History And Legends Of Kathakali Dance In English

Please Rate This Post ...

History And Legends Of Kathakali Dance In English

Kathakali Dance

  • Kathakali is a major form of classical Indian dance. It is a “story drama” style of art, but is distinguished by the elaborate colorful make-up and costumes of the traditional male actor-dancers.
  • It is native to the Malayalam-speaking south-west. region of Kerala and is practiced and appreciated almost entirely by the Malayalees.
  • The traditional themes of Kathakali are folk tales, religious legends and spiritual ideas from the Hindu epics and Puranas.
  • etymology and nomenclature
  • The word Kathakali is derived from katha meaning “story or conversation, or a traditional story”, and kai meaning “performance” or “drama”. The dance symbolizes the eternal battle between good and evil


  • Kathakali originated in the second half of the 17th century. Scholars are of the opinion that Kathakali is the developed form of ‘Ramanattam’ composed by Kottarakkara Thampuran.
  • Over time, due to the combination and influence of many theatrical arts, the form of Kathakali kept improving. According to the time, all the fields of Kathakali’s costumes, music, instruments, acting-rituals, rituals etc. have changed.
  • Under the patronage of royal palaces and Brahmins, the art of dance and drama of Katha continued to climb the steps of development. That’s why many ritualistic activities entered into it.
  • It is generally believed that the seed of Kathakali was sown by Kottarakkara Thampuran (King), not only that it was Kottayam Thampuran who made it a comprehensive and accessible art form.
  • Vettattu Raja was the first to refine the acting style, costumes and playing style of Ramanattam.
  • This became famous by the name ‘Vettattu sect’. The Kottayam Thampuran (18th century) composed the four famous Attakkathas and introduced changes in Kathakali acting based on Natyashastra.
  • For this Thampuran (king) Vellattu invited Chattu Panicker who was teaching Ramanattam at Mattancherry Kovilakam (royal palace).
  • Chattu Panikkar’s ‘Kalari’ (art school) was located at a place called Kalladikkod in Palakkad district. He refined the Vettattu sect. Earlier this tradition was known as ‘Kalladikkodan Sampradaya’. After 1890 this sect became all popular.
  • Karthik Tirunnal Ramavarma, the Maharaja of Tiruvithankur, who was the author of Attakkatha, nurtured Kathakali.
  • Under his instructions, theatrical art master Kaplingatta Narayanan Nampoothiri made many refinements in Kathakali. This sect of his is known as ‘Kapalingadan’ or ‘Tekkan Chitta’.
  • Over time, the distinction between these different sects disappeared, the style developed by coordinating the Kaplingad and Kalladikkod sects became famous as ‘Kalluvashi Chitta’.


  • Many Attakkathas have been narrated in Kathakali. Some of them attakathas are of special importance and give pleasure to both the taster and the actor alike.
  • The most famous Attakkathas are Nalacharitam (Four Days) by Unnayi Warrior, Kalyanasaugandhikam by Kottayam Tampuran, Bakavadham, Kirmiravadham, Nivatakavachakalakeyavadham, Keechakavadham by Irayimman Tampi, Uttarasvayamvaram, Dakshayagam, Duryodhanavadham by Vayasara Aryan Narayanan Moose, Mandavappal Li Ittirarishsha Menon’s Rukmangadacharitam, Santanagopalam, v . . . . of Krishnan Tampi Tadakavadham, Nishalkuttu by Pannishseri Tanupillai, Ravana Vijaya by Kilimanoor Karindran Rajarajavarma Koyittampuran, Rukmini Swayamvaram by Ashvati Tirunal Ramavarma, Putanamoksham, Ambarikshacharitam, Paundrakavadham, Rajasuyam by Kartik Tirunal Ramavarma etc.


  • All the classical Indian dances, Kathakali has the most elaborate costumes consisting of head dresses, face masks and vividly painted faces.
  • It usually takes several evening hours for the Kathakali troupe to get ready for the play.
  • The costumes have extended Kathakali’s popularity beyond adults, with children becoming absorbed in the colors, makeup, lights and sounds of the performance.
  • Shringaar follows an accepted code, which helps the audience to easily identify archetypal characters like gods, goddesses, demons, demons, sages, animals and story characters.
  • Seven basic makeup types are used in Kathakali, namely Pachcha (green), Pazhuppu (ripe), Kathi, Kari, Thaadi, Minukku and Teppu (red).
  • These vary in style and with the predominant colors made from rice paste and vegetable dyes applied to the face.
  • The pacha (green) with bright coral red colored lips portrays great characters and sages like Krishna, Vishnu, Rama, Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Nala and philosopher-kings.
  • Some characters have a green face with red dots or lines on their cheeks or a red mustache or red-striped beard, while others have a full face and beard.
  • while others have their entire face and beard painted red, the latter denoting extremely evil characters.
  • Kari (black) is code for forest dwellers, hunters and middle ground characters. Demons and treacherous characters are also painted black but with stripes or red spots.
  • Yellow is the code for monks, nuns and women. Minukka is a warm yellow, orange or saffron color symbolizing noble, virtuous feminine characters such as Sita, Panchali and Mohini.
  • Men who play the role of women also add a false top knot to their left side and adorn it in the style common to the region.