Ayirur Kathakali Gramam club annually hosts a week-long Kathakali festival in the first week of January, held on the silky sand banks of the sacred Pampa River at Ayroor Cherukolpuzha, near the venue of Hindumatha Mahamandalam—the largest Hindu congregation in Kerala. Running from 6 pm to 9:30 pm each day, the festival draws a substantial audience, including foreign nationals, who enthusiastically gather to witness the performances. Admission to the event is free and open to all.
In conjunction with the Kathakali festival, workshops and Lecture Demonstrations are organized for school and college students, integrated into their curriculum to foster an appreciation for classical culture. Over 10,000 students from various central Travancore schools and colleges actively participate, immersing themselves in the splendid Kathakali demonstrations and related performances.
Preceding the evening Kathakali festivities, music concerts and jugalbandi are arranged to familiarize enthusiasts with the ragas of Kathakali and Carnatic music. Additionally, engaging debates on Kathakali plays and interactive sessions with the audience contribute to the vibrant atmosphere of the Kathakali Festival.
About Ayirur Kathakali Gramam
Kathakali Gramam is situated along the sacred banks of the Pampa River in the Pathanamthitta District of Kerala State. This quaint hamlet, resettled in the Pampa river basin near Kozhencherry in central Travancore, holds the distinction of being the state’s premier Kathakali Village. In 2010, the Grama Panchayath passed a resolution declaring it the inaugural Kathakali Village in the State.
The roots of Kathakali’s popularity in and around Ayroor trace back 150 years to Puthezham near Ayroor. Sankara Panicker of the Chirakuzhiyil family at Puthezham was a passionate Kathakali connoisseur. He initiated a Kathakali Kalari at his ancestral home, a revolutionary step liberating this art form from the confines of temples, where the marginalized were once restricted.
Masters like Srambickal Narayanan Nair, Edavelil Asan, Pottuplackal Nanu Nair, Chenganasserry Parameswra Panicker, Pallom Madhavan, and Vennimala Rama Warrier taught both the northern and southern schools of Kathakali at the Chirakuzhiyil Kalari. However, activities diminished after Panicker’s demise.
In 1987, led by V. R. Vimal Raj, a group formed the Kathakali Appreciation Forum at Puthezham, which evolved into the District Kathakali Club in 1995. Registered under the Charitable Societies Act, affiliated with Nehru Yuva Kendra and the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy, the club operates from Ayroor – Cherukolpuzha, a cultural heritage village in Pathanamthitta district.
The club’s pioneering efforts include staging ‘Abraham’s Sacrifice’ in 1996, attracting Christian youths. Notably, Kathakali enthusiasts in Ayroor come from diverse backgrounds, transcending caste barriers.
Introducing innovations, the club presented Kathakali versions of Malayalam poems and Biblical stories. The performance of ‘Unniyarcha,’ depicting the legendary woman warrior of North Malabar ballads, marked a significant achievement.
With 900 members, the club runs the Natyabharathi Kathakali Centre, offering training to 90 children in various aspects of Kathakali, including percussion music and makeup.
Ayroor became the site for Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed University’s first off-campus center, inaugurated in 2014. In a landmark decision, the Ayroor Grama Panchayath declared itself a hamlet for Kathakali in Kerala, an honor reflecting the widespread passion for Kathakali in the region. The Ayroor Grama Panchayath Committee passed a special resolution renaming the Ayroor South post office as Ayroor Kathakali Gramam (P.O).