Indian Dance Kathakali

A unique combination of literature (Sahityam), music (Sangeetham), painting (Chitram), acting (Naatyam) and dance (Nrithyam) – Kathakali, the classical dance-drama of Kerala, South India, is considered deep rooted in the Hindu mythology. Kathakali is basically a Sanskrit word that literally means ‘Story Telling’. The art was evolved in the Malabar region, but today is directly linked with Kerala’s soul.


Kathakali is a refined form of the ancient dance form ‘Raamanaattam’ that describes the entire life story of Lord Rama. It was considered to be inspired from ‘Krishnanaattam’, the dance drama on the life and activities of Lord Krishna (created by the Zamorin of Calicut). Initially the play was performed in eight stories. The sambalpuri dance art was made beautiful with natural and graceful movements, elaborate gestures, picturesque costumes, grand harmonic make-up suggested by herbal plants of the forests, and the vigorous & triumphant music.

Main Features

The historic representation in Kathakali is a four fold scheme. The first is Angika that is related to the movements of body and limbs. Second is Vachika that is connected to vocal presentations of the performer and is focussed on the pronunciation, modulation of voice accents & percussion. Third is Satvika, which is simply the portrayal of psychic condition, and the last one is Ahraya that includes costume, make up, stage props etc.

The Art Of Kathakali

The performer should be very careful regarding his/her hand movements (Mudras, in Sanskrit). The performers are trained to connote over five hundred words with eye expressions and sixty-four basic hand poses. It requires a rigorous training to make the body flexible. Performers are given massages & oil-baths, and they are trained from the age of 11 or 12.

Make Up

The make-up in Kathakali is quite bright and colourful. It is so impressive that the tone and colours depict the nature of the characters. If the performer’s face is coloured green, it is the hero of the story. Similarly, the villains have red or black faces and the holy men & women have yellow faces. The performer has to undergo a long make up session that can last for four to five hours. The herbal facial paint is made of rice power and natural colors. They perform wearing elaborated and heavy outfits including headdress, layers of skirts, and jewellery.

This pattern of dance attracts the art lovers from all over the world through its stories that are woven around the legends and stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata and other ancient Hindu epics.


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