There are about 35 different types of tribal people in Kerala, tribal dances like Elelakkaradi, Paniyarkali and Mankali still survive. Of over 50 folk dances in Kerala, the popular ones are Kaliyattom, Kolam Thullal, Kolkali, Velakali and Kaikottikal. All these are performed in accompaniment of songs and drumming and often in colourful ornamental costumes. From these arose Kerala's classical dances like Koothu, Kathakali, Mohiniattam and Patokom. Kathakali uses vivid and eloquent mudras (hand signs). A visually powerful art form, the Kathakali dance dramas are based on stories from the two great indian epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is said to have evolved from a rivalry between two princely families. One had written a story cycle revolving around the life of Krishna, called Krishnattam, the other around the life of Rama called Ramattam. Mohiniattam, which literally means "the dance of the enchantress", is sensuous and lyrical. Dancers display grace as well as passion.
Martial Arts of Kerala - Kalaripayattu - consists of a series of intricate movements that train the body and mind. The discipline is continually practised and complemented by the Kerala's famous ayurvedic and nature cure techniques.These are believed to have travelled to eastern China, where they inspired the evolution of other martial art forms. 'Verumkai' is the final and most difficult of lessons taught in the kalari. The others are Maithozhil - combat through kicks, Kolathiri - combat using sticks and Angathiri - the use of metal weapons.
Thullal, the dance form of Kerala is yet another gem in the vast repertoire of Kerala's performing arts. It has from its very inception, enjoyed a ready appeal with both the commoner and the connoisseur for unlike forms such as Koodiyattam, Krishnanattam, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam, it requires no initiation to intelligently respond to it. One can easily react and enjoy Thullal without any prior exposure or sophisticated understanding. As this is composed in the language of the layman, it is known as the 'poorman's Kathakali'
The word Thullal belongs to the Dravidian family of languages and literally means 'jumping', this however can be extended to mean 'to leap about' or to 'cut a caper'.
Belief prevails that Thullal, both as a form of dance and as an evolved literary expression, owes itself to the genius of one man. Kunchan Nambiar. The poet, social critic and humorist who lived two centuries ago was the pioneer behind this dance form and he wrote the text of Thullal and choreographed the play. He tried to bring out through this dance form, the social conditions of his time, the distinctions of class and weaknesses and whims of the rich and the great. Thullal often reflects the literary, artistic and cultural life of the medieval Kerala. Here, the stories from Epics are retold in Malayalam poetry with the sylised singing of the lines depicting the beauty of the Dravidian metres.
In its presentation, Thullal is conceived as a solo dance. The dance is supported by two musicians, who stand a little behind them. One of them plays the Maddalam, a drum and the other small cymbals. Both musicians are also expected to sing along with the dancer. No stage or any other formal arrangement is required for the performance. Unlike Kathakali or Koodiyattam, Thullal uses no curtain for entries, exits or scenes, nor is there a formal seating arrangement. As is the practise with all the Kerala's performing arts, a lighted brass lamp is installed in front of the dancer, even if the performance is held during the day.
Thullal presentation generally lasts two hours and are rendered at a pitch and pace that keep onlookers thoroughly gripped. The dancer dances and sings simultaneously and this entails a long period of rigorous training, an agile body and a communicative voice. The dancer must also be gifted with a sharp memory, for he must remember long poems some of which have over 1000 couplets. The emotions pertain mainly to valour, humour, pathos, anger and devotion. Sringara, the erotic element, is virtually absent, but is rarely missed, for the burden of the songs and the nature of the dance are hardly conducive to tender passions.
In make-up and costumes, Thullal has the traces of colour and the gorgeousness of Kathakali. The face is painted with yellow arsenic mixed with blue. The eyes are blackened and lips reddened. The dancer wears a breast-plate adorned with golden pearls, necklaces and colourful tassels. The white waist clothes resemble skirts. The head-gear is small, made of light wood, studded with bright stones and decorated with golden paper. The bracelets, amulets and waistlets are almost the same as in Kathakali.
