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Folk Dances of India

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Folk Dances of Kerala

Kaduva Kali Dance

Margam Kali Dance

Kaduva Kali:
This dance is also known as Pulikali. This dance is performed during the Moharam season. Dancers get ready to look up as tigers with wearing appropriate costumes & make-up. They go from house to house, dancing vigorously with the loud beating of instruments like Udukku, Thakal, etc.


Kanniyar Kali:
It is a very old dance, performed from centuries. But today also, it is a well-known folk dance of Kerala sometimes even called as Desathukali. It is a fast moving, militant dance having pleasant rhythmic devotional folk songs and asuravadyas. It is said to be a ritual offering in honour of the deity Bhagavathy.


Margam Kali:
Margam Kali is an art form popular among the Syrian Christian community of the eastern Travancore. Among the performing arts of Christians, Margam Kali deserves special mention. This dance consists of several other group dances and martial arts like parichamuttu Kali. The theme of the songs revolves around the life of St. Thomas & his contribution.

The word `Margam` means path, way, religion or creed. The real source of inspiration behind performance of Margam Kali was Kalaripayattu, which was very popular when the Christian community had developed the form.

The art was developed for the propagation of Christian religious ideas among the people. From the direct inspiration taken from the indigenous culture, the form is evolved. The dancers play in a circle around a lighted oil lamp while singing themselves. There are no accompanying instruments for music. The leader of the troupe or tutor known as `Asan` leads the song and the group repeats the same. The language used in the songs of Margam Kali reveals its relation with old Tamil form.

Arjuna Nritham Dance

Arjuna Nritham:
Arujuna Nritham is a popular dance form in Alleppy and Kottayam districts. One or two persons perform this during the nighttime. And, the purpose of the lighting is fulfilled by the traditional lamp called `Nilavilakku`. Arjuna was proficient in dance among the Pandavas and it is said that he has danced and sung praising Bhadrakali. Since, the lower part of the garments of the dance is of specialized type of costumes made up of peacock feathers, the dance is also known as "Mayilpeeli Thookkam"

Kummatti Dance

Kummatti Dance:
Kummatti is a mask dance mostly popular in South Malabar region of Kerala. The dancers wear brightly painted wooden masks on the faces and dance with it. During the time of Onam festival, groups of dancers wearing masks and adorning their body with the help of leaves and grass get ready for the dance. They visit to all houses in a village one by one. Vibrating the string of a bow-like instrument called onavillu provides the rhythm & music for the songs.

Garudan thookam

Mayil Attam Dance

Garudan thookam:
This dance form is presented in some temples, where the worshiped deity is Bhadrakali. This is not just an offering song to deity but a descriptive song in terms of its action. Two or three dancers in the garb of Garuda, dance of the rhythm of percussion instruments, for providing music. To give the feel of Garuda (the bird king), the dancers wear the feathers with their beaks. They also carry snakes in the beak, and dance with wings spread in circles, in an enjoyment of moment.


Mayil Attam:
Girls dressed to look like peacocks, resplendent with peacock feathers and a glittering headdress with a beak perform this dance. This beak can be opened and closed with the help of a thread tied to it from inside the dress. This arrangement helps in performing various stps.This is a group dance & when performed in coordination grabs the attention of viewers.

Tholpavakoothu Dance

This is also known as Pavakoothu and Nizhalkoothu. It is prevalent in Palakkad and Ponnani Talukas of Kerala. This is traditionally, a dance by Pulavanmars. The pavakal or puppets are used for the performance. They are made up of deerskin and represent various characters from the Ramayana epic. The puppets are arranged behind a long curtain. These types of dances are popular in all sections of society.


Kazhai Kothu:
Kazhai Kothu is a known performance for gymnastic steps. It is specialized form by Aryans. This is very similar to today`s circus show. They travel in a group from place to place, entertaining the local people and thus earning a livelihood. During performance time, they do make-up & wear bright, colourful costumes.

Sangha Kali Dance

Krishnanattom Dance

Sangha Kali:
Sangha Kali is also known as Sahastrakali, Chathirakali or Vatrakali. Essentially, it is a dance having a socio-religious context. This was a very favourite and popular pastime of Namboodiris. It was performed as a votive offering to Goddess Kali. The origin of Sangha Kali may be deeply rooted in the numerous gymnasium techniques (Known as Kalaris) in ancient Kerala where physical exercises and military training with special emphasis on physical feats and swordsmanship were given.

Celebrations on periodic basis were held in this Kalaris, where special displays of skill in weapons and the techniques of the learner can be put foreword. With the civilization and stabilization of Aryan culture in the land, the Namboodiri Brahmins-the Aryan immigrants-entered these gymnasia and their participation and influence gave the celebration a religious colour.

A number of people wearing red scarfs on the head and red clothe on the wrist gather in a group for dance. The performance begins with steps of the gymnasia to the accompaniment of the instrument like the chenda, maddalam, elethalam and gong.

The dance has a number of phases of ritual worship, recital of devotional songs, pure dance, comic interludes, etc. They include the kottichakampookal, kottiyarkal, pana, velichappadu, nalupadam, slokam, neetuvayana, kandappanpurappad, poli kaimalothika samvadam, paradesipurappad etc.

The last phase of the dance performance is a very important and it is called Kudameduppu. It is martial in character and actually in the form of exercise displaying the skill in swordsmanship and the mastery of techniques in the use of other weapons. Of the dance part in Sangha Kali, the Kurathiyattam is the most graceful and famous step of this dance.


It is said that a refinement of Ashtapadiatoom, evolved by Manavedan, the Zamorin was Krishnanattom. The whole story of Lord Krishna was cast into a drama-cycle. Eight nights are required for its serial production. Vilwamangalam, a Krishna devotee, helped in designing the costume of Krishna. The actors in this dance-drama have to have good command on the ballet element and mimetic expression. The narrative song is a responsibility of the musicians. It is dance-drama totally devoted to Lord Krishna.


Poikkal Kudirai Aattam:
This is known as the Dummy Horse Dance. In this dance, the dancer bears the dummy figure of a horse`s body on his/her hips. It is made up of light-weighted materials and the cloth at the sides swinging on both sides covering the legs of the dancer completely. The dancer performs with wooden legs, which sound like the hooves of the horse.

The dancers must have either a sword or a whip. This folk dance needs much expert movements and skills to perform. Naiyandi melam or Band music accompanies to the dance. This is connected to the worship of Ayyanar, prevails mainly around Thanjavur region of State. Such dances are originated from tribal culture.

Poikkal Kudirai Aattam Dance

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