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date: 10 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores multiple dimensions of the reenactment of a thirteenth-century ritual dance-theater work, Kaisika Natakam, of South India. A collaborative effort by scholars, musicologists, and performing artist Anita Ratnam, the revival and reconstruction of this tradition has been performed annually since 1995 in Tirukurungudi village in Tamil Nadu, India. We theoretically distinguish reconstruction from reenactment. This ritual reenactment appeals to modern democratic impulses in that the story uniquely challenges the caste system; indeed it demonstrates that Nambudevan, Lord Vishnu’s devotee, though low-born is an honorable individual who keeps his word, even if that may lead to his death. The story reminds audiences of the significance of music and dance in Hindu worship, exemplified in Nambudevan’s devotional singing that plays a key role in transforming a demon into human form. The chapter also discusses gender issues such as male roles played by females in this ritual dance-theater.

Keywords: India, Kaisika Natakam, dance-theater, Hindu, devotional singing, Tamil Nadu

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