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All About Kerala -> Art Forms of Kerala Enquire Now
Kerala, which is known as God’s Own Country attracts a lot of tourist every year with its physical and natural beauty as well as with its rich cultural heritage, which fascinates the tourists. All these art forms are performed during some celebration or festivity. The art and culture of Kerala portrays various dance forms and martial arts performed with the accompaniment of vocal and instrumental music. These art forms are performed during festivals as well shows are also performed for the convenience of tourists.

Kathakali
KathakaliKathakali is one of the classical dance drama of kerala based on the guidelines written in Natya Sastra. The costumes and makeup are ornamental, colourful and elaborate so that the gestures and expressions of the performer are easily seen and understood. The performers do not speak or sing but enact the story through hand gestures, body movements and facial expressions especially of the eyes. The themes of this art form are from mythology of Indian culture.

ThullalOttam Thullal
This is another art form with its distinct simplicity of presentation and its frank, outspoken wit and humour. The songs are in simple Malayalam and the techniques employed are not rigid. The performer will have the freedom to tease even the audience during his performance. Though Thullal is based on the classical principles of Naatya Saastra, it is said to have been a modification of Koothu. It is organized by Kunjan nambiar, a veritable genius and one of the foremost poets of Kerala

Chaakyaar Koothu
Chaakyaar KoothuThis is an old classical theatre arts of Kerala. It is a solo dance performed in the koothambalam of temples to the accompaniment of mizhavu and elathalam as instruments. The story to be narrated are usually picked from Epics and is portrayed with the dance movements, gestures and facial expressions according to the the principles of Natya Sastra. It is marked for the presence of humour elements, which adds to its dramatic character. The costume worn during the performance is colourful and unconventional with an unusual headgear.
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Mohiniyattom Mohiniyattom
This is a distinctive classical solo dance form of Kerala. Slow, graceful, swaying movements of the body and limbs and highly emotiveeye and hand gestures are unique to this dance form. This art form has the blend of the grace of elegance of Bharata Natyam with the strength and force of kathakali to create a mood of romance. The costume for this dance is the traditional white mundu and melmundu of Kerala and with the hairs gathered up at one side of the head and adorned with jasmine flowers in the traditional style

Kalaripayattu (Martial art form)
Kalaripayattu is a martial and healing art of Kerala dating back to 6th century. Through a traditional system of bodily and mental development, this art seeks to cultivate not only a powerful physical warrior but more importantly, a person of deep inner self-Kalaripayattuknowledge and humility. This involves extremely energetic techniques of defence and attack. Kalaripayattu is regarded as one of the oldest and most scientific in the world which is evolved in North Kerala. ‘kalari’ is the place where boys and girls are trained under ‘Gurukkal’. They are taught aset of body exercises as well as use of weapons like 'kuruvadi'(short stick) and 'sariravadi' (mace,spear,dagger,sword,shield). 'Marmams' are taught to the most promising of the lot which are vulnerable parts of the human body and a skilled person can disable or kill his opponent by a mere touch.

Aivarnaatakam
Aivarnaatakam is reckoned as one of the famous rural dramas and a renowned art form of Kerala. It is also known as Aivarkali and Pandavar kali, which means the play of the Pandavaas - the five heroes of Mahabhaaratha - and is performed by the Viswakarmas which enfolds five communities consisting of Aasaari (Carpenter), Muusaari (Brassmith), Kollan (Blacksmith), Tattaan (Goldsmith) and Kalthachan (Mason). The performers numbering five or more with their leader called Kaliaasaan enter the performance area after ritualistic bath, with sandal paste on their foreheads, chests and upper arms. They are dressed in white dhoti and have a towel wrapped around their heads. The dance of Aivarnaatakam is evocative of a legend related to Mahabharata. Bhadrakaali determined to destroy the Pandavas after hearing that they had killed Karna who was her devotee. Lord Krishna, on hearing that suggested the Pandavas to sing praises of Bhadrakaali to appease her. As per the legend, Lord Krishna was transformed into a lamp and told the Pandavas to praise the goddess. Finally the goddess was pleased.

Aivarnaatakam is reckoned as an effective medium through which the morals of the epics and the famous stories are conveyed to the mass.

Bhagavatipaattu
Bhagavatipaattu is known as one of the most popular forms of art in Kerala. This basically comprise songs that are sung in praise of the goddess Bhagavati. A Pushpaka woman with painted eyebrows, and in braided clothes covered with a shawl, places herself before the chorus holding a plate of rice. She begins swaying to the music and her slow dance turns frenzied as the mother Goddess possesses her and commences her revelations through her mouth. Soon a Kurup priest joins in as the Velichapaadu, oracle, garbed in red cloth, belt with tiny bells around the waist and holding a sword and shield.

