Performing Arts of Kerala
Mohiniyattam is one of the eight Indian classical dance forms. The dance is languid and sensuous. The dancer’s movements have been compared to the graceful swaying of a coconut palm. It is truly the dance of the enchantress as its name implies.
Kathakali is easily the most easily identified art form of Kerala. The green, painted face that adorns all literature about this state is globally recognized. With his face-paint and magnificent costume, the artist dominates the stage and the minds of the viewers. This sophisticated dance-theatre is highly stylized and replete with symbolism. It includes elements of the older form of costumed dance – Koodiyattam as also the martial art - Kalaripayattu.
Thiruvathirakali is a celebratory dance performed by groups of women on festive occasions. It has the swaying movements of Mohiniattam, but is more dynamic with the dancers moving to weave intricate patterns amongst themselves. Traditionally, it honors Shiva on his birthday and is said to ensure marital bliss.
A dance form performed by women of the Syrian Christian community, Margamkali has similar steps and movements to Thiruvathirakali, but sets them to lyrics that tell tales of the life of St. Thomas the apostle. The only instrument used is a pair of small cymbals played by the singer.
Normally performed by women for the bride on her wedding day, Oppana is a traditional Muslim dance with vigorous steps, where the dancers themselves sing. A rhythmic clapping of the hands substitutes for instruments.
A martial art form reputed to be the precursor of Karate and Kung Fu, Kalarippayattu is as unique to Kerala as Kathakali and they share many common features. The practitioners of this martial art move as fluidly and gracefully as a dancer.
Kelikottu is used to announce the imminence of a performance. The drums - Chenda and Madhalam combine with the high pitch of cymbals to greet the audience. They weave intricate rhythms that enthrall the soul and invite you to partake of the supernatural experience of the myths and legends of this ancient land.
Kombupattu may be a solo or ensemble performance on the kombu a curved ‘C’ shaped trumpet. Although it is a wind instrument, it is regarded as a percussion instrument by those who play it. They unite to form elaborate patterns using this instrument that produces just three notes.
Kuzhalpattu is a traditional temple art form of Kerala. The instrument - the kuzhal, a double-reed wind instrument, is normally performed at temple festivals. The kuzhal plays the lead with the support of several accompanying instruments.
Pulluvanpattu - The pulluva’s song is a form of snake-worship or ghost worship. The instruments used are the pulluvan veena, a single stringed violin or a pulluvan kutam, an earthen-ware pot attached to a stock with one string which is struck by a plectrum and thaalam or bell-metal cymbals.
Udukkukottu is performed with a wasp-waisted drum that fits in one hand. It is the accompaniment for bhajans to the God - Ayyappa.
Duff Muttu uses a percussion instrument that resembles a tambourine without jingles. It is performed by members of the Muslim community. It has intricate rhythms and is performed as a dance.
Panchavadhyam an orchestral recital by five instruments is a temple art form of Kerala. Of the five instruments, four – thimila, madhalam, eddaka and elathalam - are percussion instrument, while the fifth, the kombu (a trumpet) is a wind instrument.
Sinkarimelam is a modern orchestral version using the traditional drum chenda, with the stress on a brisk rhythm and acrobatic movements.