‘God's Own Country’ Kerala boasts of it’s a couple of types of dances and art.

Dances of Kerala

Dance and art forms are integral parts of a region’s culture.‘God's Own Country’ Kerala boasts of it’s a couple of types of dances and art. Some of the folk dances which are native to the state have gained popularity. They are performed during temple festivals and other ceremonious occasions. These folk dances are special in their presentation and involve excellent expressions carried out via a very great class of dancers. In Kerala, the folk dances are accompanied by way of wonderful costumes and ornaments perfectly adorning the performers.

Kathakali is probably the most famous dance drama from the south Indian state of Kerala. The word Kathakali literally means "Story-Play". It is known for its large, elaborate makeup and costumes. The complex costumes of Kathakali have turn out to be probably the most recognized symbol for Kerala. Positive and negative characters paint their faces according to the characters they play. Large head dresses are instantly noticeable. The body languages of the dancers are rigorous, nevertheless very graceful. In fact, much flexibility is required in the body of a Kathakali performer. The orchestra of Kathakali generally comprises two drums known as the Chenda and the Maddalam, along with cymbals and another percussion instrument, the Ela Taalam. There are two singers in the group whose style of singing is categorized as Sopaanam.

Normally, the Kathakali performance is begun in evening and continues till the wee hours of dawn. Dawn, which is considered extremely auspicious, is just perfect time to show the victory of good over bad powers of the world. However, keeping in mind the busy routine of the modern society, much modification has been made in the dance forms.

Mohiniattam is famous as the dance of the celestial enchantress. It is another classical dance form of Kerala, performed by only women and is known for its graceful movements and simple but elegant costumes. Mohiniattam is lyricism and 'lasya' (moods), about Kerala's gift to nature. It's about "Mohini" (beautiful woman) and "attam" (dance).This classical dance - recognized for its beautiful and sensuous kind - adorns an high-quality feminine variety with the undulating flow of body movements, that leaves a viewer mesmerized. Musical instruments such as the violin, 'veena' and 'mridangam' chaperon the Mohiniattam dancer, who describes episodes from the epics and legends through virtuous steps, rhythmic movements of her arms and amorous facial expressions.In the Mohiniattam performance, Vishnu is portrayed as a celestial enchantress, trying to mesmerize the demons to help the Gods get a full share of ambrosia, which gave them immortality. This is the legend/myth behind Mohiniattam and forms the core of this dance form. Historically, the temple dancers/devadasi performed the Mohiniattam in the temples of Kerala.

Koodiyattam emerged in the ninth century as a full-fledged dramatic presentation in Sanskrit. The Vidushak, the comic character, was the only one character who spoke in Malayalam and was actually an ironic foil to the hero. For the people, a parallel custom emerged in the type of Pathakam, which was written in Malayalam rather of in Sanskrit by using Punam within the fifteenth century. Pana-Thottam is another form of a similar recital. This tradition finally culminated in the Thullal. Koodiyattom is a temple art and probably the only surviving form of the traditional presentation of Sanskrit drama.


Kolkali is a group dance in which around 24dancers performed this beautiful dance. This dance of Kerala is performed by farming community. Using wooden sticks as a prop, the dancers move in a circle tapping the two feet long sticks. A ceremonial lamp is lit in the center of the circle.


Muslims of Kerala have exclusive dance styles of their very own along with Oppana and Aravanmuttu which is performed by males and females, Oppana is accompanied by using clapping of hands. Mainly performed in marriages, the women perform in a circle and receive the bride while men stand aside singing songs, ready to receive the bridegroom. However, the source of Aravana may also be traced back to the Arabs and is yet accompanied by Arabic music. The instrument used to produce rhythm is called daf or tap, a round percussion instrument with one side covered with hide.


The meaning of 'Thullal' is dance and it emerged within the eighteenth century. The cumulative product of all traditional folk and classical theatrical arts of Kerala, it was founded by Kunchan Nambiar to represent the accumulated aesthetic experience of all sections of the society. The subjects were drawn from the certainly not failing myths and epics of India. A solo performance, it is a tale narrated in verse. The full painting of the face is retained for the expressive advantage. The costume is picturesque. On the basis of various styles of narrative singing, rhythms of dancing, foot work and makeup of the dancer, three kinds of Thullal that were evolved in course of time are Ottan Thullal, essentially the most famous one, Seethankan Thullal and Parayan Thullal.

Visit the northern hamlets of Malabar, to experience a newer melody of life, Theyyam, the foremost folklore ritual art of this southern state.The gratefulness of Theyyam is that it is extra in regards to the participation of beholder than the actual performance. Colours, particularly red, fly by the strings of music as the dancer spins on the axis of this creation.The word 'Theyyam' refers to both the performance and the performer, who is said to attain supernatural powers during the concert. If you get an opportunity, do not leave the 'Theechamundi', in which the dancer performs carrying tender coconut leaves. The style with which he jumps into a huge bonfire is an experience which cannot be framed into words.

Thiruvathirakali, also known as Kaikottikkali, is a very popular group dance of Kerala. Thiruvathirakali is performed by the women of Hindu community, often during festive seasons like Onam and the Thiruvathira day in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December- January). Performed by maids in order to attain everlasting marital bliss, Thiruvathirakali is a simple and gentle dance with the lasya element or the amorous charm predominating. The dance is performed around a nilavilakku (a ceremonial lamp) or a floral decoration, especially during Onam. The dancers move in a circular pattern, accompanied by rhythmic clapping of the hands, to the tune of the Thiruvathira pattu. One of the performers sings the first line of the Thiruvathira pattu (song) while the rest repeat it in the chorus. The songs are often narrations from the folk epics. Today, Thiruvathirakali has become a popular dance form for all seasons and also a popular stage item.

Chavittunatakam is a Christian dramatic form which was introduced during the time of the Portuguese in Kerala in the16th century A.D. 'Chavittu' means the rhythmic steps which accompanied the recitation of lines. Inspired by the Western Opera type of theatre, the themes, acting techniques, stage structure and plot treatment presented were western while the texts were written in old Tamil.

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Sumegha Bhatnagar

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