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Kuravanji Nadagam – Dance Drama Popular In Tamil Nadu

Kuravanji Nadagam is woven around the theme of a woman falling in love with a king or a minister or a local deity. The term Kuravanji denotes a Tamil work, Prabandham, which falls in the category of Nadaga-t-Tamil.

Kuravanji Nadagam is traced to the tribal vanavasi (woman) and the kuratti predicting the fulfillment of the heroine’s longing to be with her lover. She speaks in glorious terms of her tribe and of the accuracy with which her tribesman could foretell the events to come. Originally, this dramatic presentation was known as Kuzhava Natakam.

The kuravanji type of composition takes its place between the classical Bhagavata mela nadagam and the rustic Terukkuttu. This folk art has been elevated to classical heights by adopting the theme relating to a temple, or the love towards the Lord or even the life of a devotee.

The earliest of them is Tirukurrala Kuravanji of Tirukuta Rasappa Kaviryar, which gives a vivid picture of Tirucourralisvarar, the Lord of Kutralam, the flora and fauna, and the waterfalls. The heroine, Vasantavalli, who yearns for the Lord, is comforted by the soothsayer and her aspirations and dreams are eventually realized. The work also describes the glamorous procession of the Lord with all the paraphernalia along the streets, which delights the heroine.

Azhagar Kuravanji, written by Kavi Kunjara Bharati in 1840 AD, praises the Lord of Thirumaliruncholai in Madurai District. The literary merit of these two works is one of classical purity. The authors were both poets of eminence.

Similar works related to temples and deities are: Kumbeswarar Kuravanji of Papanasam Mudaliar, Ardhanarishwara Kuravanji, Swamimalai Kuravanji, Sentil Kuravanji, Tirumala Andavar Kuravanji, Tyageshar Kuravanji, and Kapalishwara Kuravanji, Sarabendra Bhupala Kuravanji of Shivakolundu Desikar is compose on King Serfoji of Thanjavur, which is set to tune by Ponnayya of the Thanjavur quartet.

Kannappar Kuravanji of Markanda Navalar extols the devotion of the Shaiva saint Kannappa Nayanar. Chirtambala Kuruvanji of Dhandayuthapani Pillai is the latest attempt at this type of dance-drama.

The Kuravanji are usually performed in the temple precincts. They commence with the initial benedictory verse, kappu, followed by the songs of salutation. The theme of love, elevated to the spiritual level, provided scope for Bharatanatyam artistes to include such kusavanji in their dance recitals.

Encyclopedia of Hinduism – Volume VI - page 196 IHRF
A Dictionary of South Indian Music and Musicians Volume II (1984) P Sambamurthy – The Indian Music Publishing House Chennai.