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Home - Kerala Dances

Kerala Dances

Kerala has a rich repertoire of folk dances. They reflect the temperaments and moods of the localities in music and costumes and are highly developed. Religious colouring is mostly seen in almost all of these folk dances, even in those performed in connection with harvests, sowing of seeds festivals etc. Men alone, some exclusively by women, perform many of these dance forms.

Kerala Dances

The cultural richness of Kerala lies in its colorful dances and other performing arts. Kathakali, the most popular and rich dance form of Kerala is a 500 years old dance form and synthesizes all that is best in the fields of drama, music and dance. Other famous dance forms of Kerala are Mohiniyattam, Bharathanatyam and Chakyarkoothu. Besides, there are various forms of folkdances that include Krishnattam, Koodiyattom, Kalaripayattu, Panchavadyam, Thiruvathirakali, Kaliyootu, Chavittunatakom, Kolkali, Thullal, Velkali, Kalampattu and Kakkarishi Natakom to name a few with.

Kathakali - Classical Dance of Kerala
Kathakali is a theatrical dance form of Kerala, which you can see on tours with Kerala Backwater. Known for its elaborate performances, which can last all night, Kathakali was previously staged in only temples and the mansions of the rulers of Kerala. Now Kathakali performances are open to all. Kathakali was previously an all male dance form, with female characters also played by men. Nowadays women too can train in the rigorous process of becoming a Kathakali dancer and perform on stage in Kathakali events. Kathakali events are held through the year and you can enjoy a Kathakali performance on your tour to Kerala with Kerala Backwater. A Kathakali dance performance involves the enactment of an episode from the epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Indian mythology has many great heroes, dramatic stories and eventful narratives. These colorful tales are depicted in a Kathakali performance. The performers convey moods, emotions and inner sensibilities by facial expressions and gestures. A vocalist sings the narrative verse, while drums, cymbals and other instruments provide a continuous musical accompaniment and sound effects at dramatic moments. The costume of the Kathakali dance is a striking sight. The elaborate facial paint made from rice power treated with various colors, is an indication of the nature of the character being portrayed. The heroes have green faces, the villains red or black, while the holy men and female characters have yellow faces. Apart from facial make up, each performer wears an elaborate costume, with a headdress, and layers of skirts, as well as jewellery, anklets, bracelets and rings. The evil characters also wear talons or beards to represent their beastly nature. Traditionally Kathakali performances began in the evening on a raised platform in the temple premises. Two helpers held a curtain across the stage behind which the characters appeared at the beginning of each act and quick changes of scenery and props took place. Kathakali has adapted for an indoor stage performance. The curtain remains, as does the bare stage, which is transformed when the music and drums begin their rhythmic murmur. The performers stride on stage in their colorful costumes and begin the age-old performance of a Kathakali dance drama. You're sure to be transformed into a world of heroes, Gods, passion and warfare as you watch a Kathakali performance unfold. The Gods themselves will seem to have appeared before you in God's Own Country. Don't miss a Kathakali performance when you travel to Kerala with Kerala Backwater.

