Kerala is home to a stunning variety of art
forms. 'Kathakali' the most popular art form
in which the entire body is used to portray
a story. The Kathakali artistes wear elaborate
costumes, ornaments and facial make-up.'Mohiniyattam'
the dance of enchantress and 'Kalaripayattu'
the amazing martial art.
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day with the Masters"
Venue: Vadakkumnatha Temple, Thrissur.
Thrissur is best known for its mammoth Pooram
festival held in the Malayalam month of Medam
(April-May). It is the most colourful and spectacular
event in Kerala. Spectators from all parts of
the State and even outside throng the Thekkinkadu
grounds to watch the spectacle.
Introduced during the reign of Sakthan Thampuran
(1775-1790), the ruler of Kochi, the Pooram
is a display of strength by the two groups representing
the main geographic divisions of Thrissur, Paramekkavu
and Thiruvambadi. Two teams of fifteen richly
caparisoned elephants each line up face to face
on the vast grounds. And then 'Kudamattam,'
a competition in the swift and rhythmic changing
of brightly coloured and sequinned parasols
is conducted. The whole event takes place in
rhythm to the traditional orchestra ' Pandimelam'
owes its transnational fame to this nearly 300
years old classical dance form which combines
facets of ballet, opera, masque and the pantomime.
It is said to have evolved from other performing
arts like Kootiyattam, Krishnanattam and Kalarippayattu.
Kathakali explicates ideas and stories from
the Indian epics and Puranas.
Presented in the temple precincts after dusk
falls Kathakali is heralded by the Kelikottu
or the beating of drums in accompaniment of
the Chengila (gong). The riches of a happy blending
of colour, expressions, music, drama and dance
is unparallelled in any other art form.
Costume is elaborate with the face painted up.
Great importance is laid on the Vesham or make-up
which are of five types - Pacha, Kathi, Thadi,
Kari and Minukku.
The pomp and magnificence of Kathakali is partly
due to its decor part of which is the kireetam
or huge headgear and the kanchukam the over
sized jackets, and a long skirt worn over a
thick padding of cushions. The identity of the
actor is completely mutilated to create a super
human being of larger-than-life proportion.
Pacha Vehsam or the green make-up portray noble
Kathi Vesham portrays villainous characters.
There are three types of bearded or Thadi Veshams."Vella
Thadi" or White beard for superhuman monkeys
like Hanuman."Chuvanna Thadi" or Red
beard is for evil characters."Karutha Thadi"
or Black beard for the hunter.
Kari Vesham is used for she-demons.
Minukku (Prettying Up)
The "Minukku Vesham" is used for female
characters and sages.
Mudra is a stylized sign language used to depict
an idea, a situation or a state of being. A
Kathakali actor enacts his ideas through mudras.
For this he follows a systematic sign language
based on Hastalakshana Deepika, a treatise on
the language of hand gestures.
The orchestra is formed of two varieties of
drums - the maddalam and chenda; the chengila
which is a bell metal gong and the ilathalam
Students of Kathakali have to undergo rigorous
training replete with oil massages and separate
exercises for eyes, lips, cheeks, mouth and
neck. Abhinaya or expression is of prime importance
as is nritya or dance and geetham or singing.Together
with highly evocative facial expressions, the
mudras and the music both vocal and instrumental,
Kathakali unfolds stories from a bygone era
in a lofty style reminiscent of the Greek plays.
Kerala Kalamandalam , is the prominent institution
imparting Kathakali training in the traditional
the classical performing arts of Kerala, Thullal
is distinct with its simplicity of presentation
and its frank, outspoken wit and humour. The
songs are in simple Malayalam and the techniques
employed in this art are not rigid, though they
are based on the classical principles of Naatya
Saastra, a treatise on art originating in the
2nd century B.C. it is said to have been a modification
The word Thullal belongs to the Dravidian family
of languages and literally means jumping, this
however can be extended to mean to ‘to
leap about’ or to ‘cut a caper’.
Thullal is also a genre of poetry in Malayalam.
It is significant that the work is composed
in metres that later became the norm for Thullal
poetry. This seems to indicate that the songs
for Thullal dance, at least in their structure,
took their inspiration from a model that was
already available. Though the Thullal dance,
as we know it, came into existence less than
200years ago, the roots of its verbal component
can well be traced to at least one century earlier.
