Kathakali Dance – An Introduction to Kerala’s Famous Dance Drama

The marvels of Kerala in South India are most explicitly known through the classical tour with backwaters, beach tour and different festive charms. No doubt, Kerala tour is all about a dwindling moves at God’s own country. But besides all these captivating features, Kerala is also known for its incessant tradition and impressive culture. And if you love exploring such colorful cultures around the tranquil beaches, the ethnic dance form called the Kathakali Dance is a prominent feature rolling round the casketing beaches and rural villages.

Originated in the 17th century, this art form represents the rich tradition of arts and aesthetics of the land.

It’s all about telling legends, acts, heavy make-up and costume
Kathakali is the oldest expressive dance form or can better be said is a dance-drama that has been continued for many ages and has fascinated millions of domestic as well as international appreciators. The name that signifies Katha- for story and kali-for the performance or play; is a spectacular mix of drama, dance, music and ritual characters.
One can surely get mesmerized to find the gallantly characters coming alive with painted faces and intricate costumes and they tell you the stories from Hindu-epics Mahabharata and Ramayana and other Hindu epics, mythologies and legends.

A harmonious combination of 5 (five) parts of the art can perfectly be casted in this dance-drama form and they magnificently are: natyam (expression), nrithyam (dance), mudras (enactment), geetha (song) and vadyam (instrumental accompaniment).

Do you know the total time; the character needs to get prepared for the dance?
When we will tell you the facts behind the energy and efforts needed to portray the character of the Kathakali performance, you will really be amazed and would run to chase this classical dance form. Yes, the most remarkable facet of Kathakali is its extraordinary and bewitching make-up code and that takes about 8-10 painstaking hours to carry out the elaborate Aharya (make-up). It’s interesting to learn that the artists are trained to do the make-up on their own and especially with the basic facial paintings. Later, the Chuttikkaran (make-up man) puts the Chutti which forms the second stage of make-up.

All the colors and make-up parts are being made of natural herbs and substance and different colors depicts different characters of the artists. For example, green color, the dominant color is meant to portray noble male characters, with a mix of Satvik (pious) and Rajsik (kingly) nature. To display the anti-hero or demons in the play the artist portrayed with streaks of red in a green-painted face. Excessively evil characters such as demons (totally tamasic) have a predominantly red make-up and a red beard. Women and ascetics have lustrous, yellowish faces.

Uduthukettu is the third stage in dressing where tiff tapes of white cloth are wound around the waist, with the help of others and are bound together with another piece of cloth, the Kacha. The anklets, colorful and ornate vests, jewelry and the huge headgear complete the Kathakali costume.

Sources- Flickr

Remember, Kathakali depicts facial expressions (the mudras) and body language
The Kathakali actor uses immense concentration, skill and physical stamina. Of course they are being trained for that since their childhood. There are basically 24 mudras- the combination of all would add a chunk of the hand gestures and facial (eye) expressions. There is no singing or dialoguing in the whole act but the story can be perfectly expressed with the help of these mudras < and body movements assisted with traditional music in chorus.

Kalasams are pure dance sequences where the actor is at great liberty to express himself and display his skills. The leaps, quick turns, jumps and the rhythmic co-ordination make kalasams, a joy to watch. There was a time when only male actors were involved in such dance-drama but now time has changed and even women are taking part to accompany them with their gestures, expressions and artistic styles.

Impressively, Kathakali is a unique blend of dance with literature, music, painting, and acting; bringing a typical art form that is different from other traditional Indian dances.

So, the tradition lovers, if your interests in culture and tradition provoke you for a memorable India tour and especially for a visit to Kerala, the Kathakali dance is a must watch for you. Yes, you can explore the real India and its legends, hidden behind every faces and gestures of the Kathakali artists.

Please Email your scheduled date of journey and the total number of persons and we will make your trip remarkable.


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