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Kozhikode: Veteran Kathakali exponent Guru Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair, whose portrayal of Lord Krishna and Kuchela on stage enthralled the audience, died at his residence near here early on Monday.

He was 105.

A Padma Shree awardee, Chemancheri died at his residence at Cheliya in Koyilandi, family sources said.

Condoling the death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his passion towards Indian culture and spirituality was legendary and he made exceptional efforts to groom upcoming talent in classical dances.

"Saddened by the demise of Kathakali maestro, Guru Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair.His passion towards Indian culture and spirituality was legendary. He made exceptional efforts to groom upcoming talent in our classical dances.My thoughts are with his family and admirers.Om Shanti," Modi tweeted.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and various ministers condoled the demise of the maestro.

"My heartfelt condolence on the demise of PadmaShri Natyacharya GuruChemancheri Kunjiraman Nair,Kerala's senior-most exponent of Kathakali & Bharatanatyam and mentor of hundreds of dance & Kathakali artistes," Khan tweeted.

Khan also said Guru Chemancheri, who has worked with masters of Indian Dance like Uday Shankar and Balabhai, "lived a saintly life devoted to the performance &revival of traditional art forms".

"May his soul attain Mukti," Khan tweeted.

Vijayan said Guru Chemancheri was an artist who excelled in Kathakali with his talent and commitment.

"Guru was an artist who had dedicated his life for the promotion of Kathakali and to train the younger generation. No other artiste has worked so hard to make children enjoy Kathakali. His disciples are now teaching the new generation."

"Kerala was amazed to see his performance on the stage even after crossing the age of 100," Vijayan said in a condolence message.

The maestro was laid to rest with full state honours later this evening.

His portrayal of Lord Krishna and Kuchela on stage always left the audience spellbound and his last notable public performance was at the age of 100.

Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair's tryst with Kathakali, the ancient dance drama of Kerala, began at the age of 14, when he left home to join a Kathakali troupe run by Guru Karunakaran Menon.

After years of practice and hard work, he founded Bharatiya Natyakalalayam in 1945, which was the first school of dance in north Kerala and later went on to establish several other dance schools, including the Cheliya Kathakali Vidyalayam in his native village, about 30 km from here.

The institution conducts courses on different aspects of Kathakali and has a full-fledged Kathakali troupe.

Several awards and recognitions came his way over the years including that of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi and Kerala Kalamandalam.

Born to Chadayankandy Chathukutty Nair and Kinattinkara Kunhamnakutty Amma on June 16, 1916, Kunhiraman Nair had his debut performance at Keezhpayur Kuniyil Paradevatha temple in 1930.

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