For the lover of dance, drama and music, Kerala is heaven. You have scores of art forms, which are quite unique in nature to Kerala, like Kathakali, Ottamthullal, Chakyar Koothu, Krishnanattam, Padayani, Pavakathakali, Theyyam, Velakali, Thiruvathirakali, Kolkali etc. Watch them and experience an endless and varied emotions to win your passion, love, kindness, compassion, mirth, joy, sorrow, grief, anger, wonder, horror, fear, valour, courage etc. And then relax with the thought, all the world is a stage.
Perhaps Kerala is the only state in India that has such myriad forms of
performing arts that are grand spectacle of colors and costumes. Kathakali,
the pride of Kerala, is an art form where music, dance and drama are
incredibly synchronized. Mohiniyattom, Ottanthullal, Koodiyattam,
Chakiarkoothu, Pathakam and Chavittunatakam, though lesser known to the
outside world are equally important art forms of Kerala.
Kathakali is the most famous dance-drama of Kerala. This classical art from
is distinguished by several unique features. It is a marvelous blend of the
'tandava' (masculine) and 'lasya' (languish) elements of
dancing. Kathakali is considered to be more than 1500 years old. The
costume, makeup, movements, expression and the language make Kathakali a
visual treat. The make-up changes according to the characters enacted. The
actors do not speak, but enact the 'padams' (dialogues) sung by the
singers behind. The themes of Kathakali are drawn from Indian myth and the
characters are Gods, humans and demons. The stories revolve around the
lives, loves and times of Gods, demons and humans.
Kathakali consists of three fine arts. Abhinayam (acting) Nrityam
(dancing) and Geetham (singing). The actors enact their roles with
the help of 'Mudras' (hand-gestures) and facial expressions. Music
is a very essential aspect of Kathakali. Two musicians sing the 'Padams',
Drums-Chenda and Maddalam provide the percussion. The music, though
Carnatic, has a typical flavor of Kerala and it adheres to the Thala
(rhythm) instead of Raaga. There are five major costumes used in Kathakali,
each with set modes of make-up. Each costume design denotes the
characteristics possessed by the character. Kerala Kalamandalam -
the famous Kathakali institue is situated in Cheruthuruthi near Trichur.
Kathakali is usually presented at dusk, sometimes continuously for many
days. Each night will feature one act of the play. The performance lasts
This is a ritual dance and one of the oldest forms of dances. Theyyam is
associated with the cult of Goddess Bhagawati. The themes of these
dances revolve around the triumph of the Goddess over the evil characters
like the demon Daraka (Darakasuran). Theyyam is always performed by
men and they are often costumed as women in exotic make-up. The men
performing the dance wear masks and elaborate costumes. The headdress made
of palm leaves and cloth can at times rise well over forty feet in height.
The dancer moves to the rhythm of 'Chenda' (drum) and when the dance picks
up momentum, he casts a spell on the spectators, often in a religious way.
Aryans, who came to these lands centuries before the beginning of the
Christian era, brought with them the language Sanskrit and their culture.
They introduced a new dance form, Koodiyattam, which, unlike the most other
dance forms, include women participants. Since Koodiyattam
performances were preferred as offerings to the deity, they were enacted
only in temples. For the purpose, many temples have beautiful pavilions
within their precincts, which are known as Koothambalam, with high sloping
roofs covered with metal sheeting.
A Koodiyattam performance is a long, drawn - out affair, taking vast area,
height and lasting for days. The story unfolds leisurely, and the text is
augmented by the performers by expanding upon them with anecdotes, satires
and innuendos. Politics, philosophy and social behavior are covered in the
comments. The pivotal role in these performances belongs to the Jester, as
he is the only one who speaks and the language is Malayalam. He translates
the Sanskrit version with a touch of humor. He also acts as a bridge between
the actor and the audience.
Mohiniyattam is a semi-classical dance form. It contains elements of
Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi. It is based on the story of Mohini,
the mythological seductress. The movements are graceful like that of Odissi
and the costumes sober and fascinating. It combines songs in Malayalam with
Carnatic music. It is performed mainly in Kerala. It is essentially a solo
dance. The first reference to Mohiniyattam is found in Vyavaharamala
composed by Mazhamangalam Narayanan Namboothiri assigned to the 16th
century. In the 19th century, Swathi Thirunal, the Maharaja of erstwhile
Travancore did much to encourage and stabilize this art form. It was poet
Vallathol who again revived it and gave it a standing in modern times
through Kerala Kalamandalam which he founded in 1930.
