Monday, April 30, 2012

English and Regional Languages: The Need for a Literary Lingua-Cultural Rendezvous

When it is genuine, when it is born of the need to speak, no one can stop the human voice. When denied a mouth, it speaks with the hands or the eyes, or the pores, or anything at all. Because every single one of us has something to say to the others, something that deserves to be celebrated or forgiven by others.
                                                  -The Book of Embraces, Eduardo Galeano

The recent cultural theories provide a common platform for English and regional languages. These theories are included in the curriculum of language and literature as the tools for analyzing the micro strategies of imposing cultural power as well as the structure of language. But the colonial consciousness of the public and moreover the academic world refrain from making it more effective. Even now the English education in India is based on a Euro centric approach that follows the Western model of Standard English in the structure of language as well as pronunciation. The function of English education should be redefined in a cultural perspective and it should be closely related to the region, where it works.
            English has played a major role in the renaissance process of Kerala during the last century of colonial era. The Christian missionaries started English schools in various parts of Kerala from the beginning of nineteenth century itself. The English education was introduced by the British with the twin purpose of preparing the natives for taking up jobs to assist in the administration of the country and thereby imposing on them the values of western thought. On the other side, those schools provided the awareness of modern world for the people, the then ‘untouchables’, who were denied formal education in a rigorous caste based social system. The so called upper class kept themselves away from those schools as they had a traditional system of education based on Sanskrit language. But the traditional learners were forced to accept English education subsequently for various reasons.
            The decline of joint family system and the emergence of nuclear families forced individuals to seek new job opportunities. The social leaders, who were influenced by the western thoughts of democracy and modernism, identified the traditional believes and caste system as the main obstacles of social development. Indulekha, a Malayalam novel written in the last quarter of nineteenth century, urged the upper class for modern education, by making a contrast between the English educated protagonists with modern outlook and the antagonists as well as comic characters, who followed traditional value system. The innovative thoughts and exhortations provided by the social leaders, who argued for democracy, freedom, equality and secularism influenced the traditional scholars as well. Later on, the Indian political leaders, social reformers and writers of different regions developed a new perspective of social rights by understanding various cultures and political movements of different civil societies in different parts of the world through English education and they used it not only as a weapon to fight against colonial power but also to unite the people internally by applying the methods like eradication of untouchability. English became the prominent medium of communication between different linguistic groups, which was inevitable in a multilingual nation like India.
            The impact of Western modernism was evident in social life and cultural discourses of that time. Lot of changes occurred in Malayalam literature also. Neo-classical literary forms were replaced by modern literary genres like novel and short story. The traditional forms of poetry and drama also explored new ways of expression. Lot of western literary works was translated into Malayalam. But the process of modernization brought up some serious struggles in the cultural context of Kerala, as it did in the other regions of India. Malayalam writers of the first half of the Twentieth century shared these conflicts about self, identity and the existence of regional language in their literary works. We can see the argument from the other side of modernization in the poems like ‘Ente bhasha’(my language) written by Vallathol Narayana Menon and ‘macaulayyude makal’ (daughter of macaulay) by P. Kunjiraman Nair. ‘Kuttippuram palam’ (Kuttippuram bridge) by Edasseri Govindan Nair depicted the struggle between regional culture and modernity. Marshall Berman explains the struggle and experience of modernity:
To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world, and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity, of class and nationality, of religion and ideology: in this sense, modernity can be said to unite all mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity: it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish. To be modern is to be part of a universe in which, as Marx said, ‘all that is solid melts into air’. 1
This kind of joyous and dangerous experience of modernity continued to be complicated in the post independent era also. The ideology of European modernism influenced the regional literatures in 1950s, while urbanization, poverty, political changes, wars and communal riots made Indian modernism more complex. As far as languages are concerned, Hindi gained the national status while other Indian languages were limited to their own regions. English remains on the verge of cultural domination. Braj Kachru observes, “English now has national and international functions that are both distinct and complementary. English has thus acquired a new power base and a new elitism” 2
            The educational institutions in India accepted English as their first language for communication and cultural exchange. The criteria in quality of educational institutions turned into how effectively they teach Standard English. The high class English schools followed Oxford English and Received Pronunciation as their status symbols. Standard Indian English pretends to be similar to British English, but it also has some regional differences, which are natural in a Multi-lingual society. Despite this diversity, there is general homogeneity in syntax and vocabulary among the varieties of Indian English.
            But the common people of India use English for communication with a regional colour that they developed within a number of dialects in English, distinct from the Standard Indian English that educational institutions have tried to establish. It is possible to distinguish a person's sociolinguistic background from the dialect that he/she employs. These dialects are influenced by their native languages, not only in the syntax and pronunciation, but also in the lexicon and idioms they generate from familiar situations of their regional culture. Malayali, Tamil, Rajasthani, punjabi and various other Indian language speaking communities developed their own English with this regional flavor. For example Suchitra Sadanandan has done a research on the topic ‘Stress in Malayalee English: A generative phonological approach’ (1981). Butler English or Kichen English is another dialect, which has some specific features of a pidgin, with a ‘Subject Verb Object’ word order and has a lack of distinct grammatical rules of Standard English. But the colonial cultural power of Standard English affects the Indians in a way, such as the consciousness of right and wrong, suspicions on pronunciation and the uncertainty of ‘quality’ make some kind of inhibitions in speaking/using English
