Early Life and Training of Kalamandalam Girija
Kalamandalam Girija was born in 1958 in Kadavallur village of the Thrissur district of Kerala, into a family which was dependent on temples for their livelihood. Girija's father, Pakshiyil Narayanan Moosad, was a Pathakam exponent and her mother Devaki Manayamma, practised Tiruvatirakkali. Girija was familiar with the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata, which helped her accept Koodiyattam. In the year 1971, Girija joined the Kerala Kalamandalam, as the first student of Koodiyattam outside the Nangiar community, and successfully completed her Diploma and Post Diploma in the art within 6 years, and had further training under a scholarship from the Ministry of Culture, India. Apart from Painkulam Rama Chakyar, she was also trained by Kunjipillakutty Nangiaramma, P. K. Narayanan Nambyar and Sanskrit scholar Unnikrishnan Ilayath. Even during her period of study, Girija was the recipient of rewards such as Dr. K. N. Pisharoti Award and Margi Award.
On-Stage Career of Kalamandalam Girija
Girija Devi strengthened her name in the history of Koodiyattam and Nangiar Koothu, becoming the first artist to perform Nangiar Koothu outside the temples, in 1984 at Kalamandalam. She has since performed in international stages and in India. Her art has touched the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations avenues. In 1986, Girija presented the rewritten narratives of mythological heroines Kunti, Gandhari and Madhavi in the Nangiar Koothu art, and actively promoted Koodiyattam through training students and organising workshops.
Kalamandalam Girija has choreographed Koodiyattam plays like ‘Venisamharam’ - Act I in 2007, ‘Bhagavathy Pravesham’ - Act II of ‘Balacharitam’ in 2010, ‘Parakkumkoothu’ - Act IV of ‘Naganandam’ in 2013, as well as Nangiar Koothus like ‘Gandharivilapam’ in 2005, ‘Karnolpathi’ in 2007, ‘Madhavi’ in 2010 and ‘Kaikaseeyam’ in 2013.
Teaching Career of Kalamandalam Girija
Kalamandalam Girija has worked as Koodiyattam and Nangiar Koothu instructor at the Kerala Kalamandalam from 1981, and she retired from official services as the Head of the Department in 2014. She continues to be the "Guru" or main instructor at Mrunmaya Centre for Theatrical Research, with initiatives to disseminate the art of Koodiyattam. She also serves as visiting faculty for various Indian and International Theatre departments.
Girija has influenced many of her students all over the globe to come to Kalamandalam and learn Koodiyattam and Nangiar Koothu. Her knowledge of the intrinsic acting techniques in Koodiyattam acquired during her training period in Kalamandalam, alongside great artists like Kalamandalam Shivan Namboodiri and Kalamandalam Rama Chakyar, add to her uniqueness as the only female artist in the history of Koodiyattam to be well versed in the portrayal and expression of both male and female characters of the art.
Awards and Honours received by Kalamandalam Girija
Kalamandalam Girija has been honoured with the following accolades for her achievements in the field of Koodiyattam and Nangiar Koothu theatre arts.
Forms of Indian Theatre
Folk Theatre of Kerala
Classical Indian Dance Drama
Indian Classical Dance
Koodiyattam, Folk Theatre of Kerala
Sangeet Natak Akademi
Indian Council for Cultural Relations