This is a very ancient dance form of Kerala. It is believed to have been
introduced by the early Aryan immigrants . This is performed by the members
of the Chakkiar caste. It is a highly orthodox type of entertainment. It is
staged inside temples only and the theatre is known as Koothambalam.
The performances are usually witnessed by the Hindus belonging to the higher
In Chakkiarkoothu, the story is recited in a quasi-dramatic style with
emphasis on eloquent declarations with appropriately suggestive facial
expressions and hand gestures. The only accompaniments are the cymbals and
the drum known as the mizhavu, made of copper with a narrow mouth on which
is stretched a piece of parchment.
is the traditional martial art of Kerala. It is believed to be the
forerunner of all eastern martial arts . It has played a significant role in
the technical development of all other performing arts in Kerala. Its roots
can be traced back to the 12th century when skirmishes among the many feudal
principalities were very common.
Kalarippayatt is still taught in Kerala. The CVN Kalari Sangham in
Thiruvananthapuram imparts training in Kalarippayatt. The founders of this
Sangham played a significant role in the revival of Kalarippayatt. There are
Kalries in north Kerala too, especially in Kozhikode.
Masters of Kalarippayatt are called GURUKKAL. Kalarippayatt is taught
inside a special arena called KALARI, which is part school, part gymnasium
and part temple. A kalari is constructed following traditional principles.
Its rectangular design is always aligned east - west direction and Hindu
deities are represented at each corner.
Training in Kalarippayatt begins at a very young age. Both boys and girls
are taught. Learning requires ritual stretching and flexing exercises to
achieve balance and concentration. To increase suppleness of limbs, a full
body massage is given. During the course of the training, various weapons
are introduced including the sword and shield of the medieval warrior.
Bharat Natyam :
It is believed to be Indias oldest form of classical dance. This
dance form which is called poetry in motion, has its hoary origins in the
Natya Sastra written about 4000 B.C. by Sage Bharatha. This art form grossly
disallows new fangled innovations or gimmicks except in repertoire and forms
of presentation. It was originally known as Dasi Attam, a temple
art performed by young women called devadasis.
After the 16th century, this dance form went into disrepute due to economic
and social conditions and became synonymous with prostitution. It was
Rukmini Devi who gave it a new life and respectability. The present form was
evolved in the 19th century by four Tanjore dancers, Ponniah Pillai and his
To become proficient in Bharatha Natyam, one must be talented and extremely
dedicated. It requires at least seven years of dedicated training to master
the different gestures and poses and the various emotions called bhavas.
The skill of the artist in conveying the bhava or rasa
is more important to the audience than the accompanying song.
Bharatha Natyam is commonly performed by women, but sometimes by men also.
There are strict guidelines laid down regarding every single aspect of the
art including the attributes required in order to be an accomplished dancer.
It is one of the most elaborate and spectacular martial folk arts of
Kerala. This ritual art form is usually presented within the temple premises
and is called Thirumumbil vela when performed before the deity and
Kulathilvela when performed near the temple pond. Fifty or more performers
in the traditional attire of soldiers, bearing colourful shields and swords
or long canes, dance with war like steps in perfect orchestration with the
resounding rhythm of the thakil, suddha maddalam, elathalam, kuzhal and
trumpets. A few fighting techniques of Kalaripayattu are also displayed in
the course of the performance.
as the name suggests, originated as a votive offering to Sree Krishna. It is
performed in group and is presented across eight nights. The story is based
on the Sanskrit text, Krishna Geetha. The charm of this classical art form
is in the synchronised grace of movement of the entire group. The costume
and makeup of Krishnanattam bear traces of resemblance to Kathakali and folk
arts like Thiyattam, Mudiyettu and Theyyam. Musical instruments used are
maddalam, elathalam and chengila. Krishnanattam is most commonly performed
in the Guruvayoor temple.