            In fact, this cultural dilemma of language is evident in other colonial nations also. For example, the continent Africa is made up of people with different languages and countries with a variety of approaches to cultural expression and has rich traditions of verbal arts. But the transatlantic slave trade and colonial administration in various African countries alienated them from their own culture in many ways. First of all, the slaves exiled from their countries lost their own language and culture, at the same time they were forced to practice their masters’ language and alienated from both of these languages. The natives of African countries, who inhabited their homelands under colonial control, faced the domination of languages like English and French in a similar way as of Indians.
             The Africans followed a range approaches in using writing as a mode of colonial resistance. The first notable movement was Harlem Renaissance, centered on Harlem in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s. Famous poet and activist Langston Hughes, who participated in this movement, wrote about the period that "Harlem was in vogue". Another literary and ideological movement, Negritude, developed by francophone black writers, and politicians in France in the 1930s used various kinds of cultural expressions. Leopold Sedar Senghor, poet and the first president of Senegal from 1960 to 1981, Aime Cesaire, poet from Martinica, and Leon Damas from French Guiana were the leaders of this movement. Senghor has defined Negritude as ‘the sum-total of the values of the black world.’ Anthonia C. Kalu says,
Asserting African self-determination, beauty, dignity and strength, negritude enabled the emerging Western-educated African leadership to explore questions of responsibility, homeland and images of Africa as the Mother that nurtures.3 
            Accordingly, “Negritude aimed at trapping the colonizer with his own logic to reverse the damages he had caused.”4 The writers of this movement introduced African narrative techniques and themes used in oral tradition into contemporary African literature, especially in short story and novel. Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka, a novel originally written in Sesotho language in 1910, and translated into English in 1925, made a platform for this Africanism. Amos Tutola’s The palm-wine drinkard (1953), the novel written in a stilted English, is a powerful compilation of Yoruba narratives. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) which is written in a kind of Standard English, yet manifesting the specific features of Negritude effectively, takes a different approach from that of Tutola’s Palm-wine Drinkard. Camara Laye’s, The African Child (1954), an autobiography written in a plain sensitive language is considered a major work in francophone literature.
            In Caribbean Islands, different ethnic groups and language- communities were compelled to live together under the colonial power. This situation made a hybrid cultural environment and the inhabitants of the islands formed some pidgins to communicate with each other.5 Later the descendants of these people developed the pidgins as creoles but these languages struggled to find their way into main stream literature.6 For instance, Louise Bennett (1919–2006), who wrote poetry in Jamaican Creole, was excluded from the meetings of Jamaican poetry league, but she argued forcefully for the recognition of this language. Notable Reggae singers Bob Marley and Peter Tosh used Jamaican Creole in many of their songs. These kinds of endeavors are relevant in the context of lingua-cultural resistance.
            ‘Decolonizing the mind’ (1986) written by Ngugi wa Thiong'o, the famous English writer from Kenya, who renounced English, Christianity, and the name James Ngugi as colonialist and now writing in his native languages Gikuyu and Swahil, justifies his proclamation, ‘my farewell to English as a vehicle for any of my writings’,7 by providing a number of arguments. Here are some excerpts from this work, which sometimes resemble social situations as well as the English education in contemporary Indian Context:
1. ‘We spoke Gikuyu [the most widely spoken language in Kenya] in and outside the home. I can vividly recall those evenings of storytelling around the fireside.’
2. ‘The stories, with mostly animals as the main characters, were all told in Gikuyu...the language of our evening teach-ins, and the language of our immediate and wider community, and the language of our work in the fields were one.’
3. ‘And then I went to school, a colonial school, and this harmony was broken. The language of my education was no longer the language of my culture... English became the language of my formal education. In Kenya, English became more than a language: it was the language, and all the others had to bow before it in deference.’
4. ‘Thus one of the most humiliating experiences was to be caught speaking Gikuyu in the vicinity of the school. The culprit was given corporal punishment - three to five strokes of the cane on bare buttocks - or was made to carry a metal plate around the neck with inscriptions such as I AM STUPID or I AM A DONKEY. Sometimes the culprits were fined money they could hardly afford.’
5. ‘The attitude to English was the exact opposite: any achievement in spoken or written English was highly rewarded... nobody could pass the exam who failed the English language paper no matter how brilliantly he had done in the other subjects.. English was the official vehicle and the magic formula to colonial elitism.’
6. ‘I started writing in Gikuyu language in 1977 after seventeen years of involvement in Afro-European literature, in my case Afro-English literature... I believe that my writing in Gikuyu language, a Kenyan language, an African language, is part and parcel of the anti-imperialist struggles of Kenyan and African peoples.’8 
            These kind of intensive responses are not familiar in Indian context. On the contrast, even from the colonial period, some of the Indian writers have been accused of trying to improve their status by working more on standard British English. The comment made by W. B. Yeats on famous Indian writer, Rabindranath Tagore, is an example. Yeats, who had written the well-known introduction to Tagore’s Gitanjali in 1912, wrote in a letter to his friend later,
Damn Tagore...because he thought it more important to see and know English than to be a great poet, he brought out sentimental rubbish and wrecked his reputation. Tagore does not know English, no Indians know English. Nobody can write music and style in a language not learned in childhood and ever since the language of his thought.9 
            Another example is The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian (1951) written by Nirad C Chaudhuri, who wished to be an English man rather than Indian. Some years ago Salman Rushdie dismissed the regional literature as ‘provincial’, when he edited a book of Indian Literature. Even if his generalized statement cannot be taken for granted, this attitude reflects the colonialist view of an Indian writer. In another way, one can identify this so-called provincialism as a part of cultural resistance. However, most of these works in regional literature are neither translated nor identified by international readers.
            In the post colonial period, Indian English writers are trying to find their own space for their own sake. Even when they try to narrate a regional theme, most of them have a Eurocentric attitude. Post colonial concepts like hybridity and inbetweenness provide a platform for their works. One can easily apply these concepts to catagorise Indian English writings. Moreover that works lack an indigenous approach or regional flavour. Let me conclude this paper by quoting some lines of Madhavikkutty/Kamala Das/Kamala Surayya, who faced this inbetweenness in language, region and religion:
...I am Indian, very brown, born in
Malabar, I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one....
....Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses
All mine, mine alone. It is half English, half
Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest,
It is as human as I am human, don’t
You see? 10

