Indigenous to Thrissur and Palakkad, Kummaatti is impish and fun
Kummaatti or Kummaattikkali is more popular in Palakkad and Thrissur districts, although this art is there in every region of Kerala. Kummaatti is an art worshipping ritual in Palakkad and north to it, while it is an entertainment art dance during Onam in Thrissur and some regions south of Thrissur.
There are some variations in costumes, songs and performance between Palakkad and Thrissur versions.
Kuammattikkali is region-specific and objective-specific in Palakkad district.
Ottapalam Taluk performs Kummatti as an offering to Bhoomidevi (goddess earth) for better agriculture yield. The performance is done after the paddy harvest in the month of Makaram (January-February).
Dried banana leaves are used as costumes. Different layers of dried leaves are tied from feet up to neck including hands or body is blackened with charcoal powder. Cut shaped areca-nut palm spathe or masks are used on face. The actors frantically dances, but do not sing.
In Pudusseri region, Kummaatti is a ritualistic offering in Badrakaali [Temples_in_Kerala |temples]] as part of annual festivals. The festivals begin on the first Wednesday after new moon in Makaram (January-February). Kummaattikkali is on the 7th day of the festival.
Kummatti is preceded by Tol Kummaatti, a short Kummaatti performance by children. For this the children get their faces black based by soot paste. Designs are drawn over the base with lime and rice powder mix. Costume is made of bunches of green leaves of trees. They move around the temple in peculiar dancing steps. A masked elder lead the children.
Ninth day of the festival sees a spirited competitive Kummaattikkali by elders. People of two parts of a village compete with each other. An interesting episode revolves around this competition. An ardent devotee of the deity, Nanu Nair, was drowned by the people of two parts of a village where the temple is located. The unshaven and badly dressed Nanu Nair was mistaken for mad-hit and they bound him and drowned in the temple pond. The deity of the temple, Badrakaali flamed in rage and let loose small pox epidemic in the village. This forced the villagers to realize the folly of their committing crime on Nanu Nair. As atonement and appeasement to Badrakaali they started Kummaatti every year with Nanu Nair’s face resembling masks. They move to the pond location in the morning with masks in the hands and the two groups stand apart face to face in obeisance on the banks of the pond. They then run around the temple and disperse for house to house visit. The visit yields offerings in cash and kind like rice, coconut etc. By evening they return enacting ritualistic dance to the temple with an idol of the deity on an elephant accompanied by percussion music.
In Konganpada festival of Chittoor in Devi temple held in Makaram, Kummatti is an indispensable item. Chittoor Konganpada has a great legend behind it. Kongu king (ruler of Kongu region) once attacked Palakkad ruler. Chittoor ruler as a gesture of help sent his warriors to Palakkad. Konganpada is celebrated in commemoration of this event. It is believed that Chittoor Bhagavathi also participated as a soldier and killed Kongu king. In Konganpada the performers are only children.
Konganpada festival is celebrated on a Friday in Chittoor Devi temple. Two boys are picked as commanders in chief. They are knick-named as Muppatti. After the hoisting of temple flag for the festival (flag hoisting is a mandatory ritual in every temple seven or 10 days prior to the festival). The boys intended to participate in the war, who are known as Kummatti Kuttiakal – Kummaati children), Konganpada, move in the morning with Muppatti to Palathulli, south-west boundary of Chittoor. The soldiers in the war had gone to Palathulli to consult the magicians there for victory. Boys take bath in Palathulli River and return with victory songs.
Before dusk the boys gather at masonry platform built around a banyan tree in the temple compound. The Bhagavathi Niyogam (representative of Bhagavathi) clad in decorative costume, anklets, ornaments and holding sword and shield in hands walks in front of the boy-warriors. Villagers with lighted torches follow them with noisy utterances. They go up to the Puvattunkadavu. From Puvattunkadavu Bhagavathi Niyogam and the accompanying people disperse themselves, leaving there the rest. They return to the Chittoor temple at midnight.
Kummaattikkali during the festival at Devi temple at Mundur, 11 km from Palakkad town is performed with a different twist. Small pieces of special wood banded together in a tender sprout of a plantain tree. One end of the sprout holds flowers. The sprout is then tied on the back of the Kummatti artists in a way the flowers sprout over the head. Kummaatti artists escort the Velichappadu (oracle) and Velichapad moves around the village to receive offerings. Mutikuttikal (Kummaati srtists) come to the temple the next day and dance with the oracle.
Here at Thrissur Kummaattikali begins from the evening of Thiruvonam, the prime day of Onam. The troupe consisting of Kummaatti artists and musical players pay obeisance to deity of the local temple.
The artists decorated with leaves of trees and plantain (dried and/or un-dried) and masked perform at each house. In return, they get cash or in kind as offering. The masks used are large in size and catchy in variety. Female characters are also depicted.
The music of Thrissur Kummaattikkali is more appealing and arresting. Melodious songs spiced in devotional themes revolving around Mahabali whose re-arrival on earth once in a year is celebrated as Onam, is particularly mind prickling. The characters represented through masks are varied. Siva, Krishna, Hanuman, Naarada, Kiraatamoorthi are few to name.