Kerala was known in distant countries in ancient times as the land of spices, cardamom, nutmeg and pepper. But the real treasure of Kerala lies in the cultural heritage of its people, in their ballads, their songs and dances, their rituals and their intellectual pursuits.
Art & Culture
There are about 35 different types of tribal people in Kerala, tribal dances like Elelakkaradi, Paniyarkali and Mankali still survive. Of over 50 folk dances in Kerala, the popular ones are Kaliyattom, Kolam Thullal, Kolkali, Velakali and Kaikottikal. All these are performed in accompaniment of songs and drumming and often in colourful ornamental costumes. From these arose Kerala's classical dances like Koothu, Kathakali, Mohiniattam and Patokom. Kathakali uses vivid and eloquent mudras (hand signs). A visually powerful art form, the Kathakali dance dramas are based on stories from the two great indian epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is said to have evolved from a rivalry between two princely families. One had written a story cycle revolving around the life of Krishna, called Krishnattam, the other around the life of Rama called Ramattam. Mohiniattam, which literally means "the dance of the enchantress", is sensuous and lyrical. Dancers display grace as well as passion.
Martial Arts of Kerala - Kalaripayattu - consists of a series of intricate movements that train the body and mind. The discipline is continually practised and complemented by the Kerala's famous ayurvedic and nature cure techniques.These are believed to have travelled to eastern China, where they inspired the evolution of other martial art forms. 'Verumkai' is the final and most difficult of lessons taught in the kalari. The others are Maithozhil - combat through kicks, Kolathiri - combat using sticks and Angathiri - the use of metal weapons.
Thullal, the dance form of Kerala is yet another gem in the vast repertoire of Kerala's performing arts. It has from its very inception, enjoyed a ready appeal with both the commoner and the connoisseur for unlike forms such as Koodiyattam, Krishnanattam, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam, it requires no initiation to intelligently respond to it. One can easily react and enjoy Thullal without any prior exposure or sophisticated understanding. As this is composed in the language of the layman, it is known as the 'poorman's Kathakali'
The word Thullal belongs to the Dravidian family of languages and literally means 'jumping', this however can be extended to mean 'to leap about' or to 'cut a caper'.
Belief prevails that Thullal, both as a form of dance and as an evolved literary expression, owes itself to the genius of one man. Kunchan Nambiar. The poet, social critic and humorist who lived two centuries ago was the pioneer behind this dance form and he wrote the text of Thullal and choreographed the play. He tried to bring out through this dance form, the social conditions of his time, the distinctions of class and weaknesses and whims of the rich and the great. Thullal often reflects the literary, artistic and cultural life of the medieval Kerala. Here, the stories from Epics are retold in Malayalam poetry with the sylised singing of the lines depicting the beauty of the Dravidian metres.
presentation, Thullal is conceived as a solo dance. The dance is supported
by two musicians, who stand a little behind them. One of them plays
the Maddalam, a drum and the other small cymbals. Both musicians are
also expected to sing along with the dancer. No stage or any other formal
arrangement is required for the performance. Unlike Kathakali or Koodiyattam,
Thullal uses no curtain for entries, exits or scenes, nor is there a
formal seating arrangement. As is the practise with all the Kerala's
performing arts, a lighted brass lamp is installed in front of the dancer,
even if the performance is held during the day.