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Traditional Kerala Art Forms

Kerala is bestowed with some ancient traditional art forms that is still today performed wiith the same zeal and enthusiasm. We discuss here two art forms. 


The art form of Kathakali is the oldest forms in the world, which crystallized at around the same time as Shakespeare was scribbling the plays, though elements of it stem from 2nd century temple rituals.The Kathakali performance is the dramatized presentation of a play, usually based on the Hindu epics the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the puranas. All the great themes are covered – righteousness and evil, frailty and courage, poverty and prosperity, war and peace. Drummers and singers accompany the actors, who narrate the story through their precise movements, particularly mudras (hand gestures) and facial expressions. Traditionally, performances took place in temple grounds and went from 8pm until dawn, now shorter performances in other open-air locales, as well as indoor halls are also popular.

Preparation for the performance is lengthy and disciplined. Paint, fantastic costumes, highly decorated headpieces and meditation transform the actors both physically and mentally into the gods, heroes and demons they are about to play.You can see cut down performances in tourist hot spots all over the state and there are kathakali schools that encourage the visitors. Many temples festivals across the state feature all night Kathakali Shows.

The performances in Kochi are accompanied by instrumental as well as vocal aids. The expressions are suggested by the delicate hand movements and are complimented by the movements of the face, particularly, the eyes. The dance form is belived to have originated from the dance drama called Ramanattam. At Kochi the Kathakali dance has a significant part of the socio-cultural sector of the entire state of Kerala. Important Kathakali centers in Cochin are: 

India Foundation
: Daily 06:45 pm
Address: Kalathiparambil Road,
Near Ernakulam Junction Railway station 

Cochin Cultural Center
: Daily7 pm
Manikath Road,
Behind Medical Trust Hospital 

Kerala Kathakali Center
Fort Cochin 


Kalariyappayat is an ancient tradition of martial training and discipline. Still taught throughout Kerala, Some believe it is the forerunner of all martial arts. Its roots can be tracked back to the 12th century, when skirmishes among the many feudal principalities in the region were common. Masters of Kalariyappayat, called Gurukkal, teach their craft inside a special arena called a Kalari. The Kalari is a part gymnasium, part school and part temple. Its construction follows traditional principles: its rectangular design is always aligned east – west and Hindu deities are represented in each corner.
Kalariyappayat movements - the foundation of choreography that uses the actor’s bodies and gestures as the primary tools of expression – can be traced in Kerala’s performing arts, such as Kathakali and Kootiattam (traditional Sanskrit drama), and in ritual arts such as Theyyam. Updated on February 2009