1. Berman, Marshal, 1982. All That is solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity, (Newyork: Simon and Schuster),  p. 15.
2. Kachru, Braj, 1986. The Alchemy of English: The spread, functions and models of non-native Englishes (New York: Pergamon), p. 12.
3. (Kalu, Anthonia C. (edi), 2010.  ‘introduction’, The Rienner Anthology of African Literature (New Delhi: Viva), p. 10.
4. Orizet, John (edi.), 1988. Anthology of French poetry (Paris: Larousse), p. 623.
5. “A pidgin arises in the first place to to fulfill restricted communication needs between people who do not share a common language.” See Jenkins, Jennifer, 2003. World Englishes: A resourse book for students (London and New York: Routledge), p. 10.
6. Patke, Rajiv. S. 2007. Postcolonial Poetry in English (New Delhi: Oxford), p. 96.
7. Thiong'o, Ngugi wa, 2004. Decolonising the mind: the politics of language in African literature, (London, James Currey), p. xvi.
8. Ibid. p.9-22.
9. Quoted in Thayil, Jeet (edi.), 2008. ‘One language, seperated by the sea, 60 Indian Poets, (New Delhi: Penguin, p. xii.
10. Das, Kamala, 2004. ‘An Introduction’, Summer in Calcutta (Kottayam: D. C. Books), p. 62.

Some suggestions for enhancing English education in Kerala

1. The history of Colonialism in Various countries, with special reference to India and Kerala, should be included in the Syllabus of English.
2. Malayalam literary works, like Indulekha, ‘Ente bhasha’, ‘macaulayyude makal’, ‘Kuttippuram palam’ which depicted the conflicts of Colinial modernism, will help the students to identify the politics of language in the cultural context of Kerala.
3. Possibility of pidgins and creoles should be explored in a multilingual society like India, to improve communication with different language communities.
4. Students must be aware of the cultural elitism of Standard English in Indian cultural context. They are expected to analyze the Indian English dialects through a linguistic approach rather than grammatical.
5. We can see the use of dialects and regional languages as a part of cultural resistance in other places. So the use of Indian English dialects should be viewed in a cultural aspect. Let the people speak, let them express. Let them write in a language that they wish. Do not use the criteria of Standard English to read them.
6. Indian language communities are not communicating one another much, for the lack of a common language. We do not even know the culture and literature of our neighboring states. Indian English can contribute a lot to solve this problem.
7. All major literary works of regional languages should be translated to English. Two-way translations, from English to the regional languages as well as from regional languages to English, should be included in the curriculum. The students must learn translation theories and practice.

                                                             Dr. Manoj Kuroor
                                                             Department of Malayalam
                                                             N. S. S. Hindu College

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Cultural Study with Special Reference to Ekachuzhati Rhythms

Dr. Manoj Kuroor

[Published in Tapasam: A Quarterly Journal for Kerala Studies, Vol. I/Issue 3/January 2006]

In spite of being a small geographical area, Kerala is enriched by hundreds of traditional art forms. It may be the result of the convergence and conflicts of various religions, castes and races that have immigrated to this land through several centuries for various historical reasons. This hybridity of cultures had its reflection in the literature and artistic devices used in these art forms. The lack of historical evidence is a real hazard that compels us to refrain from making objective statements about the formulation of most of these art forms.

