A Journey through the Art Forms of Kerala

Kerala, God’s Own Country, has a rich tradition of diverse art forms. Most of the art forms are unique and related to religion, their worship and rituals. Kerala stands at the threshold of tourism success. The physical and natural beauty as well as with its rich art forms , which fascinates the tourists. All these art forms are performed during some celebration or festivity.Kerala’s own art forms categorise into four groups – classical art forms, folk art forms, martial art forms and temple musics. Let’s make a quick look at the art forms of Kerala.


Kathakali, (Malayalam: കഥകളി) is one of the major forms of classical Indian dance. It is another “story play” genre of art, but one distinguished by its elaborately colorful make-up, costumes and face masks wearing actor-dancers, who have traditionally been all males. Kathakali primarily developed as a Hindu performance art in the Malayalam -speaking southwestern region of India (Kerala ).

Chakyar Koothu

Chakyar Koothu (Malayalam: ചാക്യാര്കൂത്)  is a performance art from in Kerala, South India. It is primarily a type of highly refined monologue where the performer narrates episodes from Hindu epics (such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata) and stories from the Puranas. Sometimes, however, it is also a traditional equivalent of the modern stand-up comedy act, incorporating commentary on current socio-political events.


Mohiniyattam , ( Malayalam : മോഹിനിയാട്ടം), is one of two classical dances of India that developed and remain popular in the state of Kerala . Mohiniyattam dance gets its name from the word Mohini – a mythical enchantress avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, who helps the good prevail over evil by deploying her feminine powers. It is traditionally a solo dance performed by women after extensive training. The repertoire of Mohiniyattam includes music in the Carnatic style, singing and acting a play through the dance, where the recitation may be either by a separate vocalist or the dancer herself.


Theyyam , ( Malayalam :തെയ്യം) is a popular ritual form of worship of North Malabar in Kerala , India, predominant in the Kolathunadu area (consisting of present-day Kasargod , Kannur Districts, Mananthavady Taluk of Wayanad and Vatakara and Koyilandy Taluks of Kozhikode of Kerala) and also in South Canara and Kodagu of Karnataka as a living cult with several thousand-year-old traditions, rituals and customs. The performers of Theyyam belong to the lower caste community, and have an important position in Theyyam.People of these districts consider Theyyam itself as a God and they seek blessings from this Theyyam. A similar custom is followed in the Mangalore region of neighbouring Karnataka known as Bhuta Kola.


Koodiyattam (Malayalam : കൂടിയാട്ടം) also transliterated as Kutiyattam , is a form of Sanskrit theatre traditionally performed in the state of Kerala , India. It is officially recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.Koodiyattam , meaning “combined acting,” signifies Sanskrit drama presented in the traditional style in temple theatres of Kerala. It is the only surviving specimen of the ancient Sanskrit theatre.


Thiruvathirai ( Malayalam : തിരുവാതിര ) is a Hindu festival celebrated in the South Indian states of Kerala and TamilNadu .Thiruvathirai(Arudhra) in Tamil means “sacred big wave”, using which this universe was created by Lord Shiva about 132 trillion years ago. Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu , the Sri Natarajar temple’s annual Festival, is celebrated on this date. In the month of Makaram Thiruvathira Star is celebrated in Mathira Peedika Devi Temple, owned by Thiruvithamcore Devaswom Board, near Kadakkal in Kollam District of Kerala state.


Oppana ( Malayalam : ഒപ്പന) is a popular form of social entertainment among the Mappila (Kerala Muslims) community of Kerala , South India , prevalent all over Kerala, especially in Malappuram. The Malayalam word ‘Oppana Pattu’ is the derivation of the Tamil word ‘Oppanai Pattu’. In Tamil , ‘Oppanai’ means make up. Oppana was originated on the occasion of make of Muslim brides. Oppana is extinct in Tamil Nadu . But in Kerala, this art form has been revived with much popularity on the performing stages of the Youth Festivals of the student community.


Kolkali ( Malayalam :കോല്കളി) is a folk art performed in North Malabar region of Kerala State in south India . The dance 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. Kolkali is now a popular event in Kerala School Kalolsavam ,which is considered as the biggest cultural event of Asia.

Margam Kali

Margamkali (Malayalam: മാര്ഗംകളി) is a group dance of Kerala practiced by Saint Thomas Christians who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle among Jews and natives in the 1st century.”Margam” means path or way or solution in Malayalam , but in the religious context it is known as the path to attain salvation. The process of conversion to Christianity was known as “Margam Koodal” until recently in Kerala.Much of this folk art is woven around the mission of St. Thomas, the Apostle. The original Margam Kali describes the arrival of St. Thomas in Malabar, the miracles he performed, the friendship as well as the hostility of the people among whom he worked, the persecution he suffered, the churches and crosses he put up in various places, etc…


Parichamuttukali,(Malayalam:പരിച്ചമുട്ടുകളി) is a martial dance form of Kerala practiced by Saint Thomas Christians (also known as Syrian Christians or Nasrani) who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle among Jews and natives in the 1st century. It is performed by men bearing swords and shields and follows the movements and steps of Kalarippayattu.The performers dance with sword and shield on their hands. The group is usually headed by a leader called Asan around whom the rest of the dancers perform. The dance used to be performed as a religious offering but is nowadays gaining popularity as a Syrian Christian entertainment art.

This are some of the cultural art’s in Kerala . There are a lot more art forms which are not mentioned here. All this are preformed by highly talented artist’s. And also the main thing is that all this art forms are uniqly coordinate by Kerala Lalitha Kala Academy. Let you comment on the comment section below if we have any mistakes in this ….

This article was written by Joyal Jose Scaria

Reference: http://www.wikipedia.org


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