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Kathakali Dance is the form of Indian Classical Dance where a male actor performs the story by expression and plays uniquely wearing the Mask.

Highlights about Kathakali Dance –

  1. It is not just a dance but combines devotion, drama, music, costumes and make up into a divine experience for all who get to view it.
  2.  Father of Kathakali Dance- Padmanabhan Nair 
  3. Major Performers – Male
  4. It takes up to 11-12 Years to mastery the Kathakali Dance which involves complete mastery of all body muscles and a fundamental reshaping of the body.
  5. Kathakali Dance truly is a multimedia presentation that includes music, drama, dance, color, and unique costume.

Meaning of Kathakali Dance

In Kathakali, Katha – Story, Kali – Perform

Kathakali Dance is the Indian Classical dance form of South Indian State of Kerala having deep roots in ancient history about Vedas and various mythological characters. It is not the motion in dance but the whole story to express about the collections of Kathakali Dance ancient stories.

Kathakali Dance Origin & History of Kathakali Dance

Kathakalī is obtained from Katha which means “story or mythical story”, and Kali which means “act and dance”. The dance symbolizes the eternal fight between good and evil.

Kathakali Dance has the too long tradition back in the 17th Century and curated and bit modified time by time and given a form by Mahakavi Vallathol Narayan Menon, who was the founder of the Kerala Kala Mandalam. It is not just a dance but combines devotion, drama, music, costumes and make up into a divine experience for all who get to view it.  Regarding Kathakali, it is said thatYannadhya Kuttiyattam, Krishnattam and India’s oldest martial art has originated from Kalaripayattu and later improved to Kathakali. Kathakali Dance is a very important piece of Indian classical dance form.

Kathakali Dance Details (Kathakali Dance theatre)

The uniqueness of Kathakali Dance is telling the story using characters though the involved choreography. Also, the actors use Mudras, hand gestures that convey the particular dialogue of their character. While performing, the mudras are sot of sign and the actor speaks using facial expressions to show the internal state of their character which is known as ‘Bhava’.

Kathakali Dance-Drama: Where Gods and Demons Come to Play

by Phillip B. Zarrilli,
 V.R. Prabodhachandran Nagar (Contributor)
M.P. Sankaran Namboodiri

Now, the special facial color and makeup define the original character as below –

  1. Pacha – It features bright, coral/red lips to depict gods, nobles, and sages
  2. Katti – A mixture of green and red with an upturned mustache to represent evil
  3. Kari – Use Black makeup to depict forest dwellers or hunter or even demonesses when used with a streak of red
  4. Taddi – Uses red, white or black to depict the godly or demonic character
  5. Minukku – Uses orang, yellow or saffron to depict virtuous female character.    

Kathakali Dance Costume Description

Male characters wear dark full-sleeved jackets with colored or white bulging long skirts. Lengths of white cloth thrown over the shoulders are also there.  The female characters wear their hair in a knot on the top of the forehead veiled with an ornamented scarf falling over red jackets coupled with a white sari covering the lower half of the body.

Ornaments – The ornaments and jewelry include necklace, bracelets, bangles, gilt breast-plates and bunches of tiny bells strung around the ankles. 

Significance of the Makeup of Kathakali

CharacterMakeup Details
Pacha VehsamGreen make-up which signifies that the performer is depicting a good or a divine character like Lord Rama
‘Kathi’ or ‘Knife Vesham’green make-up with streaks of red on the cheeks signifies the character as the high birth that has shades of sin like Ravana
‘Minukku Vesham’ bright yellow make-up that describes the character of a woman or a severe.
‘Chuvanna Thadi’red beards that are specified to the evil characters particularly.
‘Karutha Thadi’the black beard that signifies the personality of a forest inhabitant or a hunter.

List of places where one can witness the Kathakali Dance in Karala

Also , Kathakali : Reliving Epics Through Dance Booklet & DVD (A Doordarshan Archives) & Man Performing Indian Culture Dance Kathakali Presentation

Kathakali School Dancing Lessons

Books, Publications related to Kathakali Dane

  1. Gestures ok Kathakali By Dr. R Shreekumar
  2. A Guide to Kathakali by David Bolland
  3. Kathakali: Dance – Theatre by K.K. Gopalakrishnan

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