Tourism Enquiry
Contact Us: +91 9446600368

Kerala Arts

The Indian state of Kerala is well known for its diverse forms of performing arts. The various communities in Kerala contribute to its rich and colorful culture. Kerala arts are classified by community like Hindu art forms, Muslim art forms and Christian art forms. The cultural heritage of Kerala is also revealed in its varied dance forms, martial arts and cuisine. Other Arts In Kerala are Kakkarishi Natakom, Oppanna and Chavittunatakom, Panchavadyam, Nadanpattu, Omanathinkal Kidavo and many more music forms have evolved over the centuries in Kerala. Arts of Kerala are classified on the basis of community like Hindu, Muslim and Christianity.

The most interesting Kerala Arts forms are Kalaripayattu, Koodiyattam, Kathakali, Mohiniyattom, Bharata Natyam, Chakyarkoothu, Ottanthullal, Theyyam, Padayani, Poothanumthirayum, Mudiyettu, Kannyarkali, Arjuna Nritham, Tholppavakkoothu, Velakali, Kalamezhuthu, Margomkali, Kavadiyattom, Theeyattu and Kummattikkali. The cultural heritage of Kerala is also revealed in its varied dance forms, martial arts and cuisine.

Mohiniyattom ( the dance of the enchantress) is a distinct type of dance form which has existed in Kerala for hundreds of years. It is one of the martial arts in Kerala. It depicts emotions in ways which are universally understood. It is one of the india's oldest form of classical dance. It was originally known as 'dasi attam,' a temple art performed by young women called 'devadasis.' Chakyarkoothu also known as Koothu. It is one of the oldest classical theatre arts of kerala. Padayani is the annual ritualistic festival celebrated in Bhadrakali temples of Central travancore zone with due dedications. Poothanumthirayum is an arts form in Kerala. This ritual offering to Goddess Kaali is performed in many places of South Malabar. Paana is part of a three day festival. This art form is popular in the districts of Thrissur, Palakkad and Malappuram. Martial arts in Kerala are Kathakali, kalarippayattu. Kalarippayattu is the exclusive martial arts of Kerala. The original martial art form evolved in north Kerala.

Chavittu Nadakam is another christian art form Kerala. This Kerala art form is very highly colorful classical art form originated in Gothuruth village. Mappila songs is another typical muslim art form have a distinct cultural identity, while at the same time, remain closely linked to the cultural practices of Kerala. Kolkali is a folk art form of muslims performed in North Malabar region of Kerala State in south India. The dancers move in a circle, striking small sticks and keeping rhythm with special steps. Dance progress during the circle expands and contracts. Following are the most interesting martial arts in Kerala:-


Kathakali is a 2000 - years old dance form developed exclusively in Kerala combining the performing art forms of opera, ballet, masque, and pantomime. Arts in Kerala is known the world over by its own performing art form, the Kathakali. "Katha" means story and "Kali" stands for dance. Kathakali is perhaps the only dance form in which the entire body is used to portray a story. Kathakali is a martial arts form in Kerala and was born only in the 17th century. For more details - kathakali


Kalaripayattu is a Dravidian martial art from the Indian state of Kerala. Kalaripayattu includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods. Northern Kalaripayattu is based on the principle of hard technique, while the southern style primarily follows the soft techniques, even though both systems make use of internal and external concepts. For more details - kalaripayattu


Mohiniyattam is a classical dance form of Kerala. It is closely related to Bharathanatyam of Tamil Nadu. Once Mohiniyattam was performed only in Temples premises and royal courts. Major contributions to Mohiniyattam were given by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, Irayimman Thampi and Kuttikunju Thankachi. For more details - mohiniyattam


Theyyam or Theyyattam or Thira is a popular Hindu ritual form of worship of North Malabar in Kerala state. Theyyam also known as Kaliyattam. The performers of Theyyam belong to the lower class community, and have an important position in Theyyam. This is unique, since only in Kerala, do both the upper-caste Brahmins and lower-caste tribals share an important position in a major form of worship. For more details - theyyam


Ottamthullal is a type of performing art from Kerala. The art form was created during the 18th century by legendary Malayalam poet Kalakkaththu Kunchan Nambiar. Ottamthullal, over the centuries, has a (mostly) single actor, donning a green make-up and wearing colourful costumes and reciting the thullal lyrics (dance songs), all the while acting and dancing himself. Ottamthullal is "poor man's Kathakali". The art form has of late found practitioners from among women too, and is occasionally staged as a group dance form with each artiste representing a character in the storyplay. The art form still retains its satirical touch, and lends the artiste the freedom to improvise, more so on humour. The word Thullal belongs to the Dravidian family of languages and literally means jumping. Thullal is said to have been organized by Kunjan Nambiar, a veritable genius and one of the foremost poets of Kerala.


Oppana is one of the popular form of art among the Mappila community of Kerala, especially in the northern district of Malappuram. This muslim art form is generally presented by females, numbering about fifteen including musicians, on a wedding day. The Oppana Pattu might have come from Tamil culture. The Malayalam word Oppana Pattu is the derivation of Tamil word 'Oppanai Pattu'. In Tmail 'Oppanai' means make up. Oppana was originated on the occasion of make of muslim brides. Now Oppana has been extinct in Tamil Nadu. But in Kerala this art form has been revived with much popularity in performing stages of Youth Festivals of student community. Oppana is generally presented by females, numbering about fifteen including musicians, on a wedding day. The bride dressed in all finery, covered with gold ornaments and her palms and feet adorned with an intricately woven pattern of mylanchi sits amidst the circle of dancers. Sometime Oppana is also presented by males to entertain the bridegroom. It usually takes place just before the bridegroom leaves for the bride's residence where the Nikah (marriage) takes place.


Margam Kali is one of the ancient group dance of Kerala practiced by Saint Thomas Christians. It is difficult to trace the exact origin of the dance form and the compilation of the lyrics, but the dance form was practiced by the Saint Thomas Christians before the arrival of Portuguese missionaries in Kerala. There are several different opinions on the origin of Margamkali. Two are: It is derived from the early forms of Thiruvathira kali. It is derived from Sangam kali and the martial arts dance form parichamuttu kali. Margam means path or way or solution in Malayalam, but in the religious context it is known as the path to attain salvation. The process of conversion to Christianity was known as "Margam Koodal" until recently in Kerala. A dozen dancers sing and dance clapping around a lighted lamp ("nilavilakku") wearing the traditional white dhoti and blouse. The lamp represents Christ and the performers his disciples. The performance is usually held in two parts ("padham") and begins with songs and dances narrating the life of St.Thomas, the apostle. Margamkali does not use any instruments other than two small palm size cymbals played by the same person who sings the song.

Kerala Arts - Related Links