Thullal is said to have been organized by Kunjan
Nambiar, a veritable genius and one of the foremost
poets of Kerala. Oral history records that Kunjan
Nambiar accompanied the Chaakiaars on the drums
when they performed their heredictary occupation
of dance and drama. One day, during a temple
festival, when Kunjan Nambiar was playing the
drum for a Chaakiaar, he made a mistake. This
incensed the Chaakiaar so much that he publicly
took him to task. Crestfallen, Nambiar quietly
left. Seething inwardly with anger however,
he returned the following day when the same
Chaakiaar was performing. Altired in a manner
that itself was enough to attract attention,
he presently began to sing and dance. In no
time the audience turned around only to lose
itself in Nambiar’s antics, leaving the
Chaakiaar without spectators.
The story Kunjan Nambiar presented was a familiar
one, the Kalyaanasaugandhikam from the Mahabhaaratha,
but he clothed it with his own words. The Chaakiaar
momentarity defeated, was silent, but later
took his revenge by persuading the ruler, the
Raja of Ambalapuzha, to forbid Kunjan Nambiar
from performing or visiting there again.
There are three different types of Thullal,
classified according to the metre and rhythm
of the songs sung in each one and the differences
in constume and dance. They are Ottan Thullal,
Seethankan Thullal and Parayan Thullal.
sinuous dance of the enchantress, this is a
distinctive classical dance form of Kerala.
Slow, graceful, swaying movements of the body
and limbs and highly emotive eye and hand gestures
are unique to this dance form. The simple, elegant
gold-filigreed dress, in pure white or ivory,
is akin to the traditional attire of the women
of Kerala. The origin of Mohiniyattom is rooted
in Hindu mythology. Once the ocean of milk was
churned by the gods and demons to extract the
elixir of life and immortality. The demons made
away with this divine brew. Lord Vishnu came
to the rescue of the panicky gods and assumed
the female form of an amorous celestial dame
Mohini. Captivating the demons with her charms,
Mohini stole the elixir from them and restored
it to the gods. This dance was adopted by the
Devadasi or temple dancers, hence also the name
'Dasiattam' which was very popular during the
Chera reign from 9th to 12th century.
(Martial art form)
Kalaripayattu involves extremely energetic techniques
of defence and attack.
This comprehensive system of martial arts, regarded
as one of the oldest and most scientific in
the world, evolved in North Kerala. Here we
have 'Kalari' or gymnasia where boys and girls
were trained under a 'Gurukkal'. Here they were
taught a set of body exercises as well as use
of weapons like 'kuruvadi'(short stick) and
'Marmams' were taught to the most promising
of the lot. 'Marmamas' are vulnerable parts
of the human body and a skilled person can disable
or kill his opponent by a mere touch.
Indian School of
Martial Arts (ISMA)
day with the Masters" -
A cultural tourism project.
Kerala Kalamandalam - which nowadays stands
as a symbol of traditional classical art forms
of India. Situated in a village named Cheruthuruthy
in Thrissur District, Kerala State, India, this
institution is unique in many ways. As a centre
of learning and research for the traditional
classical art forms of Kerala, Kalamandalam
attracts students and scholars from both India
and abroad. Kalamandalam was founded in 1930
by the celebrated poet Vallathol Narayana Menon
for the preservation and promotion of the traditional
classical arts of Kerala viz. Kathakali, Koodiyattam,
Mohiniyattam and similar performing arts that
had then been heading to extinction. The institutionalization
of classical art forms was a major breakthrough
in the history of Kerala's art and culture.
The poet with his characteristic foresight insisted
on retaining the time-tested Gurukula system
of training in the schedules of Kalamandalam.
As a strictly residential-school nurturing an
informal and intimate relation between teachers
and students Kalamandalam soon developed into
a unique center for training in and performance
of the classical arts of Kerala. The training
at Kalamandalam in the performing arts such
as Kathakali (Acting, vocal- music, percussion-music),
Koodiyattam, the traditional Sanskrit theater,
Panchavadyam (the Kerala-ensemble) Mohiniyattam,
the female classical dance, Thullal (the solo-dance
narrative), Mridangam and Karnatic Music begin
in the wee hours of the morning. After a break
the classes restart at 9 A.M. and go on till
noon. The afternoon classes begin by 3 P.M.
and end by 5 P.M. Besides physical training
the students have to learn the literature of
the art concerned.
In recent times Kerala Kalamandalam has initiated
a new Cultural Tourism Project titled "
A Day With the Masters", this half-day
package tour is first of its kind in the whole
world. This structured and professionally managed
tour of Kalamandalam will be an unforgettable
experience for the visitors. This guided tour
includes a three-hour comprehensive visit of
the Kalamandalam campus and the old campus where
Kalamandalam started functioning in 1930.
Unique Ventures for including
"A day with the Masters"
in your itinerary.