Art has no boundaries. It teaches you the way of life.” – One of the teachers at the ‘gurukul’ instructed his students. And this is what the students residing in one of the gurukuls in Udupi follow day in and day out. They plan on becoming Therukoothu artiste in the future. The students in these gurukuls undergo a rigorous set of training to attain perfection in their art form. It is a place where they completely dedicate their lives for the love of their art.

Therukoothu” is derived from the two Tamil words “Theru” means Street and “koothu” meaning Theatre. It is basically a traditional dance-theatre form performed on the streets, in front of the holy places.

Therukoothu is a form of street theatre especially in Tamil language. It is a form of entertainment, ritual and social instruction. This form of street theatre mainly focuses on epics like Mahabharata. In the text Mahabharata it mainly focuses on the character of Draupadi. Also, the plays are performed on the stories of Ramayana at Mariamman festivals.



Though, not as popular as some other dance forms of the south. Still, this form of dance, where the play is heavily dependent on the dialogues of the character has got its own charm. Therukoothu has a mass appeal of its own. Since, it is performed on the streets, people are able to relate to it more as compared to the other forms of dance which are performed on the stage. The Therukoothu plays are a combination of song, music, dance and drama. The actors wear colourful costumes. The musical instruments used by the Therukoothu musicians include harmonium, drums and cymbals.

The beauty of this dance form has been able to lure the people living in foreign countries also to come under its ambit.

According to M. Duraisamy (Dancer) – “I have been learning this art since 2002 when I was 9 years old. My father is also a Therukoothu Artist and encouraged me for this art.”

Even after all these attractions, there is a very grim side attached to it. When the make-up and the glitzy attire of the artiste comes off, the harsh reality of the present seeps in. Therukoothu is one of the many rural art forms which are on the verge of dying. It has got very few takers due to its non-commercial approach. The younger generation is getting attracted to the dance forms which have got a commercial reach.

There are efforts being made to spread this form of art from the base of its origin to other parts of the country. Recently, “Therukoothu” was organized at Bharat Rang Mahotsav by National School of Drama under the direction of Kalaimamani P.K. of the Sambandan group. At the festival many were left in awe by the mesmerising performances put up by the artistes. Such performances are required at regular intervals to keep the people hooked to this form of theatre which is a mix of songs, dance and music.

Shilpa Kohli