Art And Literature


As the Vedas were transmitted orally without reference to their meaning, the preceptors did not think it necessary to record anything regarding this tradition. The two works on vedic literature of some importance are commentary on Aitareya Brahman a by Sadguru śiṣya, and Sukhada comm. on Kausītakī composed by Udayana. Thus the direct influence of vedic studies on literature is meagre. But it exerted a deeper imprint indirectly over all the art forms, especially the theatre. Nātyasāstra is considered to be the fifth Veda. The cākyārs, the traditional actors of Kerala considered the performance of Sanskrit dramas in Kuṭiyāṭṭam as an act dedicated to the diety. Nāt.ya is yajña.9

 “The place where Nātyaprayoga takes place is called sadas and the stage is called vedika and vahni is employed for its protection. The preliminaries with homa offered and the import of the last line of nāndi quoted in the vth lesson of NS where the word `ijya' is used, are yet another indication that the original theoretical enquiry into the nature of theatre given the shape of a myth of its birth took place while the vedic yajña was the central and pivotal notion of life not only in the sphere of religion par excellence but also in other spheres of intellectual endeavor. Therefore, we cannot proceed further in our attempt to delineate the cultural context of nāṭyaprayoga without grasping the essence of the vedic world view”.

This cultural context of the vedic world view made the performance of Kuṭiyāṭṭam, a kind of sacrifice performed in the Kūttampalam. Everything in it, beginning from lighting of the lamp to the final sālādahana has the attribute of a yajña. It will not be an exaggeration if we are to assert that the only remaining relic of Sanskrit theatre is preserved in Kerala due to the special affinity it came to be acquired in the cultural context to the vedic tradition. And preservation of the theatre is perhaps the greatest contribution of the vedic tradition in Kerala. Even in its formal structure, the vedic mudras have influenced those of Kut.iyat.t.am and needless to repeat, the accentual affinity of vedic recitation and cākyār’s words are too well known.10