Home > Kerala Performing Arts > Kathakali

Kathakali

Articles on Kathakali

1. Kathakali My Perspective - An article on her experience with Kathakali by Jan Zeitlin

2. From France to Kerala - An article on Kathakali by Aruna a french kathakali artist.

Kathakali Pictures - Gallery - Check out our exclusive Kathakali Pictures more than 250 high quality photos in the album.

Popular Kathakali Stories - Kathakali stories that are most commonly enacted.

Rugminiswayamvaram Kathakali Picture Gallery - Pictures from Rugminiswayamvaram Kathakali play.

Kerala owes its transnational fame to this nearly 300 years old classical dance form which combines facets of ballet, opera, masque and the pantomime. It is said to have evolved from other performing arts like Kootiyattam, Krishnanattam and Kalarippayattu. Kathakali explicates ideas and stories from the Indian epics and Puranas.

Presented in the temple precincts after dusk falls Kathakali is heralded by the Kelikottu or the beating of drums in accompaniment of the Chengila (gong). The riches of a happy blending of colour, expressions, music, drama and dance is unparallelled in any other art form.

Kathakali Make-up
Costume is elaborate with the face painted up. Great importance is laid on the Vesham or make-up which are of five types - Pacha, Kathi, Thadi, Kari and Minukku.

The pomp and magnificence of Kathakali is partly due to its decor part of which is the kireetam or huge headgear and the kanchukam the over sized jackets, and a long skirt worn over a thick padding of cushions. The identity of the actor is completely mutilated to create a super human being of larger-than-life proportion.

Pacha (Green)
Pacha Vehsam or the green make-up portray noble protagonists.

Kathi (Knife)
Kathi Vesham portrays villainous characters.

Thadi (Beard)
There are three types of bearded or Thadi Veshams.
"Vella Thadi" or White beard for superhuman monkeys like Hanuman.
"Chuvanna Thadi" or Red beard is for evil characters.
"Karutha Thadi" or Black beard for the hunter.

Kari (Black)
Kari Vesham is used for she-demons.

Minukku (Prettying Up)
The "Minukku Vesham" is used for female characters and sages.

Mudra
Mudra is a stylized sign language used to depict an idea, a situation or a state of being. A Kathakali actor enacts his ideas through mudras. For this he follows a systematic sign language based on Hastalakshana Deepika, a treatise on the language of hand gestures.

Kathakali Music
The orchestra is formed of two varieties of drums - the maddalam and chenda; the chengila which is a bell metal gong and the ilathalam or cymbals.

Kathakali Training
Students of Kathakali have to undergo rigorous training replete with oil massages and separate exercises for eyes, lips, cheeks, mouth and neck. Abhinaya or expression is of prime importance as is nritya or dance and geetham or singing.

Together with highly evocative facial expressions, the mudras and the music both vocal and instrumental, Kathakali unfolds stories from a bygone era in a lofty style reminiscent of the Greek plays. Kerala Kalamandalam , is the prominent institution imparting Kathakali training in the traditional way.

 

Kathakali

 

Explore the Performing Arts of Kerala

 
 
 
   

Bharatanatyam

Bharata Natyam is one of the oldest dance forms of India said to be originated in Thanjavoor of Tamil Nadu. It was nurtured in the temples and courts of southern India since ancient times.

chavittunatakam

Chavittunatakam

A Christian art form of Kerala. Evolved at the turn of the 16th Century AD during the Portuguese colonization and bears definite traces of the European Christian Miracle Play.

 
  Duffmuttu

Duffmuttu

Duffmuttu is also known as Aravanamuttu. It is a group performance popular among the Muslims of Malabar. Duffmuttu is staged as a social event during festivals and nuptial ceremonies.

Kakkarissi Natakom

Kakkarissi Natakom

Kakkarissi natakom is a satirical dance-drama based on the puranic legends of Lord Siva and his consort Parvati when they assumed human forms as Kakkalan and Kakkathi - a nomadic tribe of fortune tellers.

 
  Kathakali

Kathakali

Kathakali is a highly stylized classical Indian dance-drama noted for its attractive make-up of characters, their elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the anchor playback music and complementary percussion.

Kolkali

Kolkali

A folk art mainly of the agrarian classes, Kolkkali is highly rhythmic and they never miss a beat. In Malabar, Kolkkali is more popular among Muslim men.

 
  Koothu

Koothu

Koothu is a socio-religious art performed in the Koothambalam or the Koothuthara of temples, either independently or as part of Kootiyattam. It is a solo narrative performance interspersed with mime and comic interludes.

Krishnanattom

Krishnanattom

A spectacle for both the scholar and the simple rustic. The visual effect is enhanced by varied and colourful facial make-up with larger-than-life-masks, made of light wood and cloth padding, for certain characters.

 
  Kutiyattam

Kutiyattam

Kutiyattam 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, Kutiyattam evolved in the 9th century AD.

Margomkali

Margomkali

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.

 
  Mohiniyattam

Mohiniyattam

Mohiniyattam is the most enchanting classical dance form of Kerala. It is a traditional dance form practiced by the beautiful womenfolk of the state. ‘Mohini’ means the Celestial beauty and ‘attam’ means her dance and hence the term ‘Mohiniyattam’ literally means the dance of the celestial enchantress. It is a ‘lasya’- the feminine charm, oriented dance form.

Oppana

Oppana

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.

 
  Thiruvathirakali

Thiruvathirakali

Thiruvathirakali is a dance performed by women, in order to attain everlasting marital bliss, on Thiruvathira day in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December- January).

Thullal

Thullal

Thullal is a solo performance combining the dance and recitation of stories in verse. Staged during temple festivals, the performer explicates the verses through expressive gestures.