Art and Culture
There are about 35 different types of tribal people in Kerala, tribal dances like Elelakkaradi, Paniyarkali and Mankali still survive. Of over 50 folk dances in Kerala, the popular ones are Kaliyattom, Kolam Thullal, Kolkali, Velakali and Kaikottikal. All these are performed in accompaniment of songs and drumming and often in colourful ornamental costumes. From these arose Kerala's classical dances like Koothu, Kathakali, Mohiniattam and Patokom. Kathakali uses vivid and eloquent mudras (hand signs). A visually powerful art form, the Kathakali dance dramas are based on stories from the two great indian epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is said to have evolved from a rivalry between two princely families. One had written a story cycle revolving around the life of Krishna, called Krishnattam, the other around the life of Rama called Ramattam. Mohiniattam, which literally means "the dance of the enchantress", is sensuous and lyrical. Dancers display grace as well as passion.
Martial Arts of Kerala - Kalaripayattu - consists of a series of intricate movements that train the body and mind. The discipline is continually practised and complemented by the Kerala's famous ayurvedic and nature cure techniques.These are believed to have travelled to eastern China, where they inspired the evolution of other martial art forms. 'Verumkai' is the final and most difficult of lessons taught in the kalari. The others are Maithozhil - combat through kicks, Kolathiri - combat using sticks and Angathiri - the use of metal weapons.
Kathakali is said to be the greatest and complex of all art forms. It is said to have evolved from other performing arts like Kootiyattam, Krishnanattam and Kalarippayattu. Kerala owes its transnational fame to this nearly 300 years old classical dance form which combines facets of ballet, opera, masque and the pantomime. Kathakali explicates ideas and stories from the Indian epics and Puranas.
Koothu is a solo narrative performance interspersed with mime and comic interludes. It is a socio-religious art performed in the Koothambalam or the Koothuthara of temples, either independently or as part of Kootiyattam. Through the inimitable narration of stories from the epics (The Ramayana and The Mahabharatha), the Chakkiar satirises the manners and customs of the time. His wit ranges from innocent mockery to veiled innuendoes, barbed pun and pungent invectives. Koothu is intermittently accompanied by the percussion instrument Mizhavu.
Nangyar Koothu is a variation of the Koothu performed by the Nangiars or the female members of the Chakkiar community. This is a solo dance drama mainly centred on the legends of Sree Krishna.
Krishnatotom is a traditional art form of Kerala. It is a treat to watch for both the scholar and the simple rustic. The performance lasts for eight days and covers the whole span of Krishna's life from his birth to 'Swargarohanam' or ascension to the heavens.
Chavittunadakam is a Christian art form of Kerala evolved at the turn of the 16th Century AD during the Portuguese colonization and bears definite traces of the European Christian Miracle Play. It is a musical drama in which the actors wear Greco-Roman costumes and even the stage props bear several foreign influences. In the past, the Chavittunatakom was performed on open stages, though sometimes the interior of a church was also a venue. The language is a colloquial mix of Tamil and Malayalam
The Syrian Christians of Kerala usually perform Margomkali. A dozen dancers sing and dance around a lighted lamp (Nilavilakku) in the simple traditional white dhoti. The narration is stark without musical accompaniments. The songs date back to a period much before the Portuguese invasion. Nowadays, women perform Margomkali only as a stage item.