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Do you Know The Historical Significance of the Various Art Forms of Kerala?

Posted On September 6, 2018 by Tours In India

Art Forms of Kerala

Kerala is situated in the Southern part of India. This place is not only famous for its natural extravaganza in the form of pristine beaches, serene backwaters, and luscious greeneries but it also famous for preserving its traditional culture and art. This coastal state is thronged with many traditional dances and art forms which are pleasurable to watch. In this article, we are going to discuss some of the famous and eminent dance and art forms of Kerala which you will never miss during your Kerala tour. If you are looking for some of the best Kerala tour packages, then go with those tour operators who will give you a chance to watch these traditional art forms of Kerala.

Let’s take a look at the popular art forms of Kerala which will definitely mesmerise you.

1. Kathakali

Kathakali

Kathakali is one of the most popular folk arts of Kerala. In Malayalam, Kathakali means story and play. Indubitably, Kathakali is the best exposure to visual treat. This dance form has many mudras. People who have an adequate knowledge and meaning of mudras will certainly enjoy Kathakali. This dance form is also mentioned in Puranas. This Indian art form has enriched with the characters. In ancient times, the Kings of Kerala used to encourage Kathakali because they considered themselves as good art lovers and they enjoyed Kathakali in every aspect. At that time, Kathakali used to play for three days but now, it seems short to maximum 5 hours. Kathakali is a 300 years old dance form which is now considered as one of the popular universal art forms. In earlier, this folk art of Kerala was performed in temple premises, but nowadays, people used to perform it in everywhere. This art form is performed by men generally and it is applauded throughout the world for its uniqueness. During the performance, all the performers dressed in traditional costumes along with full makeup. The costume of this dance form contain a headgear, a swirled skirt and many junk ornaments. There is an academy in Kerala (Kalamandalam) where you can learn about Kathakali. This academy is situated at Cheruthuruthy near the Bharatha river. It is one of the cultural rich place in south India and also having the best historical places and monuments in kerala

2. Mohiniyattam

Mohiniyattam

This is another popular Kerala art form which was originated in the 6th century. The word Mohiniyattam means “a maiden dancing” and this style is basically a combination of Kathakali and Bharatnatyam. Mohiniyattam is very attractive and it is always performed by a solo woman. Several graceful movements and gestures are associated with this dance form and that’s why it is very pleasurable to watch. Sangeet Natak Akademi considered this dance form as one amongst the eight Indian classical dance forms. The delicate footsteps, classical Carnatic vocal music and sober costumes in white and gold are associated with this traditional dance form. The head of the performer or dancer is ornamented with jasmine garland and this is placed in a traditional way to intensify the beauty. Popular instruments like Mridangam, Vina, Shuddha Madalam, edakka etc. are used to perform this traditional dance form live. Mohiniyattam is considered an enchanting dance and it is highly applauded by all the classical dance lovers.

3. Theyyam

Theyyam

Theyyam is a very popular ritual and art form of Kerala particularly in North Kerala (Malabar region). This dance form is very colourful and vibrant and it has everything to attract the audience. Theyyam has originated 1500 years ago and it is performed in front of the village temples and shrines along with the drummers. This is a Dravidian art form and this pious dance form is performed to worship the Goddess Kali. The names of Theyyam are very intriguing and some of the names are like Pottan Theyyam, Kandanarkelan Theyamm etc. Pottan Theyyam is presented at Sree Thiruvarkkat Bhagavathy temple, Kannur. Without the rituals of Theyyam, you can’t even imagine the existence of North Kerala (Malabar region). Here are some of top information all about Kerala.