Classification of Rhythms

In a conventional manner, these art forms are divided into two genres i.e. Classical and folk. Kathakali, Koodiyattam and Krishnanattam belong to the classical genre1 while Theyyam, Padayani, Mudiyettu, Poorakkali, Kanyarkali, Kummattikkali, Margamkali, Dufmuttu, Sanghakkali etc. are grouped as folk.2 In a cultural perspective, it is important to note that these art forms are marked by the presence of numerous varieties of rhythms (talas). In other words, rhythm is the dominant factor among the artistic devices used in each and every traditional art form. A cultural study of these rhythms will strongly denounce the conventional classification of rhythms into classical/folk. Unless the adjective ‘folk’ helps to announce the existence and identity of some of these art forms by differentiating them from the classical tradition, even the classical art forms themselves were derived from the same folk tradition through the methods of stylization or standardization, the classification will allow the classical art forms to remain ‘pure’ and elite.
As far as the presence of rhythm is concerned, the same rhythm is used in various art forms and rhythms belonging to different systems of rhythm are practised in one art form despite the conventional division into classical/folk. A scholar and practitioner of these rhythms, the famous Arjunanritham artist, late Kurichi P. S. Kumaran said in a private conversation: “There are no classical rhythms; all rhythms are folk.”3 This statement offers the possibility of comparison with the observation made by Edward W. Said on Western classical music: “. . . I accept the existence of a relatively distinct entity called ‘Western classical music,’ although at a later occasion perhaps I’d like to show that it is far from coherent or monolithic and that when it is talked about as if it meant only one thing it is being constructed with non-western, non classical musics and cultures very much in mind.”4
Every art form flourishes in the cultural continuum of its own region while the regional culture is being nourished by the presence of these art forms. Though sometimes the cultural factors inherent in these arts are not so visible on the surface, it is possible to elucidate them by analyzing the techniques or devices - like rhythms, tunes, gestures and footsteps - used in them. In the works of Kunjan Nambiar, the 18th century poet and exponent of the art form Thullal, who had traveled and lived in many parts of Kerala, we can see the rhythms belonging to different regional cultures.5 He used the rhythms that consist of various systems of rhythm and defined some of them, even though he employed the criterion of classical music.
The ancient books on Indian music had divided the rhythms - generally music - into two categories. They regarded the rhythms belonging to a pan-Indian tradition as Marga Talas and rhythms practised in different regions as Desi Talas.6 But Marga is divine and only used by Devas, the deities and Gandharvas, the semi Gods.7 Still all the rhythms that were in practice, whether classical or folk, belonged to ‘human’ art forms demarcated as Desi! So many Desi systems of rhythms such as 120 talas, 101 talas, 108 talas, and Suladi system of 35 talas are some examples.8 Even the classical music and classical dance use these systems of rhythms.
Carnatic music, the most dominant form of South Indian classical music, has been practising Suladi system since the 16th century. This system consists of seven main talas. Dhruvam, Matyam, Roopakam, Champa, Triputa, Ata and Eka. Each of them has five divisions (Jaties): Thryasram, Chaturasram, Khandam, Misram and Sankirnam. Then the total number of talas is 7x5=35.9 All other ancient rhythms are replaced by these rhythms for the eminent scholar-writers like Purandaradasa, Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri had written several compositions in these talas. The wide acceptance of these compositions and rhythms in the modern age and the tendency among the traditional scholars to measure all other rhythms by using the criterion of this system put aside other rhythms practiced in several regional art forms as well as the rhythms belonging to ancient systems.
The domination of a single system is not only a technical fallacy but also a question of cultural power. It gives a universal definition to rhythm and determines the other rhythms as synonyms or parodies of the dominant rhythm by means of some peripheral similarities between them. For example, some rhythms, even if they belong to different systems, have the same number of matras or same duration. Chathurasra jathi dhruva tala of Suladi system and Marma Tala of Ekachuzhati system have the same duration of 14 matras. A traditional scholar of classical music may identify the Marma tala as Chathurasrajathi Dhruva Tala irrespective of the differences between them.
The rhythms of every art form must be analyzed by placing them in their cultural context and the conventional approaches that could lead to a cultural domination of any aesthetic ideas or ideologies must be resisted for Kerala has been a land of diversity- the diversity of social groups as well as rhythm structures. The presence of rhythms belonging to various systems such as 5 rhythms described in Natyasastra (e.g. Chachatputam and Shatpitaputrakam used in Arjunanritham and Garudanthukkam), 120 rhythms (Vishamam used in Thekkan Chendamelam and Mallatala practised in Koodiyattam), 108 rhythms (Karika used in Sastampattu and Thullal), 35 rhythms of Suladi system (Triputa used in Kathakali, Thullal, Koodiyattam and Krishnanattam), and Ekachuzhati rhythms (used in Mudiyettu, Padayani, Theyyam and Sastampattu) is evident in the art forms of Kerala. In addition to them several rhythms that belong to none of these systems (e.g. Ganapathy, Lakshmi, Kundanachi, Mutakkutalam), various unnamed rhythms (e.g. the rhythm for etuthukalasam of Vishnumurti in Theyyam) and a large amount of orally rendered rhythms (used in Poorakkali) are being performed in them.10 When a rhythm belonging to a particular system is absorbed by an art form, it transforms its structure, so that it could be appropriate for the aesthetic or cultural need of that art form. To enter into the complicated realm of these rhythms, it will be helpful to understand the relatively simple structure of Ekachuzhati rhythms.
Ekachuzhati system consists of seven main rhythms i.e. Ekam, Roopam, Champata, Karika, Panchari, Marmam and Kumbham.11Balyutbhavam Sitankan Thullal of Kunchan Nambiar refers to the first two of them, Ekam and Roopam.12 Harineeswayamvaram Thullal of the same poet has given the examples of Karika, Kumbham and Marmam.13
The practice of Ekachuzhati rhythms is limited neither to the performances of Arjunanritham nor Thullal. They are being used in various artistic contexts by the artists who are often unaware of this system, even though the names and structures of rhythms are almost same. But the fact that these rhythms used in different art forms have an order in position and they are unified in a simple method, unknown to the contemporary cultural scenario, will be helpful to an eager student to raise some questions in relation with rhythm and culture.
Sangitachudamani defines rhythm (tala) as “tala signifies measurement of time through the matras produced by (sounding and unsounding) actions.”14 There are various methods to perform rhythm viz. actions by hand like slapping and fingering, oral rendering and tonal variations made either on a percussion instrument or on a symbol. These devices are important for defining a particular rhythm. The same rhythm may be performed through these different devices, though, in a subtle way of analysis, the differences may compel us to consider each form of them as unique entities. Here I am trying to define these rhythms by using two basic actions: sounded and unsounded. Matra is a term indicating the time taken for each action. In Ekachuzhati System, the time taken for a sounded action is similar to that of an unsounded action. In a way Ekachuzhati rhythm system is a threshold to the perplexed realm of various rhythms as well as their formulations and combinations.

