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Kerala Art & Culture

A distinctive feature of life in Kerala is the living presence of a wide variety of art forms. The splendid performances rendered in colourful costumes and to the accompaniment of special music are a significant part of Kerala's culture and heritage.
Art of kerala

Most of these performances draw their background from religion, mythology, agricultural operations, and incidents of social life like weddings and the charms of the Kerala landscape. Some of the art forms gained popularity when artistes tried to shake up the masses by criticizing social evils.

Kathakali: It is a very old dance form developed exclusively in Kerala combining the performing art forms of opera, ballet, masque, and pantomime.

Kalaripayattu: The martial art form of Kerala is believed to be the predecessor to the more famous Karate and Kungfu. Available historic evidence prove practice of Kalari as far backas the 12th Century AD. There is a branch of medicine called Kalari Chikilsa, which has developed as an offshoot of Kalaripayattu, is mainly deals with cure of injuries and sprains.

Mohiniyattam: It is a semi-classical dance form. It contains elements of Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi. It is based on the story of ‘Mohini’, the mythological seductress. The movements are graceful like that of Odissi and the costumes sober and fascinating. It combines songs in Malayalam with Carnatic music. It is performed mainly in Kerala. It is essentially a solo dance.

Chakkiarkoothu: This is a very ancient dance form of Kerala. It is believed to have been introduced by the early Aryan immigrants . This is performed by the members of the Chakkiar caste. It is a highly orthodox type of entertainment. It is staged inside temples only and the theatre is known as ‘Koothambalam.’ The performances are usually witnessed by the Hindus belonging to the higher castes. In Chakkiarkoothu, the story is recited in a quasi-dramatic style with emphasis on eloquent declarations with appropriately suggestive facial expressions and hand gestures.

Bharatnatyam: It is believed to be India’s oldest form of classical dance. This dance form which is called poetry in motion.

Theyyam: Theyyam or Theyyattam is a ritualistic art form of North Kerala. Theyyams are the representations of folk and tribal deities worshipped in various forms. Theyyam is danced to please the Goddess for the well being of the community. Red dominates the elaborate costumes and makeup in this art form. Theyyam stories are sung and danced, dramatized and enacted in various colourful festivals.

Thiruvathira Kali: This is a dance performance exclusively by women. The group dance is performed to attain everlasting marital bliss. It is usually performed on Thiruvathira day in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December- January).

Mudiyattom Kali: This is also a dance form rendered by women folk. The participants unlock their hair and engage themselves in frantic dancing. This is usually in rhythm with the accompaniments that are played along with the folk songs recited.

Cherumarkali: It is a harvest dance in which the dancer, both men and women move in a swift rhythm, linked in a back lock or holding arms. The costumes are in striking red and white.

Kalampattu:It is another folk art form that belongs to the northern regions of Kerala. This art form which is over 600 years old is performed by a group of five or fifteen people in Bhadrakali and Ayyappa temples. The rituals is performed around the Kolam - an elaborated picture , usually of Bhadrakali, drawn on the floor, using five colours. The performance in the light of temple torches lasts through the night. The singers are neatly dressed with women their hair on the side of the head. A series of songs (Kalampattu) are sung to the accompaniment of nanthuni and elathalam.

Kaliyoottu: It is an eight day long colourful folk which re-enacts the combat between goddess Durga and the demon Darika. The ritual is performed in different stages. The climax of the play - the ritual called Paranettu - is performed on a specially constructed 100 feet high stage on the eight day.

Oppana: The other dance forms popular in Kerala are Bharathanatyam, Mohiniyattom, Ottamthullal, Margam Kali  and Chavitu Natakom. Oppana is also very popular in Malabar region.

Other dance forms of Kerala are Krishnanattom, Thullal, Koodiyattom, Kolkkali, Thiruvathirakali, Kakkarishi Natakom, Oppanna and Chavittunatakom. Panchavadyam, Nadanpattu, Omanathinkal Kidavo and many more music forms have evolved over the centuries in Kerala.

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