or dissatisfaction in sustaining the art in Vellinezhi. Besides, they are making income using their precious arts. Even thoughRaman Kutty, Krishna Kumar, Sahadevan, Rajeevan, Padmanabhan and Shankaranaashaan are from different generations, they love arts and are getting income from it. They are living happily by doing what they love. This is the message Vellinezhi has for the world.