Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Kathakali ("story play") is the classical dance drama of Kerala, which dates from the 17th century and is rooted in Hindu mythology. Kathakali has a unique combination of literature, music, painting, acting and dance.
Kathakali draws heavily from drama and is danced with elaborate masks and costumes. Kathakali recitals are generally long and while other dance forms are more emotive than narrative, Kathakali is both. It combines   with dialogue to bring myth and legend to life in the temple courtyards of Kerala. The dancers use their stunning costumes and make-up, with the accompaniment of drums and vocalists, to create various moods and emotions.
Kathakali has a harmonious combination of literature (Sahithyam), music (Sangeetham), painting (Chithram),  acting (Natyam) and dance (Nritham). All the five forms of art have a very important place in this combination. Its literature is narrative , poetic and dramatic. Costumes are of vivid colours, facial makeup is done by the artist himself and a distinct headgear made of wood is worn during the play. The Aharya (Make-up) has many faces like Pacha, Kathi, Thadi, Minukku etc.
These colours and names denote nature of the characters. The make-up is complicated, requiring several hours to apply. During the drama thedancers do not speak, but the hand movements known as 'Mudras' and unique facial expressions all imbibe to a sign language. All the drama and dance are accompanied by powerful vocal music. Drummers provide a rhythmic background to the drama. Kathakali performances usually begin with a musical note called Thiranottam. The dance extravaganza last all through night to dawn.
There are 24 Basic Mudras (hand gestures) in the "Hasthalakshana Deepika", the book of hand gestures, which Kathakali follows. There are 'Asamyutha Mudras' (that is shown using single hand) and 'Samyutha Mudras' (mudras shown in double hands) in each Basic Mudras, to show different symbols. Considering all these Mudras and their seperations there are totally 470 symbols used in Kathakali.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Kathakali is thought to have originated from pioneer dance-drama forms - Ramanattam and Krishnanattam. The word "attam" means enactment. These two forms of dance, along with Kathakali, dealt with presentation of the stories of Hindu Gods Rama and Krishna. Kottarakara Thampuran, the ruler of the south Kerala province of Kottarakkara, composed several plays on the Ramayana, which led to the evolution of Kathakali. Today, Ramanattam and Krishnanattam forms have become completely extinct, but the story plays continue to be a part of Kathakali. It originated in the 16th century AD, approximately between 1555 and 1605, and has been improved miraculously over the years.

Kadhakali padangal - ajithahare - Kottakkal Madhu - Kuchelavrutham

kadhakali mudra

Kalyanasougandhikam Kathakali play DVD


Saturday, December 4, 2010


Kathakali literally means story-play and is an elaborate dance depicting the victory of truth over falsehood. Theme revolves around the two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. A Striking feature of Kathakali is the use of elaborate make-up and colourful costumes. This is to emphasize that the characters are super beings from another world, and their make-up is easily recognizable to the trained eye as satvik or godlike, rajasik or heroic, and tamasik or demonic. The spectators can feel his invisible presence when the heroine details dreams and ambitions through circular movements, delicate footsteps and subtle expressions. Through slow and medium tempos, the dancer is able to find adequate space for improvisations and suggestive bhavas or emotions. Costume is designed with lots of paint applied on the face of the artist. The magnificence of Kathakali is partly due to its decor, part of which include the 'Kireetam' or huge head gear, the 'Kanchukam' or the over sized jacket, and the long skirt worn over a thick padding of cushions. The curtain symbolises maya, illusion. From behind the curtain comes the invigorating sound of OM from a drum. The dance is rugged and expansive, the music shrill and piercing, the emotional representation rambling and exaggerated. The costumes, head dresses and ornaments are gorgeous and together with the make-up impart Kathakali a rather weird and fantastic aspect.

Important terms:

Kathakali is a harmonious combination of five forms of fine art:
1. Literature (Sahithyam)
2. Music (Sangeetham)
3. Painting (Chithram)
4. Acting (Natyam)
5. Dance (Nritham)


about kadhakali