KERALA INFO: Kerala Folk Dance Forms

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Kerala Folk Dance Forms

by by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)  (Feedback)

Padayani or padeni  

The word padayani literally means military formations or rows of army. This is one of the most colourful and spectacular folk arts associated with the festivals of certain temples in southern kerala (Alappuzha, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts). It has a series of divine and semi-divine impersonations wearing huge masks or kolams of different shapes, colours and designs painted on the stalks of areca nut fronds. The most important of the kolams usually presented in a padayani performance are the Bhairavi (Kali), the Kolam (god of death), the Yakshi (fairy), and the Pakshi (bird). The kolams are traditionally painted by the members of the Ganaka community. Padayani has its origin in ritual and religion. The dance is performed usually by Nairs who in old times had regular physical training on the model of kalaripayattu without the use of weapons. 


Brahmanippattu is a domestic devotional offering performed in connection with the marriages by Brahmani women. The dance is performed by the women around a decorated stool on which some symbolic representation of Bhagavathy is placed. They also sing devotional songs to the rhythm of the beating of bronze plates. Started with slow tempo, gradually the songs ascend in pitch and the women dance in ecstacy.

Kaikotti Kali  

kaikottikali, also known as thiruvathirakali, is a very popular, graceful and symmetric group-dance of the women of Kerala performed during festive seasons like Thiruvathira and Onam. It has the lasya element predominating along with thandava part in between. The performers wear Kerala style typical dresses of mandu and neriyathu along with the decorating their hair with jasmine garlands.  One of the performers sings the first line of a song while the rest repeat it in chorus, clapping their hands in unison. Moving in a circle, clockwise and at time anticlockwise, at every step they gracefully bend sideways, the arms coming together in beautiful gestures, upwards and downwards and to either side, in order to clap. 


Mudiyettu is a ritualistic dance from the Bhagavathy cult. The theme depicts the glory and triumph of Bhagavathy over the demon Darika. Attired and adorned exotically with a unique weirdness and hideousness, the characters seem quit supernatural. The dance is performed by a set of people known as Kuruppanmar, mainly in Bhadrakali temple. In the dance, a kolam of Kali first made up to which floral offerings and other rituals are made. Then it is taken round the temple to the accompaniment of percussion instruments. The kolam is then installed in a suitable place.  

Moplah Kali  

This dance very similar to kolkali, is the powerful folk-dance of the Muslims of the Malabar. Melodious Moplah songs are sung as the dances are performed holding sticks with small bells attached at the end. 


This dance also called as chuvadukali or chavittukall, performed by both men and women is an extremely vigorous ring dance of the Vattuvar community. Twelve different types of 'steps' are executed. The beauty of the intricate footwork is amplified by the tinkling of anklets and bells along with the rhythmic clapping of hand.

Poykkalu Kali  

Also known as marakkalattom, this still-dance with theme songs is performed in connection with temple festivals.

Kakkarissi Kali

This group dance prevalent among the Kuravas of Thiruvananthapuram district, involves the wild beating of primitive drums like the para, the veekkan and the chanda.  

Dappu Kali 

In this group dance of the Maplahs of Malabar, the performers form two rows of ten to twenty. Each dancer beats dappu holding in his left hand and dance with exquisitely symmetrical swaying of the body and timing of dappu. 


In this mixed dance of both men and women, the performers move in a circle, striking small sticks and keeping rhythm with special steps. The circle expands and contracts as the dance progress.  

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