Thullal is of three kinds: Ottan, Parayan and Seethangan. The distinction between them lies mostly in the make-up and costumes and to some extend in metres and ragas of the text. Of these Ottan Thullal is the most popular.
In recent years, there have been many efforts to rejuvenate interest in Thullal, both as a literary form and as a performance. Some 30 years ago in Malabar, Raman Nair, a gifted performer, did much to improve the Thullal art. Kerala Kalamandalam, a leading training centre for Kathakali and related arts has for some years included Thullal dance in its curriculum. Time has effected improvements in the Thullal performance. It has now become a popular entertainment in the cultural programmes.
It's a traditional martial art form where artist move with a grace of dancers at the same time wielding deadly wepons in their hands
Styles of Kalaripayattu
Northern Kalaripayattu Northern kalarippayattu places comparatively more emphasis on weapons than on empty hands.
Southern Kalaripayattu In this styles of kalarippayattu, practice and fighting techniques emphasize empty hands.
Central Kalaripayattu The central style is a combination of northern and southern styles that includes northern meippayattu preliminary exercises.
It's one of Keralas traditional folk arts. It is a dance-drama based on the stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharatha. The makeup process for the dance itself is a show and the rich costumes, face-masks and paints are specially made from natural material.
A rich and flourishing tradition of dance drama can be witnessed in the picturesque state of Kerala, a narrow strip of beautiful land running along the west coast of India. Here, in the night, the drums roll, beckoning an audience to a most magnificent spectacle. Kathakali, a well-developed dance-drama, is a performance where the actors depict characters from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata and from the Puranas (ancient scriptures). The dancers adorn themselves in huge skirts and head-dress, wearing a most intricate style of make-up.
Kathakali draws heavily from drama and is danced with elaborate masks and costumes. Kathakali recitals are generally long and while other dance forms are more emotive than narrative, Kathakali is both. It combines dance with dialogue to bring myth and legend to life in the temple courtyards of Kerala. The dancers use their stunning costumes and make-up, with the accompaniment of drums and vocalists, to create various moods and emotions.
So strong is the identification of the dancers with the characters they play and so absolute their conviction, that they seem to surpass themselves, becoming one with the legendary heroes and heroines they depict.
Present day Kathakali is a dance drama tradition, which evolved from centuries of highly stylised theatrical traditions of Kerala, especially Kudiyattam. Ritual traditions like Theyyams, Mudiyattam and the martial arts of Kerala played a major role in shaping the dance into its present form. The great poet Vallathol rediscovered Kathakali, establishing the Kerala Kalamandalam in 1932 which lent a new dimension to the art-form.
It is believed to be india's 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.'
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.
Also called koothu, is one of the oldest classical theatre arts of kerala. The solo dance is usually presented in the koothambalam of temples to the accompaniment of the mizhavu and elathalam. The performance begains with an invocation to the presiding deity of the temple. The narration is enlivened with the thandava dance movements, gestures and facial expression according to the guidelines in natya sastra. Koothu is distinct for its comic element which adds to its dramatic character. Themes are usually from the epics. The costume is colourful and bizarre with a strange headgear
Kootiyattam literally means "acting together". This is the earliest classical dramatic art form of Kerala. Based on Sage Bharatha's 'Natyasasthra' who lived in the second century, Kootiyattam evolved in the 9th century AD.
The only extant classical Sanskrit theatre in India is Koodiyattam. This one thousand year-old theatre is the traditional privilege of Chakyars and Nambiars (temple-castes of Kerala). Chakyars enact the male roles and the Nangiars (women of Nambiar) take female roles. The actors and actresses render verbal acting in stylised Sanskrit and Prakrit (a colloquial form of Sanskrit) respectively.
The make-up and dressing is less exuberant and more stylised. Mizhavu and Edakka provide the background music to Koodiyattam. Through sound modulation, the percussion instruments augment the effect of acting in this dance drama.Vidooshaka (Royal clown) in Koodiyattam tells the audience in the local language, Malayalam, with running humour, the thematic development of the text.
All the main characters in Koodiyattam customarily enact Nirvahana; a recollection of past events in the story, to form a background for stepping into the present. This is always a long drawn out affair and may take anywhere from a few days to a number of weeks.
