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Southern India has a rich theatrical tradition spanning over centuries. Ancient Sangam literature, particularly the epical works like Shilappadhikaram, gives clues to the rich theatre culture of South India. When the Sanskrit theatre began to decline in northern India, it travelled to the south and flourished there from the 8th century until the present. Koodiyattam is the local style of staging Sanskrit plays that has been flourishing in the temple theatres of Kerala since the 10th century. It is considered to have been derived from a much earlier form known as Keota or Chalkier Keota. The classical dramatic traditions remained confined to theatres called Koothambalams, while the folk tradition manifested in ritualistic and non-ritualistic theatrical forms such as Teyyam, Kali dance-dramas and Bhuta dances. Most often the classical and the folk forms mingled to create varied new forms such as Kathakali, Bhagavata Mela, Kuchipudi, Terukoothu and Yakshagana.


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