• (Tamil: street play) A traditional theatrical genre of southIndia, popular mainly among the rural and urban lower classes in thestate of Tamil Nadu. Its origins are obscure. The most acclaimed troupeis the Raghava Thambiran Company, named after its founding member.

    The plays, which are presented in Tamil, are improvised aroundstories from the Puranas. They are performed in any open space,the acting area being designated by tall bamboo posts with colourfulbanners stretched between. Actors wear skirts of cloth and grass,crowns, colourful ornaments, and blue and red make-up; heroes havewaxed moustaches.

    The nine-hour entertainment begins with a religious procession.The drama is explained by the kattiakaran, a stage managerwho also performs comic antics. The actors dance to express emotionor to represent such action as a battle. After the performance membersof the audience join the company in walking across hot coals to demonstratetheir faith.

    About half of the performance is sung. The musicians sit upstagecentre and are joined by actors who sing when they are not performing.Accompaniment is by harmonium, kurukuzhal (a wind instrument),hand drums, and cymbals.