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Dances of Kerala


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Dances of Kerala

Dance is the soul of the culture and heritage of Cochin. It runs in the blood of Keralites. For the people of them, dance is the language of emotional expression. Their dance forms are capable of expressing subtle thoughts and refined ideas which enrich life of mankind through aesthetic experience and pleasure. The dance forms of Kerala prevalent in the city are a fine blend of the east and west.

Kerala is rich with about 35 distinct kinds of tribal dance forms like Paniyarkali, Elelakkaradi and Mankali have organized to withstand the check of the changing times. The dances of Kerala can be split up into approximately three types - folk, dance dramas and semi-classical dances apart from the two most well liked classical dance types of Kathakali and Mohiniattam. Kerala is home to a number of dance and art forms. Some dance forms which originated in Kerala are today internationally popular especially the Kathakali. Given below is a list of some of the most popular dance forms in Kerala.


This is the most renowned dance drama of Kerala. It is a classical dance-drama known for its unique combination of literature, music, painting, acting and dance. The word Kathakali literally means Story-Play. The themes of the Kathakali are religious in nature whose stories are taken from the Mahabarat, the Ramayana and other ancient scriptures. It combines the facets of ballet, opera, masque and pantomime.


It is the most sensuous dance of Kerala. It is all about Mohini means a maiden who charms the onlooker and attam means dance. This dance is known for its stylish and sensuous form of body movements which mesmerize viewers. The costume of this dance is cream or off-white colored sari with a border of gold brocade. The dancer is adorned with several jewelries which make tinkling music as she dances.


This is the oldest performing art in Kerala which has brought to light by UNESCO after considering it as the Human Heritage Art. The art form is over 2000 years old. This dance is based on expressions related to the human emotions like anger, happiness and frustration. To evoke emotions artist use their hands, eyes and foot so that they can explain stories from mythological scriptures.


Theyyam otherwise known as Kaliyattam or Thirayattam, is one of the most outstanding folk arts of Kerala. Just as the name Kaliyattam indicates, it is a sacred ritual dance performed to glorify the goddess Kaali. The term 'Theyyam' is supposed to be the corrupt form of the Malayalam word 'Daivam', meaning God. It earned the name Thirayattam as every thira or village performed this ritualistic art at the village temple known askaavu.


The word 'Thullal' means 'Caper' or 'to leap or to jump playfully'. This art form emerged in the eighteenth century. A solo performance combining both dance and recitation, thullal is the explication of a tale - normally drawn from the puranas, narrated in verse.

Duffmuttu or Aravanmuttu

Duffmuttu (also known as Aravanmuttu or Arbanamuttu) is a dance form particular to the Muslim community of Kerala. The origin of Duffmutt can be traced back to the Arabs. It is still accompanied by Arabic music. The name Duffmuttu is attributed to the use of an instrument called duff or tap. Duff is a round percussion instrument with one side covered with cloth and is used to produce rhythm.


Oppana is a dance form specific to the Muslim community of Kerala. Oppana is usually a bridal group dance performed the day before the wedding day. It is a dance form essential to the wedding entertainment and festivities of the Muslims especially in the Malabar region of Kerala. Oppana is generally presented by young female relatives of the bride, who sing and dance around the bride clapping their hands.


Margamkali is a very ancient and the most popular artistic performance prevalent among the Syrian Christians of Kerala. Margamkali is performed mainly by women on festive occasions, especially during the time of marriage.

Thitambu Nritham

North Kerala has many rich art traditions, of which "Thitambu Nritham" is one. It is mainly performed by Namboothiris of this part of Kerala, and rarely other Brahmin communities, popularly known as, Embranthiris. Besides the traditional dance forms, the city has a wide range of ballet and salsa schools. The people of Kochi believe in dancing till they drop.

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