Definitions and applications

Ekachuzhati Rhythms

(Digit-Number of beats. ‘1’ indicates first beat, ‘2’ indicates second beat- so that. X-Gap)

1 Eka Tala 1x

2 Roopa Tala 12x

3. Champata Tala 123x

4. Karika Tala 1234x

5. Panchari Tala 12345x

6. Marma Tala 1x12x123x1234x

7. Kumbha Tala 123451/2x1231\2x1x1x12x

Eka Tala

Eka Tala is a simple rhythm of one beat (sounded action) and one gap (unsounded action). When the rhythm repeats, the gap is taking place between two beats. This rhythm is used almost in every art form of Kerala such as Arjunanritham, Garudanthukkam, Thayampaka, Theeyattu, Theyyam, Thitampunritham, Koodiyattam, Krishnanattam and Kathakali. This rhythm has some similarities with the Eka Tala of 108 rhythm system.

Roopa Tala

Roopa Tala has a form of two beats followed by a gap. This rhythm is used in Garudanthukkam, Arjunanritham and Theyyam. In contemporary Carnatic Music, this rhythm is practised instead of Chaturasrajathi Rupaka Tala, which has a form of one Drutham and one Lakhu.

Champata Tala

Champata is a pattern of three beats succeeded by one gap. This is a popular rhythm for it is used in several art forms like Kathakali, Krishnanattam, Koodiyattam, Chendamelam, Thullal, Theyyam, Theeyattu, Padayani, Sastampattu, Maranpattu, Garudanthukkam, Arjunanritham, Mudiyettu and Mudiyeduppu. There are so many different patterns used even in a single art form, though the name is same. For example, in Kathakali, in addition to the form mentioned above, some other patterns are used.

First tempo: 1 x x x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x 1 2 3 4 5 x x x 1 x 1 x 1 2 x 1 2 x 1 2 (32 matras.)

Second tempo: 1xxx1x12345xxx12x12x12 (underline indicates the variation of speed i.e.twice that of the other parts.) (16 matras)

Third tempo: 1234567x ( 8 matras)

Fourth tempo: 123x ( 4 matras)

In Chendamelam, this rhythm has four tempos with 64, 32, 16 and 8 matras respectively. This rhythm is used in Mudiyeduppu in a Vaithari (oral rendering) form as under:

Ta x ka x ta x ka x kitatakitarikitata x
Ta x ka x ta x ka x kitatakitarikitata x
Ta x ka x ta x ka x kitatakitarikitata x
Ta x ka x ta x ka x kitatakitarikitata x
Ta x ka x ta x ka x ta x ka x ta x ka x
Ta x ka x ta x ka x ta x dhim x kitatakitarikitata x (underline indicatesthe variation of speed i.e. twice that of the other parts.)

In this manner, Champata has different forms in different contexts of performance.

