Margi Visishta and Margi Aswathy donned the roles of Ajjuka and Madhurika respectively in the Sanskrit work
Koodiyattam aficionados had a treat in a Koodiyattam presentation consisting of ‘Udyanavarnanam’ (description of the garden) in the anonymous Sanskrit farce (prahasana) called Bhagavadajjukam or Bhagavadajjukiiyam.
Etymologically the title indicates that it is an episode involving a ‘Bhagavan’ (a hermit or a holy man) and an Ajjuka (Prakrit for a courtesan). But the crux of the theme is the hilarious after effects of an accidental transmigration of the souls of a hermit and a courtesan who are among the main characters of the play.
A soldier of Yama, the god of death, due to a case of mistaken identity, takes away the soul of Ajjuka, who was bitten by a serpent while spending some time in the garden with her companion Madhurika. Realising his mistake, the soldier returns to the garden only to find the soul of a hermit inhabiting Ajjuka’s body. As the soldier is on an urgent mission, he slips Ajjuka’s soul into that of the lifeless Bhagavan’s body.
Other characters in the play include a friar, believed to be an expert in treating cases of poisoning, the Sandilya and the Vidooshaka or clown, who functions as the disgruntled disciple of the Bhagavan.
Margi Visishta and Margi Aswathy donned the roles of Ajjuka and Madhurika respectively. The duo captured the attention of the audience right from the moment they appeared on stage with their demeanour, make-up and costume (‘aahaaryam’). That favourable impression was sustained till the end through grace, precision and force of their emotional and gestural acting.
The trees and creepers in the garden appear to be bedecked with fragrant, colourful flowers. The buzz of bees is heard all around. While a mild breeze carries the fragrance flowers, peacocks mistake the sound of fountains for thunder and burst into a charming dance, as if to welcome the imminent rain. The swans treat themselves to a sumptuous feast in the stalk of lotus flowers. Ajjuka and Madhurika find a smooth rock to sit on as they enjoy the sights, sound and fragrance of the garden and sing an enchanting song. The episode continues with Ajjuka’s death due to snake bite. But the scene selected for the performance came to a close with the duo in the garden.
The performance, about one-and-a-half hours long, provided the viewers the rare opportunity of viewing a scene that is reputed for its aesthetic charm. It was Painkulam Rama Chakyar’s dexterous choreography of the Bhagavadajjukam in 1976, which reduced the performance time of the play from 35 hours to about three-and-a- half so as to suit the changing taste of the audience and for pragmatic reasons.
The percussion team consisting of Margi Sajikumar and Margi Mahesh on the mizhavu, Anayara Vijayan on the edakka and Margi Devendu, who handled the rhythm, did a fine job as they ensured that they were in sync with the action and the changing emotions of the characters, especially in the scenes wherein the actors transform themselves into a bee, a peacock, a swan, wind… according to the script.
The performance, organised by Koodiyattam Centre, was held at Vivekananda Cultural Institute in the capital city.
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