Mohiniattam is also known as the Dance of the Celestial Enchantress. A classical dance form of Kerala, Mohiniattam is performed by women only and is known for its graceful, almost seductive movements and simple but elegant costume. You can enjoy seeing a Mohiniattam performance on tours of Kerala with Kerala Backwater. According to Hindu mythology when the Gods and demons churned the celestial ocean to produce a pot of ambrosia, the demons plotted to steal it, while the Gods wanted the ambrosia for themselves. Vishnu, one of the Gods in the Indian trinity appears the form of a celestial enchantress and mesmerizes the demons thus ensuring that the Gods were the only recipients of the ambrosia, which gave them immortality. It is this myth of Mohini - the enchantress - that forms the core of Mohiniattam. Historically Mohiniattam was performed by temple dancers or devadasis in Kerala. In the 19th century, Swati Tirunal, the enlightened ruler of Travancore in Southern Kerala promoted its study. Swati Tirunal composed many of the musical arrangements and vocal accompaniments, which are hymns in praise of Vishnu, and provide the musical backdrop for the Mohiniattam dancers performance. The Malayalam poet Vallathol, an important literary figure in Kerala, who established the Kerala Kalamandalam dance school in 1930, was instrumental in reviving the Mohiniattam dance form. Previously performed solo, Mohinattam is now also performed by groups of female dancers. The Mohiniattam dancer wears a cream or off-white colored sari with a border of gold brocade. The dancer's hair is gathered in a bun that is worn at the side of the head and decorated with jasmine flowers. Gold jewellery including necklaces, bangles, waistbands and anklets adorn the body of the dancer and their tinkling makes music as she dances. Instruments such as the violin, veena and mridangam provide musical accompaniment to the Mohiniattam dancer, who describes episodes from the epics and legends through graceful steps, rhythmic movements of her arms and trained facial expressions. The Hastha Lakshandeepika, a classical text, is the basis for the expressive gestures of the hands and arms in Mohiniattam. Prepare to be enchanted by the dance of the celestial enchantress, as you watch a Mohiniattam dance performance, when you travel to Kerala, with Kerala backwater.
Kalaripayattu :
Kalaripayattu is possibly the oldest Martial art still practised in the world. This martial art form that originated in Kerala, India, derives its name from "Kalari" or the arena in which the combatants fight and "payattu" which means practice in Malayalam the language of Kerala. The fighting rink is the theatre where the disciple of Kalaripayattu displays his prowess. Nowadays Kalaripayattu is practised more as fitness training and as a demonstration sport, which you can see on tours of Kerala with Kerala Backwater. In earlier times Kalaripayattu was practised as a fighting skill by the warriors in the armies of the Kings and warlords of Kerala. Often conflicts between courtiers and disputes between landlords in Kerala, were settled by bouts of Kalaripayattu. Kalaripayattu is an art of combat, which combines the strength and flexibility of the body with the discipline and focus of the mind. Kalaripayattu is related to yoga and Ayurveda. The disciple of the martial art of Kalaripayattu does the smooth flowing exercises of yoga to flex his muscles before going on to practicing the more energetic fighting routines of Kalaripayattu. Massage with Ayurvedic oils is an important part of the Kalaripayattu routine. There are two main forms of Kalaripayattu which you can see on tours of Kerala. The Vadakkan form or the Northern Style and the Thekkan form or the southern style, differ in the speed and flow of their movements.

Performed by the farmers and by Muslim men in Kerala, Kolkalli is an energetic rhythmic dance that recalls the rhythm planting and harvesting crops in the fields.

This ritual dance is performed by the Syrian Christian community in Kerala. Dancers move in a circle around a lit oil lamp in time to the accompanying songs and music. Converted by St Thomas when he visited Kerala between 52-70 A.D., the Syrian Christians have many rituals that are similar to the rituals of traditional Hindus in Kerala.

This folk dance is performed by the men of the Nair community of Palakkad. The dance incorporates elements of martial arts and ritualized fighting in its performance.

This folk dance is performed by the Nair men of South Kerala. Wearing the colorful clothing of the martial Nair warriors, the men dance in a ritual that includes elements of mock warfare and physical training.


Things to do
Things to do in Kerala:

1. Ride a canoe:
Drift along serene waterways in a country craft, enjoy the breeze, answer a cuckoo's call. Wave back at the cheerful village children on the banks. Invite some of them to top in for a ride.

2. Wear jasmine in your hair: Get yourself a string of jasmine - the natural ornament for your hair. You could even pluck them fresh from a garden and string them yourself.

3. Visit the local markets:
Small stalls with fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, chicken. High-pitched salesmen luring you with impossible bargains. Visit these bustling markets, or chandas.

4. Stay in a tree house:

Spend romantic nights in tree houses, washed in the sweet scent of forest flowers. Let the sounds of the forest fill your dreams.

5. Have a mud bath:
Go in for mud therapy and discover its healing properties at the Kavil Bhavan Yoga and Cultural Centre at Nileswaram.
Don't Miss in Kerala
Malabar : Theyyams in the Kannur Kavus. A taste of Kallumakaya and Mappila fish pathiri. Halwa from Sweet Meat Street.

Kochi : The gateway of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in India.Birthplace of Adi Sankaracharya. A walk in St Thomas' footsteps. Bell-metal ware. Bathing in waterfalls.

The Western Ghats : Treks through Sahya Hills. Wildlife viewing from boat. Tea tasting in India's only Tea Museum. Spice shopping at Kumily.

Kuttanad : Backwater Cruise. Kallu, Kappa and Karimeen at Karimpankala. Backwater island.

Travancore : Houseboat-makers village. Late-night Kathakali in Thiruvalla. Elephant Camp at Konni