Thiruvathirakali is a classical dance form, which is a pointer to the old customs followed in the nair tharawads (joint families). In this dance form, the women of the house dance elegantly around the ceremonial lamp or floral decoration on festive occasions to the accompaniment of the thiruvathira pattu (song).
Thiruvathirakkali or Kaikottikkali is a popular dance form of the women folk of Kerala. In this, eight to ten girls perform forming a circle by themselves. They sing and dance to the rhythm of clapping hands. Well-versed padams of Kathakali and Mohiniyatttam come alive in Thiruvathirakkali with a folk accent. The music and movements of Thiruvathirakkali has a native simplicity and lyrical grace. This graceful systematic group dance is performed on festivals like Onam and Thiruvathira.
Legend says that Parvati performed severe mortificatory penance to win Shiva as her husband. Very much pleased with her penance, Shiva appeared before her and promises to take her as his wife. This promise was made on the day of Thiruvathira star of the month of Dhanu. Therefore on this day, married and unmarried woman perform dance as a ritual. The married, for the well being of their husband and the unmarried, for acquiring a good husband. Also known as Kaikottikkali, this dance has a semi-religious significance, it's a kind of ritual performed to ensure happy and harmonious marital life.
On the day of Thiruvathira, the women folk takes an early bath and gets dressed in their traditional attire. They take noyambu (fast) on that day by having only non-rice food. In the evening they perform the dance and adorn their hair with Pathirapoovu.
Essentially a Kerala dance, hence the danseuse wear the typical dress of Kerala (Mundu and Veshti) with their hair bedecked with jasmine flowers. The dominant sentiment of this rustic dance is unalloyed joy. The footwork and movements of this form have grown naturally from the grace, simplicity, dignity, boldness, sense of beauty and such other qualities that are abundant in the woman of Kerala. This dance form has an amazing lasya charm redolent of devotion and erotic sentiment. Moving in circle, clock wise and anti clock wise, the dancers bend side ways also for clapping together in beautiful gestures. The songs of the dance have sprung up from the everyday life of rustic generation, particularly from the simple amusement of women folk. For this reason, their tunes and rhythm are closely associated with the social life and natural beauty of Kerala. Some other forms are also prevalent of this folk dance known as kolattam and Kummi.
Kerala Kalamandalam is one of the institution which imparts training in Kaikottikkali in order to preserve the rare traits of a village dance despite its narrow range. Amidst the sophisticated classical dances, Kaikottikkali strives to save its identity.
Mohiniyattam is a dance form said to have originated in Kerala. It is closely related to Bharathanatyam of Tamil Nadu, which was originally called 'Dasiyattam'. Originated as the temple dance performed by Devadasis, it portrays feminine love in its myriad forms - carnal, devotional and maternal- with accent more on Lasya and Bhava. In the main items Cholkettu, Padavarnam and Padam, Mudras and facial expressions are more important than the rhythmic steps. Costumes and ornaments of Mohiniyattam have much in common with female characters of Koodiyattam and Kathakali. Once Mohiniyattam was performed only in Temples premises and royal courts. The first reference to Mohiniyattam is found in 'Vyavaharamala' composed by Mazhamangalam Narayanan Namboodiri, of 16th century AD. Major contributions to this art form were given by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, Irayimman Thampi and Kuttikunju Thankachi.
Mohiniyattam, the female semi-classical dance form of Kerala is said to be older than Kathakali. Literally, the dance of the enchantress, Mohiniyattam was mainly performed in the temple precincts of Kerala. It is also the heir to Devadasi dance heritage like Bharata Natyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi. The word 'Mohini' means a maiden who exerts desire or steals the heart of the onlooker. There is a well known story of Lord Vishnu taking on the guise of a 'Mohini' to enthrall people, both in connection with the churning of the milk ocean and with the episode of slaying of Bhasmasura. Thus it is thought that Vaishnava devotees gave the name of Mohiniyattam to this dance form.
