Kathakali

Kerala’s best known art form, Kathakali is a unique blend of dance, drama, music, literature and also painting. Elaborate make up, resplendent costumes and intricate gestures define the explosive beauty of this incredible art form.

Characters enact stories from the Mahabharata and Ramayana using make up, costumes and gestures.

 The elaborate make up or aharyam is of three distinct types; divine, demonic and worldly.

Characters in this dance drama are identified by four different costumes or veshams; pacha, kathi, tadi and minukku. Pacha or green is donned by the gods and heroes, kathi or knife is donned by the villains in the story piece. Tadi or beard is worn by characters displaying superhuman qualities and minukku or shine is usually used by women characters. The Chutti, a ridge like mask made of limewater and rice paste adorns the face and a decorative head gear studded with red and green stones. Characters were colourful skirts and full sleeve tops and the entire make up itself takes about 45 minutes.

Gestures are a major component in delineating a character. Gestures are of two types; verbal or vachika and artificial created for appearance sake.

Musicians closely follow the performer gesticulating and enacting the characters. The instruments used are folk based like the drums (madalam and chenda), a gong (chengila) and cymbals (elathalam) and they provide the background music known as thiranottam.