Chavittu Nadakam is a Christian dance drama performed in some parts of Kerala. This colourful classical form of art is prevalent among the Syrian Christian community and symbolize the martial traditions existed among them
It came into existence after the advent of the Portuguese to the Malabar shores coast for trade and missionary work. As per the history, Portuguese felt a vacuum in the cultural arena. What they needed is a vehicle to spread the myths and legends they held in reverence. They were impressed with the sway of Kathakali but obviously felt that it would be unwise to graft their legends on to the Kathakali dance drama. The solution was to create a distinctive dance drama of their own. So most of the times the stories related to Christianity or Western history or Biblical stories are played.
Inspiration of the western opera type of theatre was can be seen in Chavittu Nadakam. The texts were written in old Tamil. The acting techniques, stage structure and treatment of the plot were all western. The influence of Kathakali can be seen in the use of curtains and in certain elements of the costumes. The influence of Kalaripayattu is evident from the vivacious fighting scenes.
Chavittu Nadakam is usually performed on open stages. Sometimes the interior of a church is also a location. Training is provided to performers before staging the play. The master is known as Annavi. The whole play is performed through musicals. The performers wear glittering Greco-Roman costumes. The bell and drum are two instruments used as background score. The language used is a colloquial blend of Tamil and Malayalam.
A peculiar feature of this drama art is the actors stamping the dance floor to emphasize the dramatic situations. Hence literally Chavittu Nadakam means ‘Stamping Drama’. The play is considered a success if at the end, the platform collapses from pressure of all the kicking and stamping.