Kerala arts

Kerala arts are the best evidence for thousands of years of its culture. Whether you look at fine arts such as Kathakali, satirical forms like Chakiar koothu or any other art forms, they all have evolved through the ages.

The temple walls of India have shown the world priceless pieces of art.

In Kerala, that tradition was not limited to the temple walls. It was spread to the surroundings too.

Colourful performances always enlivened temple courtyards.

As religion encouraged storytelling, different art forms thrived.

Even today art forms such as Kathakali, Krishnanattam, Ramanattam, Bharatha Natyam, Mohiniyattam, Chakyar Koothu etc are performed in temples, usually in venues just outside of temples.

Theyyam, the ritual held in many temples, is a dance with a twist of trance that enhances its wild moves.

Not all art performances are related to Temples. Pulikali, the tiger dance, related to Onam festival, is celebrated in Thrissur and Palakkad districts. Thrissur town virtually gets swamped by human tigers on Pulikali day.

Thiruvathirakali is another Onam related dance form. Traditionally held at joint families, nowadays it is held on stage as a part of Onam Shows.

Mohiniyattam is a Kerala dance form, held at Temples as well as all sorts of venues. Bharatha Natyam is not of Kerala origin, however it is a popular dance associated with Kerala Temples as well as other locations.

Several local communities have their own folk arts, handed down through generations.

Muslims and Christians have their own art forms. Oppana, Kolakkali and Daff Muttu are Muslim art forms. Markam Kali is a Christian art form. Even though they have such religious roots, performing or enjoying them has no religious bias.

Are you curious about the arts of Kerala? If you want to see one or two, there are places that run tourist oriented regular performances. In cities such as Cochin, there are art academies that run evening art shows only for tourists. Any travel agent can get you seats.

Most visitors to Kerala happen to see Kathakali. The dance drama narrates mythical stories from epics such as Mahabharata.

Originally, Kathkali runs through the entire night if not two or three nights. Don’t worry, the tourist versions are usually an hour or so. If you reach early, you could see a part of doing makeup. Kathakali makeup is so elaborate that it takes several hours!

Kalarippayattu is a martial arts form from the Vedic times. Rhythmic and defensive, it is usually mentioned whenever there is a discussion about Kerala arts.

Kerala’s music has its roots in Caranatic music. Carnatic is the classical rendition of the whole of South India.

Movie songs are the most popular form of music. Albums by musicians, though not that popular, appeal to wide audience. Western type bands are not popular.

Kerala arts guide

Kerala Kalamandalam


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