KERALA INFO: More Dance Forms of Kerala

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More Dance Forms of Kerala

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

Patakom means dissertation. It is the dance similar to the Koothu in the technical content. Patakom is performed by Nambiyars outside temple premises. But the dance narration is done through an alternating prose and song sequences, the gestures being retained. The new literary called Champu with more and more of Malayalam idiom and vocabulary is used as text for Patakom. The dancer wears a red head-dress with a red silk on the wrist apart from the garlands around the neck and sandal paste lines across the forehead.  

Ashtapadiattom is the popular dance form based on the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva. It was more of a dramatic representation of the renowned lyrical play. Ashtapadiattom has only five characters, namely, the Krishna, the Radha, and three females. The instruments used are the chenda, the maddalam, the elathalam and the chengala. 


Krishnanattom is a refinement of Ashtapadiatoom, evolved by Manavedan. The story of Krishna is presented in a drama-cycle requiring eight nights for the complete presentation. All the eight night plays are full of beautiful dances. The performers of this dance drama confine themselves to the ballet element and mimetic expression. The narrative song is delivered by the accompanying musicians. Krishnattom is performed in the temple of Guruvayoor. This dance has the influences of the earlier ritual folk dances such as the Thiyyattom, the Mudiyettu and the Theyyam. The painting of the face in intricate patterns, the use of masks and colourful, gorgeous costumes and head-dresses are all based on these earlier folk dance forms. In Krishnanattom, more importance is given to the pure dance (nritta) and the stress is always on group movements and group compositions. No other dance has so many characters performing the same dance with the same facial expressions, eye movements, gestures, foot-work set to the same rhythm, with so much of co-ordination, and grace. The musical instruments used for the dance are the Maddalam, the elethalam and the chengala.


Ramanattom is a dance-drama depicting the story of Rama. Even this dance-drama is performed for eight successive days. The songs are in Malayalam and the main importance is given for facial abhinaya and hand gestures. In earlier days, masks were used in the performances. But in course of time, the masks were discarded and a richer variety in facial make up was developed.


Thullal is a solo dance exposition, the origin of which is attributed to Kunchan Nambiar, a veritable genius and one of the foremost poets of Kerala. The instruments used are the maddalam and the cymbals. The actor-dancer is referred as Thullakaran. As the songs are written in simple Malayalam to reach common man, Thullal has become very popular.

Thullal is classified into three different types. They are the Ottan, the Seethankan and the Parayan. They are based on the difference in costume, dance and also the rhyme of the Thullal songs. Of all Thullal dances, the Ottan Thullal is the most popular, the costume of which is peculiar and impressive. It has a long tape of cloth of white and red colour hooked around a waist string to form a knee length skirt and a chest plate adorned with various types of coloured beads, glass, tinsel and ornaments. The face is painted green, the lips are reddened and the eyes are emphasised with black paint. The head -dress is colourfully decorated.

The Ottan Thullal has high tempo with fast beats. The Seethankan Thullal is slower in tempo compared to the Ottan Thullal. The dancer uses similar skirt as in Ottam Thullal. But the arms, wrists and head are adorned with ornaments made of fresh tender coconut fronds. There is no facial make up except the darkening of the eyes. The Parayan Thullal has the slowest in tempo. The dancer almost stands erect and explains the meaning of the songs by gestures. The costume includes a red, flowery cloth worn around the waist and a crown of black cloth adorns the head with necklaces covering the chest and the face painted with light yellow. 

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