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Kerala Art Forms

Kerala is one of the most preferred tourist location. Visitors get attracted to Kerala not just for its scenic locales and Ayurvedic therapies but also for its rich and vibrant culture. Kerala has numerous art forms rooted in tradition which are full of life and colors. These art forms, ranging from tribal dances and folk dances to martial arts, and drama and poetry to painting, depict the mood of Kerala and enthrall the art lovers worldwide.

Some of the most popular art forms are described below that cannot be missed if one travels to Kerala:
Kathakali is the most famous art form that symbolizes Kerala. The dance is based on Indian epics – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. A Kathakali dancer uses its entire body to narrate the story. The dramatic and expressive mudras make it visually powerful. The emphasis in Kathakali is on the elaborate costumes, accessories and heavy facial make-up of the dancers.

The word Mohiniyattam literally means “the dance of the enchantress”. Mohini means enchantress. Mohiniyattam dance form accentuates the feminine grace. The dance is lyrical and sensuous, and the emphasis is more on facial expressions than the rhythm of the steps. Originally it used to be performed in the temple premises, but now this semi-classical dance is performed on stage in front of an audience.

Kalaripayattu is an ancient art form of martial arts. It is believed to be the originator of judo, karate and kungfu. There are a series of complex movements that train the body and the mind. Strict discipline is the crux of Kalaripayattu. Regular practice of this martial art is aptly complemented by Ayurvedic therapy and nature care techniques prevalent in Kerala.

Thullal is a dance form that is created in the language of laymen. It requires no prior knowledge of the context. Thullal’s simplicity is appealing, and so, people respond to it naturally. It is also popularly known as the “poor man’s Kathakali”.

Thullal is performed as a solo dance supported by two musicians who stand at the back.
Vattakkali is an extremely enjoyable ring dance which is performed by the Vattuvar community. Both men and women participate by executing twelve different types of steps. The elaborate footwork becomes more pleasing with the sound of bells, anklets and the clapping of hands. Towards the end of the dance the whirling movements become faster making Vattakkali all the more pleasurable.

Raja Ravi Varma’s surreal paintings are a fine example of painting as an art form of Kerala from the 9th century. The beautifully clothed women in his paintings enchant many a people world over even today.

The Kerala art forms enable the audience to experience myriad of emotions. They depict the socio-cultural life of the people of the state, and on the other hand the mythological stories.

A trip to Kerala can never be complete without savoring the rich blend of various art forms of Kerala.