The first reference to Mohiniyattam is found in 'Vyavaharamala' composed by Mazhamangalam Narayanan Namboodiri, assigned to the 16th century AD. In the 19th century, Swati Thirunal, the king of erstwhile Travancore, did much to encourage and stabilise this art form. The post Swati period however witnessed the downfall of this art form. It somehow degenerated into eroticism to satisfy the Epicurean life of some provincial Satraps and landlords. It was Poet Vallathol who again revived it and gave it a status in modern times through Kerala Kalamandalam, which he founded in 1930. Kalamandalam Kalyaniamma, the first dance teacher of Kalamandalam was instrumental in resuscitating this ancient art form. Along with her, Krishna Panicker, Madhavi Amma and Chinnammu Amma, the last links of a disappearing tradition, nurtured aspirants in the discipline at Kalamandalam.
The theme of Mohiniyattam is love and devotion to god. Vishnu or Krishna is more often the hero. The spectators could feel his invisible presence when the heroine or her maid details dreams and ambitions through the circular movements, delicate footsteps and subtle expressions. The dancer in the slow and medium tempos is able to find adequate space for improvisations and suggestive bhavas. In format, this is similar to Bharatanatyam. The movements are graceful like Odissi and the costumes sober and attractive. It is essentially a solo dance, but in present times it is performed in groups also. The repertoire of Mohiniyattam follows closely that of Bharatanatyam. Beginning with Cholkettu, the dancer performs Jathiswaram, Varnam, Padam and Thillana in a concert. Varnam combines pure and expressional dance, while Padam tests the histrionic talent of a dancer and Thillana exposes her technical artistry.
A dance form essential to the wedding entertainment and festivities of the Malabar Muslims. Maidens and young female relatives sing and dance around the bride, clapping their hands. The songs of Mappilappattu, are first sung by the leader and are repeated by the chorus. The themes are often teasing comments and innuendoes about the bride's anticipated nuptial bliss. Oppana is often presented as a stage item today.
The Theyyam is a popular ritual dance of north Kerala. It is also known as Theyyattam.It is usually the representation of a divine or heroic character from mythology and one of the most spectacular oldest temple art forms of Kerala.As a living cult with centuries old traditions, ritual and custom, it embraces almost all castes and classes of Hindu religion in this region. The term Theyyam is a corrupt form of daivam or God. It is a rare combination of dance and music and reflects important features of a tribal culture.
The neoclassical dances of Kerala represent a delicate fusion of the folk and classical traditions of Kerala's dances. But the fusion is not artistically complete to the extent that homogenous blending of the two dance forms has not been achieved to perfection. The neoclassical dances surfaced at some intermediate stage between the process of evolution from the folk tradition to the classical tradition. The neoclassical dance thus retain not only the essential flavours of the folk and classical traditions but project distinctive
A mixed dance in which both men and women participate. The performers move in a circle, striking small sticks and keeping rhythm with special steps. The circle expands and contracts as the dance progress. The accompanying music gradually rises in pitch and the dance reaches its climax .Sometimes it is performed on a specially constructed wooden stage .Thus the name thattinmelkali.
Mudiyettu is ritualistic dance springing form the Bhagavathy cult. The theme depicts the glory and triumph of Bhagavathy over the demon Darika. The characters are all heavily made up with gorgeous costumes, intricate and elaborate and with conventional facial paintings, tall head - gears etc. Attired and adorned exotically with a unique weirdness and hideousness, the characters seem quit supernatural. Their mien and array make them colorful, imposing and awe-inspiring in the extreme. The dance is performed by a set of people known as Kuruppanmar, mainly in Bhadrakali temple.
Margomkali is a ritual folk art of the Syrian Christians of Kottayam and Thrissur districts. A dozen dancers sing and dance around a lighted wick lamp ( Nilavilakku), clad in the simple traditional white dhoti and sporting a peacock feather on the turban to add a touch of colour.
A solo dance exposition, the Thullal is of three types. Its origin is attributed to Kunchan Nambiar, a veritable genius and one of the foremost poets of Kerala. Though based on classic principles of Natya Shastra the technique of this art is not rigid. The songs, written in simple Malayalam, frank to outspoken wit and humour, the simplicity of presentation and the direct appeal to every day life made Thullal very popular.