There is a series of rituals of Bhagavattipattu that takes place before and after Bhagavatipaattu. It starts with the morning and ends with the annihilation of the Demon Darika at noon. It accompanies with the hymns sung to appease the goddess Kali. During this chanting and singing of the hymns, two women appear with pound rice and turmeric in a mortar that is covered with cloth. Moreover, the juice of banyan and mango leaves, trees, coconut-palm and a liquid that is of blood colour. As the music grows fast, the pounder is beaten with more fervor. At last, the mortar is circumambulated and tumbled eastward. The water that comes out of the pot is considered as the blessings of the goddess Bhagavati. Some other communities such as Maaraar, Black smiths, Malayar, etc. also present the Bhagavatipaattu. Rituals to placate and appease Kaali are found in most parts of Kerala. With slight variations in theme, content, song, dance and make-up they are given many different names. Ultimately, however, they all lead in the same direction - the adoration of the Mother Goddess.

Koodiyattam
Koodiyattam, Sanskrit drama performed in Kerala, India, has been recognized by UNESCO as a Human Heritage Art. Rightly so. It is the oldest existing classical theatre form in the entire world, having originated much before Kathakali and most other theatrical forms. has an attested history of a thousand years in Kerala, but its origin and evolution are shrouded in mystery. It seems that Kutiyattam is an amalgam of the classical Sanskrit theatre of ancient India and the regional theatre of Kerala. It is believed that Kulasekhara Varman Cheraman Perumal, an ancient king of Kerala, who ruled from Mahodayapuram (modern Kodungallur) reformed Koodiyattam, introducing the local language for Vidusaka and structuring presentation of the play to well defined units.

Krishnanaattam
Krishnanaattam takes its origin from Krishna Geethi, initially composed by the Prince Manavedan (1595-1658) of Samuthiri Kovilakam and a contemporary of Vilwamangalam II. He described the story of Krishna in a theatrical presentation with great importance on music. Staging of Krishnanaattam is an important offering in the Sree Krishna temple, Guruvayur. It was believed that Kathakali was conceived from Krishnanaattam the dance drama on the life and activities of Lord Krishna created by the Zamorin of Calicut. The stories of Krishnanaattam are borrowed from the Bhaagavata, and are meant to be performed on eight successive nights. The series commences with Avataaram, the manifestation of Vishnu in his incarnation as Krishna, and is followed by kaaliyamardana, Raasakreeda, Kamsavadham, Swayamvaram, Baanayuddham, Vividhavadham and Swargaarohanam, each dealing with one major episode in his life.

Maargamkali
Margam Kali (Maargamkali) is one of the ancient round group dance of Kerala practiced by Saint Thomas Christians. It is difficult to trace the exact origin of the dance form and the compilation of the lyrics, but the dance form was practiced by the Saint Thomas Christians before the arrival of Portuguese missionaries in Kerala The word 'margam' means 'path' and it was meant for the propagation of Christian religious ideas. Margamkali is performed mainly by men on festive occasions, especially during the time of marriage. The dance is performed by 12 members moving in a circle around a lighted oil lamp. The oil lamp denotes Christ and the dancers symbolizes his disciples. There is a traditional text which accompanies the Margamkali. It is in 14 strophes and has about 450 lines. This song is said to be of a period older than the Portuguese invasion of Kerala. The narration is not accompanied by any musical instrument.

Oppana
Oppana is a colourful wedding dance popular among the Muslim community in the northern districts of Kerala like Kannur, Kozhikode and Malappuram. The word Oppana supposedly comes from the Arabic word Afna. There are two kinds of Oppana; Oppana Chayal and Oppana Murukkam. Though predominantly a women’s entertainment dance, men too perform Oppana on certain occasions.
The bride is decked in finery and intricate ornaments and seated in the middle on a high seat called the peetam. The bride’s friends and other young ladies clap their hands rhythmically to the beat of the song and dance around her. There are about 15 performers including the musicians.

Pulikali
Pulikali is also known as Kaduvakali, is a 200 year old art, is a colorful recreational folk art from the state of Kerala. Literal meaning of Pulikali is the 'play of the tigers' hence the performance revolve around the theme of tiger hunting. The folk art is mainly practiced in Thrissur (Trichur) and Palghat districts of Kerala. Best place to watch the show is Swaraj Ground at Thrissur on the fourth day of Onam, where Pulikali troupes from all over the district assemble to display their skills. Men numbering three or more wear the masks of tiger, paint their bodies in yellow and black stripes and dance to the sound of udukku and thakil. Usually, they enact as being hunted by a game hunter or preying on goats.

Theyyam
TheyyamTheyyam or Theyyattam is a popular Hindu ritual of worship in North Kerala state, India, predominant in the Kolathunadu area. 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. Theyyam is a corruption for Deyvam ‘God’. 'Aattam' means dance. Thus 'Theyyaattam' means the God’s Dance.
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