Kumbhakarṇṇa Vadham


After the kidnapping of Queen Sῑtā by the demon Lord Rāvaṇa, King Rāma and his allies, together with a large army of monkeys, confront him on the island of Lankā. Rāvaṇa quickly realises that the forces of his opponents are stronger than he is and calls for his brother for support. The giant Kumbhakarṇṇa, however, is just in a period of deep sleep and no amount of yelling, hitting with maces, poking with red-hot glowing spears or any other attempt can awaken him. When the servants finally do manage to get him awake he first has to fortify himself with an enormous meal: rice, tasty chicken, human blood and mountains of Pappaḍam disappear into his belly. Although he realises that it probably is not a good idea he agrees to help his brother Rāvaṇa in his fight and heads into battle - but only after allowing himself another "snack". Unstoppable, he carves his bloody way through the rows of panicked monkeys until he comes face to face with King Rāma...


Wild battle scenes and the almost impossible awakening of the giant Kumbhakarṇṇa with his endless appetite are the main element defining this humorous episode from the Rāmāyana epic. The performance is marked by a constant switching between seven rhythms and the different characters. As with all Thuḷḷal presentations, the artist has numerous opportunities to engage in contact with the audience and to let them "participate" in what is happening in the story.


This story was originally written by the 18th century poet Kunchan Nambiar in a Parayan Thuḷḷal verse meter and is made up of 565 lines. Since my beginnings in 1991 I have never met anyone in my engagements and conversations with Thuḷḷal artists who has actually learned, performed or seen this story played out on a stage. Of course I kept up Nambiar's concept of repeatedly letting humour, social criticism and philosophy enter into his texts. However, I did change things by deciding on using the popular Śῑtankan Thuḷḷal style rhythms for the German retelling of the story. At the outset of the performance I provide the audience with some background about the Rāmayana, which describes the relationship between the three brothers and also explains how it came to Kumbhakarṇṇa's "ever recurring sleep" (Nidrāvatvam).



Hartmut Schmidt

Harianu Harshita

Tel. +49 761-623 47
E-mail: info@thullal.com

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