A devotional offering performed in Bhadrakali temples. A set of performers known as Thiyyattunnis alone are entitled to perform it. The theme is usually the king of the Darika by Bhadrakali. The Unnis first draw the picture of Bhadrakali (called Kalam) on the floor, with a five different types of colour powers.
Painting in Kerala can be traced back to the 9th century, as evident from the murals in it's temples and the practice of Kalamezhuthu - the practice of drawing pictures of gods and goddesses on temple floors using five different types of colour powder.Raja Ravi Varma's numerous paintings of gods and goddesses adorn calenders even today, earning him the ire, critics usually reserve for a calender artist who promoted kitsch.But several of his works are flawlessly executed and display a mature sense of colour.
Photography, technique of producing permanent images on sensitized surfaces by means of the photochemical action of light or other forms of radiant energy. In today's society photography plays important roles as an information medium, as a tool in science and technology, and as an art form, and it is also a popular hobby. It is essential at every level of business and industry, being used in advertising, documentation, photojournalism, and many other ways. Scientific research, ranging from the study of outer space to the study of the world of subatomic particles, relies heavily on photography as a tool
An old time industrial art is bell metal casting. One famous product is the Aranmula polished metal mirror, made of an alloy of copper and tin. In woodcraft, apart from the temple art tradition, kathakali models and accessories, weaving of mats, baskets, coir matting figure among it's handicraft. Since the ban on ivory trade, Kerala's ivory carvings, especially that of the snake boat are now made of buffalo horn.
Padayani or padeni colloquial speech, is one of the most colourful and spectacular ritual art associated with the festivals of certain temples in southern kerala (Alappuzha, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts). The word padayani literally means military formations or rows of army, but in this folk art we have mainly a series of divine and semi-divine impersonations wearing huge masks or kolams of different shapes, colours and desingns painted on the stalks of arecanut fronds.
This classical dance is performed by the member of the professional Chakyar cast that too only in Koothambalam of temples. It is one of the oldest of theartrical arts peculiar to Kerala. The term Koothu literally means dance which may be taken as an index of the importance attached to dance in the original form of the art. As a matter of fact, the movements and facial expressions and the signs and gestures employed by the actor in Koothu are said to approximate most closely to the principles laid down in the authoritative Sanskrit treatise on the subject, Bharatha's Natya Sastra.
Mainly performed as a votive offering in temples where the presiding deity is lord Subrahmania. Here a number of dancers dressed in yellow or rose clothes and smeared all over the body with ashes and each with an ornate kavadi on the shoulder, dance in a row to the rhythmic beatings of instruments like udukku, chenda etc. Sometimes nagaswaram is also used.
A marital dance of the Nair community. This depicts ancient warfare in Kerala in all its ferocity and valour. Armed with shining swords and shields in exotic costumes they dance with vigour and force. The dance ends with the victory of good over evil.
This ritual offering to Goddess Kaali is performed in many places of South Malabar. A troupe of dancers dress up as Kaali (the Thira) and the accompanying spirits (the Poothams) who were created along with the goddess for the destruction of the evil demon, Daarikan. The Thira wear masks while the spirits don semi-circular wooden crowns. The dance is performed from house to house and on the premises of village shrines between November and May every year.
The kalam is a unique drawing also called dhulee chithram or powder drawing. The artist uses the floor as his canvas. Kalamezhuthu pattu is performed as part of the rituals to worship and propitiate gods like Kaali, Ayyappan or Vettakkorumakan.
Mayilnrittam or Mayilattam is a ritual art performed by artists in peacock costume. It is performed in Subramanya temples in South Kerala
Legends have it that as an offshoot of the rivalry between the Zamorin and the Raja of Kottarakara. The later created the Ramanattom. The dance - drama on the life of Rama. It was also for serial enactment on eight successive days. Here facial abhinaya and hand gestures were given more importance. The songs were all in Malayalam. In course of time the masks were discarded and a richer variety in facial make up was developed. It was this Ramanattom that developed into Kathakali
Pulikali is a art form performed in Trichur and Palghat districts. It is also known as Kaduvaakali. Dancers numbering three or more dress themselves up like tigers, usually covered with yellow paint,with red and black designs on it.
