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Art Forms

The rich cultural heritage of Kerala, has resulted in the development of many art forms which has gained international acclaim. Of these, the important ones are Koothu, Koodiyattam, Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, OttamThullal and Teyyam.


In Koothu, the only actor is the Chakiar(Member of a purana telling community) who takes the role of different characters.

There are three types of Koothu:They are Prabandham Koothu, Nangiar Koothu and Koodiyattam. The first is purely narrations with explanations, and the second is purely acting. The third is a theatrical perfomance, by the Chakiar and the Nangiar.


The meaning of Koodiyattam is "acting together". In this dramatic art two or more actors appear on the stage. The role of male characters is taken by the Chakiar, while the Nangiar (woman belong to the Nambiar caste)assumes the role of the female characters. The actors in Koodiyattam also have the license to speak anything. They have the freedom to ridicule anybody, whether he is a ruler or a pauper. The costumes differ according the characters of the play. At present Koodiyattam has acquired greater importance due to the activities of the Kerala Kalamandalam.


The original Chakiar Koothu in course of time developed into Kathakali. The main characteristics of Kathakali are the following: The actors do not speak. Instead they act the dialogue through specific hand movements called mudras. Each mudra could signify and connote any complex theme or idea. Through facial expressions, along with the songs sung by the singers from behind, mudras and dancing strides, Kathakali dancers can communicate to the audience very effectively. On the basis of make-up, the Kathakali characters are Pacha, Katti, Thadi and Minukku. Pacha(green) is the symbol of the goodness of the characters. The gods, mythological heroes, Krishna, Arjuna, etc belong to this group. Characters like Ravana and Kamsa belong to the Katti group. The characters which come under Thadi are the red beard, the white beard and the black beard.The Minukku group includes women or spiritual characters. Previously Kathakali perfomances used to extend to 7 or 8 hours, usually a whole night.But now the reduction of time to a couple of hours, and the high popularity it has acquired in the visual media, has made Kathakali more accessible to the common man.

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  • Mohiniyattam

    Mohiniyattam is a blend of the features of Kaikottikali, Bharatanatyam and Kathakali. The dancer's apparel is generally white or off white. Beautiful jewellery is worn by her.

    Mohiniyattam has its origins in Dasiyattam, which was the dance of the Devadasis attached to the temples in Kerala. The Devadasis were women skilled in music and dance. Later the devadasi system had immoral connotations associated with it, and hence their dance form which highlighted the theme of erotic love did not gain popular appeal. It was Maharaja Swati Tirunal who restored the lost honour of Mohiniyattam. At present, Mohiniyattam is a very popular dance form.

    Ottam Thullal

    Ottam Thullal originated due to the genius of the great poet Kunjan Nambiar, who used to beat the drum for Chakiar Koothu. One day, Nambiar was careless while beating the drum, and the Chakiar reprimanded him in public. Kunjan Nambiar was deeply insulted. This insult evolved the muse in him. He worked hard throughout the night, and came up with a new form of story telling on the next day. On this day, as the Chakiar Koothu was going on, Kunjan Nambiar performed Ottam Thullal. Within a short time, the audience left the Chakiar and started witnessing Nambiar's Thullal perfomance. Ottam Thullal which is a solo perfomance is still popular.


    Teyyam, Theyyam Thullal, Kerala Art, Grassroot Holidays Teyyam is a ritual dance performed in association with temple festivals. It is found in temples of Palghat, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kasargod districts of Kerala. Teyyam originates from some myth prevalent in a specific area. According to this myth, a deity comes into being. Man, inorder to propitiate this deity dances in frenzy. That is teyyam.

    Although the teyyam dancer, dances to propitiate the deity he identifies himself with the deity. Such dancers are looked upon as impersonators of the deities. The dances are characterized by rhythmic and measured steps. The teyyam performers wears gorgeous apparels, which attract the spectator. There are different types of teyyams like Kativannur Veeran, Kantha Karnan, Chamundi, Bhagavati etc.

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    Ottam Thullal
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