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-Nalacharitham -Nalan damayanti & Swan Hamsam
Kathakali Hamsam ( Swan )
The end of the 17th century and the early quarter of the 18th century
saw the enrichment of Kathakali literature by the production of
Unnayi Warrier's Nalacharitam in four
parts, the gratest attakkatha at all time.
Unnayi Warrier was a poet of exceptional skill.
His sense of drama, command over language, knowledge of dance and
music and insight into human psychology enabled him to present the
story of Nala and Damayanti in a compact
form, observing auchitya to the maximum extent possible. He also
sticks to the concept of a dominant rasa supported by other dependent
rasas. The dramatic unravelling of the ups and downs in the career
of a noble king and his beloved consort is magnificently achieved
by Warrier. Variety in situation and characterization are provided
by the introduction of characters like Kali, Pushkara, Rituparna,
Karkotaka, Kattala and even the Hamsam (Swan). Even minor characters
are presented as fulfledged human beings. Nalacharitham is the highwatermark
of Kathakali literature mainly because of its profound human interest.
The central plot is concerned with the fall of a noble and good
man brought about by his accidental involvement in a game of dice
and by the intervention of evil forces like Kali. He is rescued
in the end, by his steadfastness and adherence to moral values.
The heroine is unconsciously responsible for the jealousy of Kali,
but at the end it is her goodness and her intelligence that come
to the king's aid. King Nala and his queen, Damayanti, have become
immortal characters, illustrating, through their suffereings the
vicissitudes of human fortunes Among the many special features of
Nalacharitam, is the happy blending of poetry, abhinaya (acting)
and nritya (dance). One of the most felicitous passages from this
point of view is the scene between Damayanti and the Swan-messanger.
The cleverness of the Swan in drawing Damayanti away from her maids
is superb dramatic material. He follows it up with an equally clever
way of revealing his identity to her. Once her curiosity is aroused,
it is easy for the Swan to find out how much she is interested in
Nala. With his encouragement, unsuspected by her, she tells him
about her love for Nala. On getting confirmation of it, the Swan
proceeds to Kundinam to take the good news to King Nala. In the
third day's play we have a touching soliloquy by Nala, now separated
from his wife, sleepless in his grief, in the saddest moment of
In the lonely vast forest, alas,
O moon-faced one, what do you do, waking up
Who (is there) but the wolf for help? or,
Have you reached home, timid one?
When can I see your moon-bright face?
When embrace you body coveted by the gods?
Beloved, what did you get there when you were hungry,
As I lay in stupor born of illusion?
O god! my blessed one, I cannot bear to think of you
O parrot-tongued one, and the wild forest full of howling jackals.