In Trichur District, Kummaattikkali begins on the dawn of Thiruvonam. The players and the people who play the musical instruments visit the temple and pay obeisance to God. They receive clothes as gifts from the local elder. Usually the Nairs perform Kummaatti.
A refinement of Ashtapadiatoom, evolved by Manavedan, the Zamorin was Krishnanattom. The whole story of Krishna was cast into a drama-cycle which would need eight nights for serial production. Vilwamangalam, a Krishna devotee, helped in designing the costume of Krishna. The actors in this dance drama have to conform themselves to the ballet element and mimetic expression. The narrative song is left to the musicians.
Pulluvars are a primitive Dravidian group. The term pullu means a bird of omen. The term pulluvan must have meant ‘a person who predicts from the sound of birds’. There are many sub-divisions within the Pulluva Community. The majority among them are called Nagampatikal(People who sing snake-songs). There are pulluvars who are not Naagampatikal. They are known as pretampatikal (People who sing ghost songs).
Thayambakam can be seen during festival days, especially when the temple deity is taken out in procession. Only chendas and elathalams are used. The artist uses his palm and stick for drumming.
Pancharimelam is mainly confined to temples. Chenda, komb, kuzhal and elathalam are the main instruments used. For a complete performance, the minimum requirements are 33 veekuchendas, 33 elathalams and 11 each of komb, kuzhal and muttuchenda. Pandimelam: This differs from Pancharimelam slightly, though the instruments used are the same. While the beating of chenda in Pancharimelam is done with two sticks, only one is used for drumming in Pandimelam. Another difference lies in the blowing of kuzhal, which in Pandimelam is done in Bhairav Raaga.Pandimelam can be seen in its full splendour during Pooram at the Sri Vadakkumnathan Temple compound in Thrissur.
Sopana sangeetham is sung in front of sopana (steps in front of the sanctum sanctorum). opana sangeetham has a distinct style. Bhakti movement in Kerala influenced sopana sangeetham and most of the lyrics (asthapathi) are based on Jayadeva's (thirteenth century poet) immortal work, 'Geeta Govinda'. The song varies according to the time of performance and the deity. Musicians always stand on the left side of the sopana and singing stops once the shrine opens. Instruments used are edakka, and chengila.
Many ancient family houses in kerala have special snake shrines called Kavu. Sarpamthullal is usually performed in the courtyard of houses having snake shrines. This is a votive offering for family wealth and happiness. The dance is performed by members of a community called Pulluvar. In the first stage the Pulluvan draws a Kolam (picture) of two or more twining snakes in the courtyard. An oil - lit traditional lamp and one full measure (nirapara) each of paddy and rice are then placed in front of the kolam. In the second stage, the idol of the snake is brought out from the Kavu in a procession called thalapoli to the uproarious tumult of percussion instrument (panchavadya).
This is a ritual dance common with bhadrakalipattu, ayyappanapattu and veitaykorumakapattu. Since it seals with trances and evil spirits,only a few are allowed to perform it. Usually the members of the kallathukuruppanmar enjoy this right.In the first stageof the dance there is kalamezhuthu,in which the form of the deity is drawn on the floor with the aid of five types of coloured powders.Then devotional songs are sung to the accompaniment of nanthuni,a musical instrument.After this the dancer known as velichappadu enters,with red flowery clothes,red scarfs,a gridle of bells at the waist and a sword in hand slowly he gets into a trance and executes vigorous movements which is technically called idumkoorum chavittal.
An extremely vigorous ring - dance of the Vattuvar community. Both men and women participate in the dance. Twelve different types of 'steps' are executed. The beauty of the intricate footwork is heightened by the tinkling of anklets and bells and also by the rhythmic clapping of hand. The whirling movements become faster as the dancing reaches a climax. The dance is also called chuvadukali or chavittukali.