ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The chronicle of the “Charlemagne Chronicle” in Caviṯṯunāṭakam Musical Theatre of Kerala, India


K Wilson Geetha - Eberhard Karls Universitat, Tubingen, Indology, Tubingen, Germany


45 – South Asian–Portuguese relationships from the fifteenth century to the present: Colonialism, interactions, and identities


 The Lusophonic ambitions of the Portuguese Monarchy confronted the proselytization attempts of the Portuguese Padroado by the second half of 16th century. Recognizing the power of theatre over sermons, indigenous languages over Portuguese & Latin, the Padroado revamped an indigenous theatre to teach the Catholic ways of life to the newly converted Latin Catholics. Currently named Caviṯṯunāṭakam Musical Theatre, this performing art was prevalent in the southern coasts of India, & Srilanka. Currently, “traditional” Caviṯṯunāṭakam is only played in specific coastal belts of Kerala, and remains to be the cultural identity of almost one million Latin Catholics. Kāṛaḷmān Caritam Caviṯṯunāṭakam- the Chronicle of Emperor Charlemagne, is arguably considered the founding text of  Caviṯṯunāṭakam- dating back to more than 350 years. Scholarly studies so far place Kāṛaḷmān to pan-European Charlemagne stories, overlooking the conspicuous divergence of Kāṛaḷmān performance texts from the “popular” Charlemagne stories before 15th century. This paper examines the stories collected from the islands where the performance has survived and demonstrates that these texts are from different “Historias” created in the Iberian Peninsula, particularly after the Conquest of Granada in 1492. It explores how these stories were brought forth by the Portuguese Padroado over two centuries, personalized to the prevalent Iberian political scenario, and the milieu and demography of each island in Kerala.