Kathakali belongs to the genre of Indian classical dance-drama. It emerged in south Indian state of Kerala during the 17th century. The literal meaning of the word Kathakali is “story-play”. The term Kathakali is a combination of two Malayalam words “katha” (meaning story) and “kali”(meaning play). Hand gestures occupy a very important place in Kathakali, like all other forms of Indian classical dance.
Kathakali is a blend of the five distinct aspects of dance:

  • Natyam (signifies facial expressions)
  • Nritham (signifies rhythm and movement of different parts of the body)
  • Nrithyam (signifies gestures of hand)
  • Geetha (signifies song/vocal accompaniment)
  • Vadhyam (Instrumental accompaniment)
    Sahityam is an independent but an important aspect of dance, as it supplements the other aspects.
    Kathakali derived its present form from the founder of the Kerala Kala Mandalam, Mahakavi Vallathol Narayan Menon.Themes of Kathakali
    Kathakali is based on the religious themes of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the ancient scriptures of the Puranas. It is generally performed only by male dancers. Men dress themselves in women’s costume to portray the female characters. However, in recent times women Kathakali dancers are also performing.Costume
    The elaborate make-up and costumes are the distinguishing features of Kathakali. The characters are recognized by their distinct make-up and costume. The colors used in the make-up symbolize the nature of characters. The faces of noble male characters are colored green. The evil characters of high birth such as Ravana (the Demon king) is painted green with red slashes on the cheeks. Extremely evil characters are painted red with red beard while hunters wear black make-up.

    Proponents of Kathakali:
    Few proponents of Kathakali are as follows:

    • Guru Kunchu Kurup (1880-1972), who was awarded Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan for his contribution to the dance form of Kathakali.
    • Kalamandalam Kesavan Namboodiri
    • Kalamandalam Sivadas
    • Thottam Chandu Panicker
    • Thekkinkattil Ramunni Nair
    • Guru Chengannur Raman Pillai
    • Guru Gopinath
    • Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair
    • Kurichi Kunjan Panicker