About Kerala Folk Dance Forms


This is a devotional offering performed in Bhadrakali temples by Thiyyattunnis. The theme is usually the king of the Darika killed by Bhadrakali. The Unnis first draw the picture of Bhadrakali (called Kalam) on the floor, with a five different types of colour powers. A decorated stool called Peedhom is placed in the front, facing a traditional oil lit lamp. Sometimes Thiyattu is performed before the deity Ayyappan by a set of people known as Nampis.

Kolam Thullal  

This ritual dance with no accompanying song, is performed to get rid of the troubles caused evil spirits. The costumes of the dancers are highly decorated and rich in colour and brilliance.  


Panarkali is the dance of the panar of malabar area, performed by two characters, a male and a female called the Thekken and the Thekkethy respectively. They stage a mock quarrel as in Kurathiyattom with the song in the form of questions and answers between husband and wife.  

Bhootham Thullal  

This ritual dance is performed by Mannamars in connection with Vela, Pooram, Thalappoli etc., which are special festival in kerala temples. The concept is that the devil aides (Bhootham) of lord Shiva are said to come and enjoy the temple festival. The make up of the Bhoothams consists of peculiar customers with large headgears, projecting rounded eyeballs, high ridged noses, protruding tongue, flowing back hair behind the pleated skirts and overcoats.  


Also known as vishuvela, this ceremonial dance of Parayas is held during the sowing season. The two dancers, one in the make up of Bhootham and the other like a velichappadu with red scarf and sword go about from house to house to the accompaniment of percussion instruments. They are offered a full measure of paddy. This is called parayadeppu. Then they move to temple where the thullal (dance) and kalpikkal (divine ordering) are performed.  


Also known as kaliyattom, is an ancient socio-religious dance performed in Kerala to please the deity Kali.  Each manifestation in a Kaliyattom is known as Kolam. Kolam actually means "shape" or form. God, goddess, hero or heroine have their own peculiar and specific forms, and each form has its own particular aspects. Kaliyattoms are generally conducted in places of worship called Kottams and Palliyara. There are various ceremonies conducted in a Kaliyattom, the most serious and important being the actual manifestation of the Kolam. Just before the Kolam a song describing the history of that particular Kolam and its great strength and holy aspect is sung by a set of people to the accompaniment of chenda and elthalam. It is believed that the spirit of the god or goddess or hero or heroine of the Kolam migrates into the person who has assumed that Kolam. In this dance, there are two forms, slow-paced called the Pathiniyattom and fast-paced called the Elakiyattom. The dance is special as it is performed for all sections of people in Kerala. 


Kurathiyattom is performed by gypsies who go about from place to place telling fortunes. Two Kurathis enter dancing as the wives of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva and stage a controversy through songs over the exploits of their respective husbands. This is interpreted with fluent mime and brought out in picturesque postures. The gestures, bodily flexions and foot work, show perfect co-ordination and rhythmic grace.  

Kanniyar Kali 

Kanniya Kali, also known as Desathukali is a fast moving, militant dance performed in the honour of the deity Bhagavathy. The dances last for four days and each day Kanniyarkali is called by different names. The first day's kanniyarkali is called the Erawakkali and the next three days’ kanniyarkali are known as the Aandikootu, the Vallon and the Malama respectively. There are more than forty steps or puratts for the four-day programme and these are unique and impressive. Though performed by Nairs, Kanniyarkali depicts the life of the Malayans, one-time slaves and dependents of the feudal chieftains and jenmies of the Malabar area in Kerala.  


This group dance of the Parayas of Malappuram district is performed by striking rhythm on a small drum (thappu). Being a vigorous powerful dance, it gradually rises to a crescendo of rhythmic fervour with the dancers swirling round their feet in steps, and hands striking in perfect time. 

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