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Folk Arts of Kerala


Kerala is home for its diverse folk art forms. The eclectic communities contribute to its rich and colorful culture. These were staged predominantly on temples on the occasion of temple festivals and other auspicious events. Most of these art forms are in the verge of extinction and the ones that survived confined to performances on stage and on special events.

Kathakali

Kathakali was originally temple art forms in the 17th century. It is a powerful drama that conjoins drama, dance, music, costumes and makes up to produce the most impressive forms of revered theatres in the world. Kathakali embraces spans of tradition and culture. It depicts the struggle between the good and the evil.

Chakiyar Koothu

One of the oldest classical art forms of Kerala, Chakiyar Koothu is a fine blend of social satire, mime and comedy. The Chakiyar (name of the performer) clothe the role of vidushaka accompanied by Mizhavu and Ilathalam. He satirizes the manners and customs of the time with a blend of veiled allusions, barbed puns and pungent blasphemy

Theyyam

It is the popular form of worship of North Malabar in Kerala. Theyyam is performed in front of village shrines and in the houses as a ritual art form. The face paintings and clothing of Theyyam are exceptional. People consider Theyyam itself as God and seek blessings. There are roughly about 400 types of Theyyam forms in Kerala

Thullal

Discovered by the renowned poet Kunchan Nambiar in the 18th Century, Thullal is a satirical art form which blends humor, satire and social criticisms. It is a solo performance whereby the performer dances and recites mythological stories in verses. Though the make-up is akin to Kathakali it is not as elaborate. Thullal has three related forms namely, Ottan Thullal, Seethankan Thullal and Parayan Thullal.

Thiruvathira/ kaikottikali

Thiruvathira is a group performance especially by ladies on the occasion of Onam. Women in Kerala saree or Set mundu circle around a lamp and perform the dance while another group sings in the background.

Christians and Muslims in Kerala have art forms similar to Thiruvathira viz. Margam Kali and Oppana respectively. Though the make-up and costume are a bit different from Thiruvathira they are also a part of Kerala culture.

Mudiyettu

Part of Central Kerala art forms, Mudiyettu is performed in Kali temples picturing Kali’s victory over the demon Darikan. The performer is accompanied by ‘Koimpatta Nayar’, the local guide and ‘Kooli’ the attendant. It is performed by the Marar/ Kurup community of Kerala. The attire is red and looks gorgeous with the conventional facial paintings and tall head gears. An ornamental red vest and a white cloth around the waist complete the attire.



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