Kavungal Chathunni Panicker

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Kavungal Chathunni Panicker
Died27 November 2007
Erumappetty, Thrissur, Kerala, India
OccupationClassical dancer
Years activesince 1936
Known forKathakali
AwardsPadma Shri
Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
Kerala State Kathakali Award
Kerala Kalamandalam Fellowship
Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Fellowship
Gujarat Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
A Kathakali performer

Kavungal Chathunni Panicker was an Indian classical dancer, known for his proficiency in Kathakali, the traditional dance form of Kerala. He was an exponent of the Kavungal School of Kathakali (Kavungal Kalari), noted for its rigorous training methods[1] and overt physical interpretation of abhinaya.[2] He is known to have brought innovations to the dance form, especially in the decorative movements (kalasam)[3] and his contributions are reported in the development of grammar and costumes for the Kavungal School.[4] A recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1973,[5] Panicker was honored again by the Government of India, in 2006, with the fourth highest Indian civilian award of Padma Shri.[6]


Secondary characters were criticised often by Kathakali scholars, they attained the significance of perfected lead roles when Chathunni Panicker handled them, writes K. P. S. Menon, renowned art historian.[7]

Kavungal Chathunni Panicker was born in 1922 in the small hamlet of Thichur, near Vadakkancherry in Thrissur district in the South Indian state of Kerala.[8][9] He started learning Kathakali in 1933, at the age of eleven, under the tutelage of Sankara Panicker, his uncle, where he stayed for three years and later under Katambur Gopalan Nair. His debut performance was in 1936 at the age of 14.[1] In six years time, aged 20, Panicker formed his own troupe.[2][9]

In 1947, Panicker and his troupe rendered a performance in Ooty, a hill station in the state of Tamil Nadu where he had the opportunity to meet Vikram Sarabhai, Indian scientist and his wife, Mrinalini Sarabhai, renowned classical dancer and the founder of Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, Ahmedabad.[2] The next year, Panicker received invitation from Mrinalini Sarabhai to join the institution as its principal. He accepted the offer and stayed with Darpana till his retirement in 1985.[1][2] The association assisted him to travel with the group, perform at various countries around the world and associate with the group's experimental productions such as Manushyan.[1][9] He continued his kathakali performance during his stint at Ahmedabad and is known to have had several notable performances such as Hanuman in Kalyana Saugandhikam and Thoranayudham, Raudrabhima in Duryodhana Vadham and Kattala (Hunter) in Nalacharitham and Kiratham.[1][2][9][10]

After returning to Kerala, he tried to found a school for kathakali, but suffered a stroke which incapacitated him, leaving the effort unfinished.[2][10][11] Chathunni Panicker died on 29 November 2007, succumbing to illnesses that dogged him for three months, at a hospital in Erumapetty, near his native village of Thichur, leaving his wife, their two children[1][2][10] and many of his disciples.[12]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

Chathunni Panicker received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award from the Government of India in 1973.[1][2][5][10][11][13] This was followed by the Gujarat State Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Kerala Kalamandalam Fellowship.[1][2][10][11] Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Fellowship in 2003.[1][10][13][14] The next year, in 2004, he received Kerala State Kathakali Award from the Government of Kerala.[1][2][10][11] Panicker, who is reported to have been presented an amulet and medal by Jawaharlal Nehru, former Prime Minister of India,[11] was included in the Republic Day honours list by the Government of India, in 2006, for the civilian honour of Padma Shri.[1][2][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Kathakali exponent dead". The Hindu. 30 November 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Charismatic portrayals". The Hindu. 23 December 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  3. ^ "Your Article Library". Your Article Library. 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  4. ^ Unnikrishnan, Hiran (1 October 2013). "Book set to relive glorious past of Kavungal artistes". Deccan Chronicle. Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b "SNA". Sangeet Natak Akademi. 2014. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  6. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Padma Awards. 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  7. ^ K. P. S. Menon (1997). A Dictionary of Kathakali. Orient Longman. p. 80. ISBN 978-8125012320.
  8. ^ Ananda Lal, ed. (2011). "Panicker, Kavungal Chathunni". TheOxford Companion to Indian Theatre. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199861248. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d "Bhavalaya". Bhavalaya. 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h "Narthaki Obituary". Narthaki. 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d e "The last from the Kavungal clan". The Hindu. 16 August 2004. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Cyber Kerala". Cyber Kerala. 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Narthaki". Narthaki. 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Akademi fellowships announced". The Hindu. 18 January 2004. Retrieved 27 December 2014.

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