KEECHAKA VADHAM

(Slaying of Keechaka)


The story from the great epic MAHABHARATHAM, during the year they lived in cognito in King Virata's court. Bhima, disguised as the cook Valalan, kills the court-strongman Keechaka, who harassed Draupadi, disguised as the queen Sudeshna's assistant, Sairandhri.

The story written for Kathakali by Irayimman Tampi (1782 to 1862), who has contributed two other memorable plays to the Kathakali repertoire also, namely, Uttaraswayamvaram and Dakhsayagam.


The play starts with Keechaka's tiranokku, the customary introduction of kathi and thati characters. Keechaka sees Sairandhree and is enamoured by her beauty. He makes advances towards her but Sairandhree warns him of dire consequences from the five divine husbands she has. Proud of his strength, Keechaka laughs the threats away but Sairandhri manages to escape his advances.

Smitten by lust, Keechaka reveaks his feelings to his sister Sudeshna, the queen, and requests her to persuade Sairandhri. Sudeshna also warns him of Sairandhri's connections but relents when Keechaka insists.

Sudeshna one day summons Sairandhri and orders her to bring a jug from Keechaka's abode. The queen brushes Sairandhri's pleas aside. Sairandhri advances to Keechaka's house full of apprehensions and fear, like a deer would to a lion's den.

Keechaka is mad with love on seeing Sairandhri and invites her to join him in bed. Sairandhri refuses and asks him to give her what Sudeshna wanted. Angered by her refusal, Keechaka starts to physically abuse her. She breaks free after a while and runs away.

Sairandhri approaches the cook Valalan (Bhima in disguise) and recounts her plight. Overcome with sorrow, pity, love and anger, Valalan devises a plan to kill Keechaka. Sairandhri will ask Keechaka to meet her alone at night in the dance hall, only to be met by Valalan there.

A joyful and eager Keechaka approaches the person under the wraps in the dance hall, assuming it to be Sairandhri. He expresses his love and asks forgiveness for his rude behaviour and gets close to the person. Valalan emerges from under the wraps and grapples with Keechaka. In the ensuing fight, Valalan slays Keechaka and leaves.


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© 1996 P. J. Narayanan