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Famous India > Dances >Kathakali
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The Dance

It is rooted in the Hindu Mythology and dates back to 17th Century. It has a unique combination of literature (Sahithyam), music(Sangeetham) , painting (Chithram), acting (Natyam) and dancing (Nritham).

Kathakali originated from Ramanattom (“Raman”= the Hindu god, Sri Raman; “attom”= enactment”) and Krishnanattom ("Krishnan"= the Hindu god, Krishnan; “attom”= enactment). As per the history, Raja (the King) of Kottarakkara (a province in Kerala) sculpted Ramanattom when the Zamorin (then King of Kozhikode, another province in Kerala) refused to allow a performance of Krishnanattom in the former’s palace. Subsequently, Kottayam Thampuran (King of Kottayam, another province in Kerala) composed several plays on Mahabharata thereby making these distinct from stories based on Ramanattom. Thus, Kathakali was born.

Kathakali imbibes the properties of martial arts and folk arts which evolved in the years thereafter.

Facets of Kathakali :
Patakah Mudra
Patakah Mudra
This Mudra is used to express opening and closing of door, beginning of dance, flowing river water, saying NO, taking oath, cutting, wind, sunlight, slap, moonlight, blessing, touching, rain, take rest, enter into a narrow road, and horse..

Mayur Mudra
Mayur Mudra
This Mudra is used to express, peacock, creeper, bird of omen, throwing up, stroking hair, tikka on forehead, flow and direction of water, sprinkling of holy water and likewise.

Kathakali Dancer
The Dance Form of Kathakali

A lot of oral communication is there in Kathakali. A considerable part of Kathakali involves oral communication , sung by vocalists. The only accompaniments are percussion instruments - the Chenda (Drum played with sticks), Maddalam (Drum played with fingers), Chengila (Gong) and Ilathalam (Cymbals). Drumming Chenda is the salient feature of Kathakali.

Though many consider dancing as the main characterstic of Kathakali, but it is not so. The pure dance forms are restricted to Kalasams, which are the dance segments. Female characters spontaneously breaking into "Sari" and "Kummi" dances can be seen in few dramas.The movements in the Kathakali dance are often vibrant and less silent.

Mudras of Kathakali Dance
  • Pathaaka (Flag)
  • Mudraakhyam
  • Katakam (Golden Bangle)
  • Mushti
  • Kartharee Mukham (Scissor's sharp point)
  • Sukathundam (Parrot's peek)
  • Kapidhakam (The fruit of a tree)
  • HamsaPaksham (Swan's wing)
  • Sikharam (Peak)
  • Hamsaasyam (Swan's peek)
  • Anjaly (Folded hands in Salutation)
  • Ardhachandram (Half moon)
  • Mukuram (Mirror)
  • Bhramaram (Beetle)
  • Soochimukham (Needle's sharp point)
  • Pallavam (Sprout)
  • Thripathaaka (Flag with three colours)
  • Mrigaseersham (Deer's head)
  • Sarpasirassu (Serpant's head)
  • Vardhamanakam (Seedling)
  • Araalam (Curved)
  • Oornanabham (Spider)
  • Mukulam (Bud)
  • Katakaamukham
  • Hamsapaksham (Addressing people)

  • Costume of Kathakai Dancers

    The costume worn by the various characters in Kathakai are a combination of intricate wood carving, paint and colors. It takes many painstaking hours to paint those headgears and the colorful faces of the dancers which is an intricate part of the Kathakali Costume. The raw material used for the make up of the artist is a mix of raw amorphous Sulphur, Indigo, Rice paste, Lime, Coconut oil and so on.

    Characters with vividly painted faces and elaborate costumes re-enact stories from the Hindu epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana. Artists like Guru Thakazhi Kunju kurup, Kalamandalam Vasupisharady, Mathur Govindan kutty, Kottakkal Chandrasekharan have been awarded with Sangeet Natya Acadmey Awards for their explicit work and dance in the field of Kathakali.

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