About Kerala Folk Dance Forms

Sarpam Thullal  

Sarpamthullal is usually performed in the courtyard of houses having snake shrines for family wealth and happiness. This dance is mainly performed by the members of a community called Pulluvar.  A Kolam (picture) of two or more twining snakes in the courtyard are drawn and an oil lit traditional lamp and one full measure (nirapara) each of paddy and rice are placed in front of the kolam. Also, the idol of the snake is brought out from the Kavu in a procession called thalapoli and placed in the kolam. A number of girls with their hair dressed up like the hoods of snakes and reminiscent of the legend of the naga kanyakas partake in this procession. The poojari then dances round the kolam to the rhythmic beating of para and elathalam. All the while a pulluvan and pulluvathi will be singing special devotional songs set to tune and rhythem by nanduni (a primitive type of veena) and kudam (a primitive form of modern khatam) respectively.  

Ayyappan Vilakku

Ayyappan Vilaku depicts the legendary right between Ayyappan and Vavar. Numerous miniature temples are constructed out of tender coconut frond and plantain leaf-stalks. Two dancers in the costume and make up of Ayyappan and Vavar perform the dance, striking the swords and defending with coconut fronds.  

Parichamuttu Kali  

This martial folk-dance having its origin in kalaripayattu, involves the performers dancing with sword and shield on their hands. Songs are sung throughout and the cymbals chime in perfect union with the steps and the striking of swords against the shields.  

Bhadrakali Thullal  

Being a devotional offering of pulayas for the deity Bhadrakali, this dance is performed in the fields after the harvest. This prolonged dance has numerous phases with each phase having different type of make up and costumes.  

Vela Kali  
Being a marital dance of the Nair community, this depicts the ancient warfare in Kerala in all its ferocity and valour. Armed with shining swords and shields in exotic costumes, this dance is performed with complete vigour and force. The dance ends in the victory of good over evil. 


Purathu which means imitation or mimicy, is a humorous folk-play performed by Ezhavas or Pulayas, involving many characters like Chettiar, Chettichi, Kuravan and Kurathi. The accompanying songs are in Tamil.

Pulayar Kali

Pulayar kali is a gay group dance of Pulayas, the former class of untouchables. It is noted for its rhythm, vigour and beauty. Women also participate in this dance which is usually performed after the harvest season. The songs are all based on themes from mythologies of Mahabharatha and Ramayana accompanied by the instruments like para, veekan chenda kavu etc.  

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