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"Loose yourself to the beautiful music and dance forms of Kerala on your trip to the state. Watch the elegant and colourful dressing, graceful and rigorous movements of the performers and experience the magical spell they cast on you through their art."
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Music and Dance

Kathakali Dance,  Kerala
Kathakali Dance- Kerala

Keralese are deeply rooted to their cultural heritage. Probably, this is the reason why even the wave of modernism has not been able to sweep away the rich heritage of customs and traditions. Music and dance also form an integral part of the the life of Keralese since a long time now. Classical as well as folk music and dance have kept alive the ancient lores and stories which still find a wide audience amongst tourists.

On your visit to Kerala, make sure that you witness the splendour of the music and dance forms of Kerala and carry back memories for life.

Popular Dance & Music Forms of Kerala


The literal meaning of Kathakali is story play. The dance drama depict scenes and events from Hindu mythology, typically from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Kathakali artists wear heavy makeup and magnificent costumes to depict good and evil characters. Positive and negative characters paint their faces according to the characters they play. Large head dresses are instantly noticeable. The body language of the dancers are rigourous, nevertheless very graceful. Infact much flexibility is required in the body of a Katahakali performer. The orchestra of Kathakali generally comprises two drums known as the chenda and the maddalam, along with cymbals and another percussion instrument, the ela taalam. There are two singers in the group whose style of singing is categorised as Sopaanam.

Normally, the Kathakali performances is begun in evening and continues till the wee hours of dawn. Dawn, which is considered extremely auspicious is just perfect time to show the victory of good over bad powers of world. However, keeping in mind the busy routine of the modern society, much modification has been made in the dance forms. Now, you can view this fantastic dance drama within a span of two to three hours.


The term Mohiniattam derives from Mohini and attam. The former implies a woman who lures spectators while the latter means graceful and sensuous body movements. Together, these two terms indicate that Mohinattam is a dance of enchantment. Mohinattam has devotion to god as its primary theme and the god invariably is either Vishnu, the preserver of Universe or Krishna, the lover god. There are basically two stories of Lord Vishnu in form of Mohini. The first one has him trying to distract the attention of demons from nectar of immortality while the second story depicts him trying to rescue Lord Shiva from the demon Bhasmasura.

Mohiniattam is vastly different from Kathakali as far as its dress up and make up is considered. The Mohinattam dancers dress up elegantly in a white with gold border Kasavu saree of Kerala. The hair is tied on one side as a French bun and is decorated with white jasmine flowers. The dancers move their body from one side to another in a graceful manner reminding the gentle movement of palm leaves and the flowing rivers that are seen in abundance in the state of Kerala. The dancers also makes good use of their eyes and aim to influence the mind of spectator instead of senses (remember this the dance of enchantment). The vocals that accompany the dancers are in a language that is a mix of Sanskrit and Malayalam. This language is widely known as Manipravala.


Koodiyattam is considered the oldest dance form of the world (around 2000 years old) which is the reason why it has been designated as the Human Heritage Art by the UNESCO. The dance form, as seen today, is the result of the efforts of a king known by the name of Kulasekhara Varma Cheraman Perumal. He wrote a book, "Aattaprakaram" which gives a detailed description as to how Koodiyattam is to be performed.

As per tradition, Koodiyattam is performed by the Chakyars" (a sub caste of Kerala Hindus). The female roles went only to "Nangyars" (women of Nambiar caste). The word, Koodiyattam itself means combined dance forms. This perhaps indicates the combined effort put in by these two caste to perform the dance. Not much of instruments are used in this dance performance. Traditionally only Mizav used to be played by the artists, however, today idaka is also made use of extensively. Koodiyattam normally takes a long time to wrap up - from few days to a number of weeks. It is basically a temple dance (though performed outside also) and is performed usually during night hours.


This is yet another dance form of Kerala which was developed by Kunjan Nambiar as an alternative to Chakiarkuthu. He was a Malayali poet thoroughly disgusted over the socio-political structure and prejudices of the region. The dance has a single performer who renders thulla songs while acting and dancing simultaneously. He is assisted by a musician who stands behind and gives leads. Also, there are two other people on instruments - Maddalam, a kind of drum and a pair of cymbals. The dance is also known as the poor man's kathakali.


The term koothu means dance and Chakiarkuthu is a performing art which was traditionally carried out by Chakiar community. Originally, it was performed inside a Hindu temple. The performer started of with a prayer of the deity and continued on with a recital of verse. This was followed by a translation of verse in Malayalam for the convenience of spectators. The content included various current social and political issues and also took the liberty of ridiculing prominent personalities (even if they were present at the performance). The instrument utilized in the performance were mizhav and a pair of cymbals.

Today, every other aspect of the performance remains the same apart from the fact that it has now come outside the temple premises and is performed amongst wider audience.


As per its name, Panchvadyam involves the synchronized percussion sound produced by five (panch) instruments (vadyam) that are typical to the state of Kerala. The use of five instruments - Shudha Madhalam, Kombu, Edakka, Elathalam & Timila - is due to the efforts of Thiruvilwamala Venkichan Swamy, Annamanada Peethambara Marar, Annamanada Achutha Marar, Annamanada Parameswara Marar and Pattarath SanKara Marar who gave Panchvadyam its new look and structure. Panchvadyam performance is mostly carried out during the temple festivals of Kerala, particularly Thrissur Pooram.

Carnatic Music

The Hindustani and Carnatic music are two distinct forms of Indian music. The latter one, Carnatic music, is hugely popular in the southern part of India. Though it is believed that all music forms of India have their source in the vedas, in Kerala itself, Carnatic music was made popular by the efforts of the musician king of the erstwhile Travancore state, Swathi Thirunal. Carnatic music is based on well composed musical pieces called Kritis that follow a definite pattern to present ragas in all its emotional and textual ramifications. The music is beautifully backed up by instruments like the tambura, the mridangam, the ghatam, the Ganjira, the violin and the morsing.


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