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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Indian Classical Dance Form- Kathakali

Kathakali

In the temples of Kerala, two evidence of dance-drama, Ramanattam, and Krishnattam evolved under the patronage of feudal lords, narrating episodes from Ramayana and Mahabharata

These folk traditions later became the source of Kathakali, which derived its name from the words 'Katha'= drama. It is Intently related to Koodiyattam = Sanskrit drama tradition and, other ancient material-arts performance also. It is a marvelous combination of music, dance, and drama.

However, with the breakdown of the feudal setup, Kathakali began declining as an art form. It was resuscitated in the 1930s by the famous Malayali poet V.N. Menon under the patronage of Mukunda Raja.


Some of the features of Kathakali dance are:

  • There is nominal use of props in the Kathakali recital. However, every elaborate facial makes up along with headgear is used for different characters.

Different colors have their own significance:

  • Green: It indicates nobility, divinity, and virtue.
  • Red: It patches beside the nose indicate royalty.
  • Black: Its colors are used to indicate evil and wickedness.
  • Yellow: Its colors are for saints and women.
  • Completely Red painted face: It indicates evil.
  • Whitebeard: It indicates begins with higher consciousness and divinity.


  • Most of the Kathakali recitals are a grand representation of the everlasting conflict between good and evil. It draws its themes from the stories narrated in the chronicle and the Puranas. It is called the 'ballad of the east'.

  • The language used for Kathakali songs is Manipravlam, i.e., a mixture of Malayalam and Sanskrit.

  • Music is important to fairly convey the entire drama to the viewers. Different compositions of music are used during the performance to give the depth of the drama.

  • Gesticulation is perhaps the crown jewel of the entire dance-drama. Kathakali is extraordinary in the depiction of the rasas through movements of the eye and eyebrows, through which the story is conveyed. Nine important facial expressions called 'Navarasas' are taught to convey contrasting emotions. Extensive hand gestures are also used. Therefore, this dance form calls for strenuous training.

  • Kathakali is mostly performed in open-air theaters covered with rough mats or temple premises with lush green trees of Kerala providing a backdrop. A brass lamp is used for lighting.

  • The advent of dawn, accompanied by a sustained sound of drums, chhenda, and maddala marks the beginning and end of a Kathakali recital.

Famous exponents: Guru Kunchu Kurup, Gopi Nath, Kottakal Sivaraman, Rita Ganguly, etc.

Fig: Kathakali



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