Karika Tala

Karika Tala is a pattern of four beats and one gap and is used in Sastampattu, Thullal, Padayani and Arjunanritham. Kunchan Nambiar gives the definition of this rhythm in Harineeswayamvaram Thullal in terms of classical music and in that manner the rhythmic pattern is Lakhu, Lakhu, Lakhu and Guru.15 If it is compared to the existing form, we can translate Lakhu as one beat and Guru as a unit of one beat and one gap. There is a rhythm with the same name in 108 rhythm system but it is different in matras as well as in structure.

Panchari Tala

Panchari Tala is in the form of five beats followed by one gap. This rhythm is practised in Chendamelam, Kathakali, Krishnanattam, Thullal, Mudiyettu, Mudiyeduppu, Theeyattu, Arjunanritham, Thitampunritham and Theyyam. This rhythm is very popular in Kerala for Panchari Melam, a collective performance by more than a hundred artists on various musical instruments, prominently on Chenda, a percussion instrument with a tumultuous sound. Panchari Tala performed in it with five tempos by progressively accelerating from the first tempo of 96 matras to the fifth tempo of 6 matras. The second, third and fourth tempos have 48, 24 and 12 matras respectively. Panchari Melam represents the standardization that could have happened to a simple rhythm. The rhythm pattern of five tempos performed in Panchari Melam is given below:16

First tempo: 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x x x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x x x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x x x 1 x x x 1 x x x 1 x x 1
x x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x

Second tempo: 1 x 1 x 1 x x x 1 x x x 1 x x x
1 x x x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x 1
x x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x

Third tempo: 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x
1 x 1 x 1 x x x 1 x 1 x 1 x x 1
x x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x

Fourth tempo: 1 x 1 x 1 x x x 1 x x x
1 x x x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x

Fifth tempo: 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x x x

The bold digits indicate the open beats and normal digits represent stifled beats on a Valanthala, a percussion instrument used to keep the rhythm patterns and tempo.

Marma Tala

Marma Tala is a combination of Ekam, Roopam, Champata and Karika, the first four rhythms of this system. The pattern of this rhythm is one beat, one gap; two beats, one gap; three beats, one gap; and four beats, one gap. The exclusive structure of this rhythm gives us a new idea about the combination of rhythms; hence the Ekachuzhati rhythms themselves are rhythms as well as the units of creating new rhythms. This rhythm is used in Arjunanritham, Padayani, Thullal, Sastampattu and Theyyam.

Kumbha Tala

Kumbha Tala, the last one of Ekachuzhati system, is different from the above mentioned rhythms in form and order: therefore it gives some notions about the formulation of rhythm system which becomes more complicated in their structure. This rhythm is used in Thullal, Padayani, Arjunanritham, Garudanthukkam and Sastampattu. The orally rendered form of this rhythm, which is used in Sastampattu, is given below:

Thi thi thi thi thithei x thi thi thithei x thei x thei x thi thei

This rhythm offers a way to enter a field of orally rendered (Vaithari) rhythms which are huge in number.

Some other rhythms

Champa Tala

Despite of a common name Champa, this rhythm is used with various patterns in various art forms. This rhythm is used in Chendamelam, Kathakali and Thullal in the form of four beats, one gap; two beats, one gap and one beat, one gap (1234x12x1x). The pattern of this rhythm in Padayani is different: one beat, one gap; two beats, one gap and four beats, one gap (1x12x1234)17. Yakshaganam, an art form performed in the far northern parts of Kerala employed this rhythm in the form of five beats, one gap and three beats, one gap (12345x123x). Each of these forms has the similarity in the number of Matras i.e. ten.

Atantha Tala

Atantha Tala is used in many art forms of Kerala, like Thullal, Kathakali, Jeevithanritham, Chendamelam, Sastampattu, Theyyam, Thitampunritham, Padayani and Koodiyattam. One form of rhythm is four beats, one gap; four beats, one gap; one beat, one gap and one beat, one gap (1234x1234x1x1x). Different rhythms which share the common name Atantha like Valyatantha and Chattatantha are practised in Padayani.18

Lakshmi Tala

Lakshmi is a Vaithari rhythm which is practised in Padayani, Thullal, Arjunanritham, Ayyappantheeyattu, Koodiyattam, Sastampattu and Garudanthukkam. The form of this rhythm is shown below:

Thi thi thei x thiki tha thei x thi thei thikithei thitheyitha thikitha thei x x x

Kundanachi Tala

Kunchan Nambiar has given a definition to Kundanachi Tala but it is rarely used in contemporary performances. It has a Vaithari form as under:

Tha dhim x dhim x tha dhim x dhim x dhim x Tha dhim x dhim x tha dhim x dha x tha x

This rhythm is used for Jeevithanritham and Chendamelam especially in southern parts of Kerala.

