• Kathakali, a dance drama belongs to ancient Kerala. This classical dance form is still practised in the state. Kathakali is a combination of literature, music, painting, acting and dance. “Katha” means story and “Kali” stands for dance.
  • Kathakali symbolizes a blending of the Aryan and Dravidian cultures, for shaping its technique. The most striking element in Kathakali is the dramatic quality which is inspiring and belongs exclusively to a world of myth and legend.

Origin of Kathakal

  • The actual roots of Kathakali can be traced to at least 1500 years earlier.
  • It evolved out of the earlier dance forms like the Chakiayarkoothu and Koodiyattom, Mudiyettu, Theyyattom, Sastrakali, Krishnanattom and Ramanattom of Kerala.

Elements of Kathakali

  • A Kathakali performance begins with the kelikottu. It is a devotional number performed where one or two characters invoke the blessings of the gods.
  • Kelikottu is the formal announcement of the performance done in the evening when drums and cymbals are played for a while in the courtyard.
  • Kelikottu is followed by the todayam .
  • A pure nritta piece known as the purappadu comes as a sequel to this.
  • Then the musicians and drummers hold the stage entertaining the audience with an exhibition of their skills in melappada.
  • Kalasams are pure dance sequences where the actor is at great liberty to express himself and display his skills.

Features of Kathakali Dance

  • Most Kathakali recitals are a grand representation of the eternal conflict between good and evil. Kathakali draws upon the inexhaustible treasure of the ancient puranas, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana.
  • Kathakali dance is chiefly interpretative. The characters in a Kathakali performance are broadly divided into satvika, rajasika and tamasika types.
  • Kathakali is remarkable in the representation of the rasas thorugh the movement of eye and eyebrows.
  • The use of props is minimum in Kathakali recital. However, elaborate facial makeup alongwith a headgear is used for different characters.
  • Different colours are used in the facial makeup with each color having their own significance.
    • Green indicates nobility, divinity and virtue
    • Red indicates royalty
    • Black indicates evil and wickedness
  • When it comes to music, several poets have contributed to a Kathakali script, which is called Kathakali Padam. Each Padam is a poem which is recited in one of the Carnatic music ragas. The stories for dance, the poetic compositions of legendary stories are performed in Carnatic style.
  • Men usually perform in KathakaliMen dressed in women’s costume portray female characters. A Kathakali actor needs to have immense concentration, skill and physical stamina, gained from the training based on Kalari Payette (Kalaripayattu), the ancient martial art of Kerala.
  • Kathakali is generally performed in open air theatres or temple premises. The performance generally begins in the evening and it continues throughout the night, culminating at the auspicious hour of dawn, when Good finally conquers evil.
  • Kathakali symbolizes the element of sky or ether.

Famous Exponents

  • Guru Kunchu Kurup, Kavungal Chathunni Panicker, Gopi Nath, Rita Ganguly etc.

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