Koodiyattam is a dance traditionally enacted in temples. Koodiyattam is Kathakali's 2000 year old predecessor and is offered as a votive offering to the deity. Kootiyattam literally means "acting together". This is the earliest classical dramatic art form of Kerala. Based on Sage Bharatha's 'Natyasasthra' who lived in the second century, Kootiyattam evolved in the 9th century AD.
Kootiyattam is enacted inside the temple theatre, there are two or more characters onstage at the same time, with the Chakkiars providing the male cast and the Nangiars playing the female roles. The Nangiars beat the cymbals and recite verses in Sanskrit, while in the background Nambiars play the Mizhavu, a large copper drum.
Vidushaka or the wise man, a figure parallel to the Fool in Shakespearean plays, enacts his role with the liberty to criticise anyone without fear. The costume of the jester sets him apart from the rest. The Kootiyattam performance lasts for several days ranging from 6 to 20 days. Themes are based on mythology.
The Koodal Manickyam temple at Irinjalakkuda and the Vadakkumnatha temple at Thrissur are the main centres where Kootiyattam is still performed annually. Ammannoor Madhava Chakkiar is an unrivalled maestro of this rare art.