Ganapathy Tala

Many rhythms are used in various art forms under the common name Ganapathy. This is used in the beginning of a performance as a ritual for an unbroken conclusion since Ganapathy is considered in Hindu mythology as the deity of impediment. The form of this rhythm in Sastampattu is given below:

Thei x x x thei x x x thei x x x ki ta ta ki tha x ku thi x ku tha ka thim x tham x
Dhi x dhi x dhim x ga ne x ka dan x tham x ki ta tha ki tha kkam thi mmi thei x

Combined rhythms

As mentioned earlier, Ekachuzhati rhythms can be used as units to create new rhythms. There are some rhythms performed in different art forms which may perhaps identified as the combination of Ekachuzhati rhythms. Roopamchampata, a combination of Roopa Tala and Champata Tala (12x123x) is used in Sastampattu and in the Chendamelam of southern Kerala. Marmampanchari, a blend of Marma Tala and Panchari Tala is practised in Jeevithanritham (in the form 1x12x123x12345x1234) and in Chendamelam of southern Kerala (in the pattern 1x12x123x1234x12345x). The combination of Ekachuzhati rhythms with some other rhythms like Champa-Panchari of Jeevithanritham (1234x12345x12x1x) or Panchari-Champa of southern Chendamelam (12345x1234x12x1x) and Panchari-Atantha of Southern Chendamelam (12345x1234x1234x1x1x) are present in the vast area of the systems of rhythms.
The study of these rhythms arises some questions about the conventional classifications as well as the interconnections between various rhythms. The awareness of the association of the rhythms with the regions of their performance urges one to rethink about the conventional methodologies of aesthetics.


1.See, for example, A. K. Nambiar, “NatanKalakalkku Oramukham”, Keralathile Natankalakal (Kottayam: National Book Stall, 1989):23.
2. See Folk Arts Directory, ed. Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi (Trichur: Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, 1986): 113, 135,200,170, 42, 61, 196, 240, 224.
3. An Interview with Kurichi P. S. Kumaran on 19. 06. 1995, Manoj Kuroor (Unpublished audio Cassette).
4. Edward W. Said, “Introduction”, Musical Elaborations (London: Vintage, 1992): xiv.
5. See Kunchan Nambiarute Thullalkathakal, ed. P. K. Sivasankara Pillai (Trichur: Kerala Sahithya Academi, 1976).
6. Sarngadeva, Samgitaratnakara Vol.I, ed. S. Subrahmanya Sastri (Madras: The Adyar Library and Research Centre, 1992):17.
7. M. R. Gautam, Evolution of Raga and Tala in Indian Music (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1993): 35-37,221-22.
8. Arun Kumar Sen, Indian Concept of Rhythm (New Delhi: Kanishka Publishers, 1994): 59-60, 115-19, 141-64.
9. A. K. Raveendranadh, Dakshinendian Sangeetham (Thiruvananthapuram: D. C. P., Govt. of Kerala, 2004): 56.
10. The rhythms mentioned in this essay were collected from these artists:
Kurchi P. S. Kumaran: Arjunanritham
Neelamperoor P. Ramakrishnan: Garudanthukkam percussion
Kuravilangad M. N. Bhaskaran Nair: Sastampattu
Katammanitta Vasudevan Pillai: Padayani
Kuroor Vasudevan Nampoothiry: Kathakali Percussion
Kannan Peruvannan: Theyyam
Kanathoor K. V. Kannan Vaidyar: Theyyam
Cheruvathoor Rajan Panikkar: Theyyam percussion
Balussery P. Janaki Amma: Maranpattu
Harippad K. Vishnu Nampoothiry: Jeevithanritham
Harippad S. Sivadasan: Jeevithanritham percussion
Kaviyoor Sadasivan: Thekkan Chendamelam
Kandalloor Unnikrishnan: Thekkan Chendamelam
Bakel Sreerama Aggithaya: Thidampunritham
Keezhillam Gopalakrishna Marar: Mudiyettu
Vazhappally Krishna Pillai: Mudiyeduppu
Kanjangad Jayan: Poorakkali
Kasaragod Gopalakrishna Bhatt: Yakshaganam.
11. The primary notions of these rhythms are given by Kurichi P.S. Kumaran, an Arjunanritham artist. Interviews and performances of some other artists helped me to get a lucid idea about these rhythms.
12. Kunchan Nambiar, “Balyutbhavam”, Arupathu Thullalkkadhakal, ed. P. K. Narayana pillai, Cheppattu Achyutha Warrier (Kollam: Sreeramavilasam Press, 1958): 105.
13. Kunchan Nambiar, “Harineeswayamvaram”, Arupathu Thullalkkadhakal: 76-78.
14. M. R. Gautam, Evolution of Raga and Tala in Indian Music: 228
15. Kunchan Nambiar, “Harineeswayamvaram”, Arupathu Thullalkkadhakal: 77.
16. See P. S. Warrier, “Pancharimelam”, Keraleeyamelakala (Thiruvananthapuram: D. C. P., Govt of Kerala, 1992): 45-99.
A. S. N. Nambisan, “Pancharimelam”, Thalangal Thalavadyangal (Thrissur: Kerala Sahitya Academi, 2000): 155-56.
17. Katammanitta Vasudevan Pillai, Padeniyute Jeevathalam (Thiruvananthapuram: State Institute of Languages, 1997): 105.
18. Katammanitta Vasudevan Pillai, Padeniyute Jeevathalam: 107-13.

