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Folk Dances of India

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Folk Dances of Kerala

Kaavadiyattom Dance

Bhadrakali thullal Dance

Vela Kali Dance

This dance is mainly performed as a votive offering in temples of Lord Subrah mania. For performance, a number of dancers gather in temple, dressed in yellow or rose colour costumes. They are smeared all over the body with lines of ashes and each candidate is having an ornate kaavadi on the shoulder. They stand in a row & dance with the rhythmic beatings of instruments like udukku, chenda, etc. Sometimes nagaswaram is also used. Kaavadi is an equipment used in this dance.


Bhadrakali thullal:
This is a devotional offering of Pulayas. These community is the only one who can perform this ritual. It is for the deity Bhadrakali. Special pandals are constructed in the fields after the harvesting is over and the dances are performed. They are quite drawn-out and have numerous phases in singing too.


Vela Kali:
This is a martial dance of the Nair community in Kerala. Vela Kali is famous in their respected region. This illuminates ancient warfare in Kerala in all its tradition and valour. Armed with shining swords and shields, they dance with vigor and coordination. The dance ends with the victory of good evil, as it happens in reality. As this community people strongly believe so. They are dressed in colorful costumes.


After worshipping the deity in that particular respected temple, the performers turn towards Utholakam. They get over a platform over, which is the pillar like Utholakam can be seen. There is a hook at one end of this Utholakam, which is important as the backside skin of the dancer is attached to it. This end is then raised in upward direction slowly & gently. As one end is hooked to the utholakam, the dancer is suspending in the air at the horizontal level. In this position, through postures he performs certain physical feats and dance with movements with proper balancing techniques. The whole performance, on the whole platform is taken around the temple deity for several times.

Padayani Dance

Padayani Dance:
Padayani or padeni in its performance means one of the most colourful, evergreen and spectacular folk art forms. Generally, it is associated with the festivals of certain temples in southern Kerala like Alappuzha, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts. The word padayani has a meaning like military formations or rows of army. But, in relation with this folk art, we have mainly a series of divine and semi-divine impersonations in the performance of dance. They all come with wearing huge masks or Kolams of different shapes & colours. Various designs are painted on the Kolams using various colours. The most important Kolams usually presented in a padayani performance are Bhairavi (Kali), Kolam (god of death), Yakshi (fairy), Pakshi (bird) etc. These Kolams add more colours in the overall performance.

Thiyyattu Dance

Kolam thullal Dance

Thiyyattu Dance:
Thiyyattu is a devotional offering performed only in Bhadrakali temples. A group of performers known as Thiyyattunnis are privileged to perform it. The theme behind its performance is usually the killing of Darika by Bhadrakali. The Unnis first draw the picture of Bhadrakali (called Kalam) on the floor, with the help of five different types of colour powers. Then, the dancer in the costume and make-up of Bhadrakali with special headgear pleated skirts and painted face dances before the Kalam. This is an additional effort with the accompaniment of devotional songs to Bhadrakali.


Kolam thullal:
This is a ritual offering performed by village people. It is usually performed to get rid of the troubles & pains resulted due to evil-spirits. The belief is that after such offering made towards them they stop of troubling. For the actual performance, a number of characters, appearing with hideous make-up and flat big headgear dance with music. For the accompaniment purpose primitive percussion instruments are used.

Thumpi thullal Dance

Kummi Dance

Thumpi thullal:
This is a dance in which only women can participate. It is usually performed in connection with the Onam festival. All the girls are dressed in a special type of dress known as Onakkodi dress and dance in a circle. At the centre of the circle sits the acting performer. She starts few lines of song while others follow in chorus.


This is women dance still famous in many parts of Kerala. The dancers move in a circular direction and the hand gestures denote reaping and harvesting process of work. One of the women from a group leads the singing with a favourite song while the rest of the group repeats it afterwards. Each performer renders a new line as their turn comes. And the dance stops when all members get tired or bored.

Theyyam or Kaliyattam Dance

Theyyam or Kaliyattam:
Theyyam other wise also known as Kaliyattam. It is an ancient socio-religious ceremonial dance performed in Kerala from many years. As the word Kaliyattam denotes itself about its sacred dance performance for Goddess Kali. Kaliyattam is sometimes called Theyyattam because every thera or village is bound to perform it.

In ancient times, every village of Kerala has a common shrine termed as Kavu. All the villages are bound to have Kaliyattam performed in front of the shrine. As it is very much a part of rituals, it is obeyed in its all respects. The word Kali has also the meaning of safety, security in Malayalam language, Kaliyattam may have the significance of a sacred dance performed for social or family safety of people.

The Dravidians were worshippers of the goddess called Kottavai from ancient time. To propitiate this goddess a special & typical dance was performed. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the old Kottavai dance performance was the actual foundation for Kaliyattam. Kottavai was the dance on which Kaliyattom got flourished as the time passed on. As Kerala was known as primarily a land of people with Sakthi (Bhagavathi) worshippers, the Kaliyattam became very much a part of their tradition of the social structure.

Kali worship made its strong impact especially in the northern parts of Kerala, known as the Kolathirinad, the ancient kingdom of Kolathiri (Chirakkal Raja). Therefore, it was Kolathunad, (North Malabar) where Kaliyattam flourished more than in any other part of Kerala. In this way, a wide range of Kaliyattam dance performance is nurtured and developed. With time along with different aspects of Kali, various other Kolams of heroes and heroines were defined and special Kolams were attributed to them. Thus, we find Sankaracharya as Pottan Daivam, Thacholi Othenan as Ponniatu Pataveeran, Katangot Makka as Makkapottu and the great commander of the Kolathiri militia as Vayanattukulavan.

In short, in Kaliyattam, permanent forms and special attributes are given to Kolams and divine as well as hero worship is carried out.


Kurathi are a group of gypsies who travel from place to place & enjoy their lives. While traveling they tell fortunes to the people. In this dance called Kurathiyattom, two Kurathis first enter in the dancing scenario. With the guise of characters representing the wives of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva performance begins. Then the dance proceeds with the controversy through songs over the exploits of their respective husbands. The favorable point in case of one`s favor becomes the butt of ridicule at the other`s hands and while one praises profusely the other condemns sarcastically. This is the general tone of the song.

Kurathiyattom Dance

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