Kattaikkuttu performances are put on as part of the festival celebrations for Hindu deities or to commemorate the death of a beloved one. Depending on the occasion Kattaikkuttu performances will be sponsored by an entire village or by an individual family.
Performances take place during the night and last from about 10am to 6pm the following morning. There is no elevated stage and no amplification. The spectators are seated on the ground along three sides of an improvised performance area, which is usually an area of the street or an open space near or in front of a temple. 500 Watt bulbs and tube lights tied to poles illuminate the stage.
Mahabharata or Paratam festivals provide an important setting for a sequence of Kattaikkuttu performances staged on 8 to 12 subsequent nights. These performances retell selected episodes from Mahabharata story, the epic that is the central narrative for many of the Kattaikkuttu plays. The cycle of plays usually begins with Draupadi’s marriage and ends with the 18th and last day of the devastating war. Mahabharata festivals are held in honour of Draupadi or Tiraupatiyamman. She is the heroine of the Mahabharata. In rural Tamil Nadu Draupadi has been deified and is worshiped as a powerful village goddess.
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