Originated over 500 years ago, Kathakali is a classical dance form of Kerala. It is a combination of drama, dance, music and ritual. Katthakali is one of the oldest theatre forms in the world. The word 'Katha' in Malayalam means Story and 'kali' means Play. Based on Hindu literature and characterized by masks, stylized costume and make-up, and frequent use of mime.
Theyyam other wise known as Kaliyattam or Thirayattam, is one of the most outstanding folk arts of Kerala. It is a sacred ritual dance performed to glorify the goddess Kaali. The term 'Theyyam' is supposed to be the corrupt form of the Malayalam word 'Daivam', meaning God. It earned the name Thirayattam as every thira or village performed this ritualistic art at the village temple is a popular ritual form of worship of North Malabar in Kerala.
Kalaripayattu is the oldest martial art which originated in India during 3nd century b.c. The practice of Kalaripayattu is believed to have originated from the Dhanur Vedic texts comprising all fighting arts and was described by the Vishnu Purana as one of the eighteen traditional branches of knowledge. Kalaris are the schools where training in this martial art form taught by the masters or guru. Kalaripayathu is about learning to use the body in every possible way. So it not only involves exercise and other aspects of agility but also understanding the energy system.
This is a classical dance performed by women. Mohini means enchantress, the maiden who steals the onlookers heart. It is believed to have originated in the 16th century. The dance has sensuous slow movements using mudras or hand gestures. The lyrics are in Manipravalam, a combination of Sanskrit and Malayalam. The costume is the white sari embroidered with bright golden brocade (known as kasavu) at the edges.
Pulikali is a popular folk art performed during the Onam season. In Pulikali a group of performers paint their whole body in the likeness of tigers and wear tiger mask. They prance about, dance and move like tigers. The tigers are accompanied by a hunter and a drummer. The theme of the play is tiger hunting. The origin of Pulikali dates back to over 200 years.
Oppana is a dance form specific to the Muslim community of Kerala. Oppana is usually a bridal group dance performed the day before the wedding day. Oppana is generally presented by young female relatives of the bride, who sing and dance around the bride clapping their hands.
Kaikottikkali, also known as Thiruvathirakali, is a very popular group dance of Kerala. Thiruvathirakali is performed by the women of Hindu community, often during festive seasons like Onam and the Thiruvathira day.
Margamkali is a very ancient and the most popular artistic performance prevalent among the Syrian Christians of Kerala. Margamkali is performed mainly by women on festive occasions, especially during the time of marriage.