About Kerala Folk Dance Forms


This ritual dance is performed before Bhagavathy temple in connection with festivals. The goddess Bhadrakali performs this dance after the death of Darika. The costumes of the Thira are colourful and captivating. The large headgears, projecting eyes, high-ridged noses, protruding tongues, flowing black hair behind the pleated skirts and overcoats all make the dancers completely supernatural.  

Cherumar Kali 

This mixed dance of the Cherumar community of the Malabar area of Kerala is performed by both men and women. They hold dancing arms together, or shoulder to shoulder, linked in a back-lock. The dance develops into a variety of pleasing pattern, in which the men and women change their positions with amazing rapidly.  

Thumpi Thullal 

This dance performed only by women in connection with the Onam festival. All the girls are dressed in immaculate Onakkodi dress and sit round in a circle. At the centre of the circle sits the performer. Then all the girls sing in chorus to the rhythmic clapping of hands and occasional vociferations known as Kuravai. The rhythm and the pitch of the clapping and the songs rise to feverish when the girl in the centre enters into a trance and begins to dance.


The women dancers move in a circle and the hand gestures signify reaping and harvesting. One of the women leads the singing with a favourite song while the rest take up the refrain. Each performer renders a new line in turn and the dancing stops when all get tired. In local variations of the Kummi dance men also participate.  


This dance, also known as Pulikali, is performed during the Moharram season. Dancers are dressed as tigers go about from house to house, dancing vigorously to the loud beating of instruments like the Udukku, the Thakil, etc. 


Popular in Thiruvananthapuram District, this dance is performed mostly in Devi temples. The performer, wearing a crown, similar to the used by the 'Ottanthulal' artiste, and three other characters, with three different facial make-ups, dance rhythmically to the background of percussion instruments. The songs are in praise of Durga, 'Padapattu', and 'Kalaripattu' and songs in praise of deities.


Oppana is an exquisite folk dance form performed traditionally among the muslim community in Kerala. This is performed by females to entertain the bride and by males to entertain the bridegroom.  

Margam Kali

Margam kali is an art form popular among the Syrian Christian community of the erstwhile Travancore. This consists of group dances and martial arts like parichamuttu kali. The theme of the songs revolves round the life of St.Thomas. 


Kummattikali is a mask dance popular in South Malabar. The dancers wear brightly painted wooden masks and adorning themselves with leaves and grass go from house to house. The songs are melodious and deal with devotional themes. The rhythm is provided by vibrating the string of a bow-like instrument called the onavillu. 


In this ritualistic art prevalent in Malappuram District, a horse is fashioned with bamboo splints and tender fronds of the coconut palm and carried on the shoulders of the performers who dance to the rhythm of Chenda and to the accompaniment of songs sung by them. 


In this dance, a leader along with his troupe goes to each house, playing and singing with the Chenda. This is prevalent in Kannur District. Even there is an enactment of comical gestures representing comedy characters, the Paniyans.  Another character represents the bull, worn round his waist, dances in peculiar style.  

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