Monday, October 02, 2006

manoj kuroor


കലയും ഗണിതവും: സൗന്ദര്യശാസ്ത്രത്തിലെ ആത്മീയവാദം

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


(i) Malayalam

1. ‘Thalasamudravum Keralathile Thalangalum’, Bhashasahithi (Journal of Research and Literary Studies, University of Kerala), Thiruvananthapuram, 1996.
2. ‘Vazhakkangal Bhedicha Sangeetham’, Bhashaposhini, Kottayam, October, 2000.
3. ‘Kaliyachan Enna Kathakali’, Kavithayute Radhotsavam, State Institute of Languages, Thiruvananthapuram, 2002.
4. ‘Vazhi Vettunnavarotu, Vazhipokkarotu’, Bhashaposhini, Kottayam, September, 2002.
5. ‘Thalangalum Avayute Vargeekaranavum’, Bhashaposhini, Kottayam, December, 2002.
6. ‘Kottitheernnathum Kottathe Poyathum’, Kalakaumudi, Thiruvananthapuram, December, 2002.
7. ‘Puzhakal Theernnu Pokumo?’, Kalakaumudi, Thiruvananthapuram, October, 2003.
8. ‘Pracheenathamizhakavum Keraleeyathalangalum’, Keli (Journal of Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi), Thrissur, April, 2004.
9. ‘Jeevithathinte Ganitham’, Kalakaumudi, Thiruvananthapuram, February, 2006.
10. ‘Kalayum Ganithavum: Saundaryasasthrathile Atmeeyavadam’, Ethirdisha, 2006.

ii) English

1. ‘The Rhythms of Kerala: A Cultural Study with Special Reference to Ekachuzhati Rhythms’, Tapasam (Journal of the Association for Comparative Studies), Changanassery, 2006.


1. Akshahridayam Bhashaposhini 1993
2. Nadabrahmam Keralakavitha 1993
3. Thrithalakkesavan Bhashaposhini 1997
4. Pakarnnattam Malayalam Weekly 1997
5. Charithrayanam Keralakavitha 1998
6. Alroopangal Bhashaposhini 1998
7. Pranayamallatha Kalam Malayalam Weekly 1998
8. Anchamathe Asramam Mathrubhumi Weekly 1998
9. Ooru chuttunna Puzhayum Njangalum Malayalam Weekly 1998
10. Immini Balya Onnu Malayalam Weekly 1998
11. Poonoolkkurukkukal Mathrubhumi Weekly 1998
12. Muthachante Visvadarsanam Madhyamam Weekly 1999
13. Nirmala Tlkiesinekkurihu Oru Kshudrakavitha Malayalam Weekly 1999
14. Pooraprabandham Bhashaposhini 1999
15. Kottayam-Kannur Svakarya Service Malayalam Weekly 2000
16. Palathe Kalayakkunnathile Chila
Keralakavitha 2000
17. Poorappattu Malayalam Weekly 2000
18. Vayana Sahityalokam 2000
19. Uthamapurushan Kadha Parayumpol Bhashaposhini 2000
20. Keechakavadham Kalakaumudi Weekly 2000
21. Vivarthanathil Nashtappedunnathu Malayalam Weekly 2000
22. Crossing Malayalam Weekly 2001
23. Katamozhikkal Kalakaumudi Weekly 2001
24. Kanneerum Kinavum Malayalam Weekly 2001
25. Pradesikam Keralakavitha 2002
26. Vinodayatra Bhashaposhini 2002
27. Puzha Katakkumpol Mathrubhumi weekly 2002
28. Varanthadampatyam Malayalam Weekly 2002
29. Celebration Malayalam Weekly 2002
30. Oru Kaviyute Kalyanarathriyil Keralakavitha 2003
31. Jeevithathile Azhukkuchalnottakkarante
Malayalam Weekly 2003
32. Incomplete Project Adhava Kala Jeevitham Thanne Bhashaposhini 2003
33. ‘Enikkoru Svapnamuntu’ Enna
Parasyachithrathinte Rantu Vivaranabhagangal
Keralakavitha 2004
34. Enna Malayalam Weekly 2004
35. Pazhaya Veettile Pattu Malayalam Weekly 2005
36. Thathri Madhyamam Weekly 2005
37. Matsyam Madhyamam Weekly 2006
38. koote Patunnavar Malayalam Weekly 2006
39. Location Kalakaumudi Weekly 2006
40. Barbie Madhyamam Weekly 2006
Awards and recognitions
Kunjupillai memorial award for young poets for the poem Thrithalakkesavan, in the year 1997.
Gadadharan Nampoothiry memorial award for the poem Kulamthekal, in 2004.
S.B.T. Poetry award for the book Uthamapurushan Katha Parayumpol, in 2005.
Kanakasree award of Kerala Sahitya Academy for the book Coma, in 2007.