4. Kalarippayattu

Kalarippayattu

This is an ancient martial art dance form of India which is originated in Kerala. This is considered to be “the mother of all martial arts”. A Kalari means the school where this art form is used to teach to the aspirants. This martial art is popular for its attacking and defensive system and you might be astonished to know that in this form, your footwork plays a major role. The weapons that are used in this art form are sticks and strikes. All the aspirants should undergo an intensive physical training so that the body can become agile, strong, and lithe. You need to make a perfect coordination between your mind and body and that is the ultimate goal for every aspirant. Once your course is completed, you should go for a regular oil massage and keep practising the steps to enhance your skills. The forms of Kalarippayattu are different in the North, Central, and Southern Kerala. In the Northern part, people used to give emphasis on the usage of weapons, in the Southern part, people used to perform the techniques with bare hands to combat the opponent. And in the central part, people prefer both hand and weapons to conquer the opponent. 

5. Kodiyattam

Kodiyattam

Kodiyattam is the best dance form which reflects the traditions and culture of Kerala. The word “Koodiyattam”  means “acting together”. In earlier days, Koodiyattom is performed only in Hindu shrines, but now there are many platforms. This 2000-year-old dance form is recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity for its outstanding cultural expression. This is a combined dance which was conducted by the “Chakkiyars” (a group who used to provide the male and female casts from the dance drama). They used to perform this dance style from six to twenty days. As the themes, the performers used to choose various aspects of Hindu mythology. Usually red, black, and white colours are applied in costumes to make it more colourful and vibrant and green colour make up is for all the heroic characters of the play.

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6. Chakyarkoothu

Chakyarkoothu

Chakyakoothu has inscribed its place as one of the traditional art forms of Kerala. This is a solo performance where the performer is known as Chakyar. Chakyar usually narrates several stories from the Hindu epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana or any other incidents. Sometimes they also recount the current stories. Generally, they entertain and engage the audience by telling the stories in comedy or joke way. They can even crack jokes about a person who is just sitting or standing among the audiences. Though in earlier days, it was only performed in the temple premises, now there are many platforms where people can perform this act. Poetry and prose play a pivotal role in Chakyarkoothu. The performers use bright colours for the makeup of Chakyarkoothu. Natural powders like turmeric powder, rice powder, and black powder are used for the facial makeup of the artists. This art form is only performed by the male artists.

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7. Nangiar Koothu

Nangiar Koothu

This traditional dance form is originated 1500 years ago and this is a female dominated Indian art form. This dance form has everything to entertain the audience. Nangyar Koothu has certain limitations because it has a history where Ambalavasi Nambiar women used to perform this art. The women from other are not eligible to perform this art. The presenter of Nangyar Koothu is known as Nangyaramma. This act is enriched with mockery and humour and that’s why everyone loves it to watch. This is a very enjoyable act and it can be performed in anywhere not only in the temples and shrines. Sree Krishna Charitham is the theme where most of the Nangyar Koothu acts usually happen. Hand gestures, facial expressions etc. play a vital role in this Nangyar Koothu act. The resonant pot drum is known as “Mizhavu” is played during the Nangyar Koothu performances. Also read more about best places to travel during summer.

8. Pulikali

Pulikali

Pulikali is considered one of the popular folk arts of Kerala. In this dance form, all the make performers used to paint their whole bare bodies and they look like tigers. This intriguing and pleasurable dance form is performed during the holy occasion of the Onam at the Swaraj Round in Thrissur district of Kerala. The men, resembling tigers, prance and move about like a tiger. Their big and huge bellies bouncing up and down all the while. All the performers need to undergo an arduous process during the preparation of the performance. They need to apply paint on their bodies in myriad patterns and colours. Some performers may paint the facial features of a lion on their bodies. The theme of the act is to play hide and seek with a hunter who is holding a gun. Also check out the Kerala tour packages from Chennai.


These are some popular and intriguing dance and art forms of Kerala which depict the culture and tradition of this state. There are also some other dance forms like Ottamthullal, Thullal, Padayani, Onapottan, Thirayattam, etc. which are equally pleasurable to watch. If you are making your packing list of Kerala trip, keep these dance forms in your mind which you must watch during your trip. There are many affordable Kerala tour packages which will help you to enjoy these dance forms and will make your trip memorable.

ToursinIndia is one of the best tour operators in India to offer reliable and customized tour packages especially alleppey boat house. For more details and to make your trip a memorable one contact us.

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