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DUSSASANAVADHAM (The Killing  of Dussasana)

Edited Version for a duration of one hour

    Krishna (Green make-up)
    Panchali (Draupadi - Minukku character - the wife of the Pandavas)
    King Duryodhana (Kathi character - villianous character)
    Dussasana, the brother of Duryodhana (demonic character)
    Arjuna (Green make-up, the third of the five Pandava brothers)
    Raudrabhima (Bhimasena in the battlefield-special facial make-up)

Scene by Scene Synopsis of the Play

This Kathakali play was adapted by Shri Vayaskara Mussathu from the Indian epic Mahabharata.  Dussasana Vadhom is the most popular play in Kathakali. It is   dramatic, powerful, with a wide variety of characters, the noble, villainous and the grotesque and is dominated by struggles, both physical and emotional. The Play has most impressively abridged most of the key-events in Mahabharata. 

Brief background

The five Pandava brothers and their cousins, the Kauravas, are in rivalry.  Duryodhana, the eldest of the hundred and one Kaurava brothers, is determined to eliminate the Pandavas to take over their Kingdom.  He directs his evil uncle, Shakuni, to challenge Yudhishtira, the eldest of Pandavas to the royal game of dice. Yushishtira is aware of the motives of the challenge. Since dice-game is an irresistable temptation for him, Yudhishtira accepts the challenge. In the dice-game that follows, Sakuni’s evil designs work and Yudhishitira is defeated. Pandavas lose everything one after the other. They become slaves of  king Duryodhana. An arrogant Duryodhana now orders his brother Dussasana to drag Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, to the court and insult her before everyone. Dussasana drags Draupadi by her hair to the court and tries to disrobe her. Draupadi tearfully prays Lord Krishna for help. With the Lord’s blessing, she remains clothed despite Dussasana’s tiring attempts to take off her dress. An angry and agonised Draupadi now curses the Kauravas. For dishevelling her hair and for trying to outrage her modesty, Draupadi curses Dussasana that her husband, the mighty Bhimasena would disembowel him in the battle to come and avenge the cruelties meted out to her. An enraged Duryodhana orders the Pandavas leave the kingdom to lead twelve year life in exile in the forest and one year life in disguise. The Pandavas come back after all these trails and tribulations. Krishna now decides to undertake a mission to see that that the Pandavas get their due share of kingdom and the war can be avoided.
Scene I: Krishna and Draupadi 

When the  scene begins, Krishna is seen seated and Draupadi in deep distress comes and falls down at the feet of the Lord.
Draupadi learns of Krishna’s mission.  She rushes to Krishna imploring him not to negotiate, as war is the only means of avenging the humiliation she has suffered. With tears streaming down her cheeks, Draupadi shows Krishna her hair dishevelled by Dussasana in the court thirteen years back. Krishna knows that there will be no settlement, as Duryodhana is determined to eliminate the Pandavas. So he consoles Draupadi and tells her wishes will be fulfilled.

The Curtain look of Duryodhana followed by Dussasana

The curtain-look or what is technically called the thiranottam proclaims the majesty and pride of the villianous and wicked characters. In the Play, Duryodhana holds the curtain on both sides, brings it down slowly, and shows on his face expressions of love, valor and anger. Then he disappears. Afterwards, Dussasana’s curtain-look begins. His movements are more vigorous. He brings down the curtain, shows his extreme anger and roars.

Scene II:  Negotiations  -  Duryodhana, Krishna and Dussasana
Duryodhana, knowing that Krishna will soon arrive, threatens his court members with severe punishment, if they showed special respect or consideration towards, Krishna.  Lord Krishna attempts to negotiate a settlement and  requests for half the Kingdom; Duryodhana contemptuously refuses. Krishna brings down the demand to five villages, then to five houses and finally just one house, but Duryodhana refuses all the demands and swears that he will not give the Pandavas land enough to even stick a needle. Having realized that a settlement was impossible, Krishna provokes Duryodhana by argument: Duryodhana becomes angry and orders Krishna to be taken captive. Dussasana arrives at the scene with a rope to tie up Krishna. Lord Krishna assumes his cosmic from and Duryodhana and his brother Dussassana are rendered unconscious. Krishna disappears from the court right away. He returns to the Pandavas and reports the failure of his mission.The third scene ends here.

The war is on and the armies of the Pandavas and Kauravas are arrayed against each other on the battle field of Kurukshethra.  Arjuna is the Commander-in-Chief of the Pandavas:  Krishna is his charioteer.

Scene III:  Geethopadesham   - Arjuna and Lord Krishna

For the historic Kurukshetra battle, the armies of the Kauravas and the Pandavas are arrayed against each other. Arjuna, the third of the Pandavas, is in the chariot driven by none other than Lord Krishna. Arjuna takes a look at his enemies. The sight of his Gurus and the kith and kin takes away his confidence and courage. “Why should I confront my own Gurus and relatives? What does this war mean to me”, Arjuna asks Lord Krishna. Krishna now teaches Arjuna the duties and responsibilities of a real Kshatriya and empowers him by extolling the virtue of truthfulness. The Lord shows his cosmic form. Arjuna recovers from his dejection and readies himself to take on his enemies. 

Scene IV:  Kurukshethra battle  - Raudra Bhima & Dussasana

Bhima and Dussasana meet on the battle field. Bhima, remembering the insults and humiliations heaped upon Drupadi by Dussassana, is in a frenzy of rage. He prays to Lord Vishnu through and imbibes the spirit of one of his fierce man-lion incarnations.  After a furious battle, Dussasana is defeated and Bhima rips open his belly and bathes in his blood.  Draupadi arrives at the scene. Bhima rushes to her, sprinkles blood on her hair, and binds her hair with Dussasana’s entrails.  Thus Draupadi’s curse is fulfilled. She is overcome with joy.

It is only when Lord Krishna appears that the animal frenzy which has driven Bhima to such excesses, subsides.  He falls at the feet of Lord Krishna.  The Lord blesses him.

This is the concluding dance sequence where an actor bows to God and to the audience.  The actor in the role of Krishna performs the Dhanasi in this play.


Krishnan:    Kalamandalam Krishna Kumar
Draupadi:    Kalamandalam Aravind
Duryodhana:    Kalamandalam Ramadas
Dussasanan:    Kalamandalam Revikumar
Arjunan:    Kalamandalam Sudeep
Raudra Bhima:    Kalamandalam Balasubrahmanian

Vocal Music:  Kalamandalam Sivadas
                         Kalamandalam Ajesh Prabhakar

Chenda:          Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan
Maddalam:     Kalamandalam Gopikuttan Nair
Make-up:         Kalamandalam Sivaraman
                          Kalamandalam Sivadasan

Green-room Asst.    C. P. Balakrishnan

Troupe Manager:     N. K. Radhakrishnan