Therukoothu is the traditional art of staging street plays, an ethnic folk art original from Tamil Nadu, India. Once very much cherished, Therukoothu is now virtually dying, with only a few troupes still performing in remote villages. A century ago, Therukoothu was usually performed in the open, during temple festivals, late at night and till about 5 a.m. Around 12 to 14 people were part of each troupe and all the performers were male. Therukoothu artists were treated with great respect for their artistic talent and were invited by the elders for entertaining the people at their villages. Through their performance, people learned about their history and the culture of Tamil Nadu. Most of the stories enacted were mythological stories familiar to the audience with themes usually drawn from Mahabharata, meant to create social awareness and easily understood by the public. The performers wore large, voluminous and bright colorful dresses, decorated with beads and ornaments, and the makeup was heavy and dazzling.
The dance, songs, music, story and dialogues of this unique art form are still delivered orally from artist to artist. More awareness and supported cultural initiatives are needed to preserve the Therukoothu tradition.