The Story of Kathakali

The Story of Kathakali


Kathakali is a popular genre of Indian classical dance. It’s a “story play” kind of art, but it’s differentiated by the usually male actor-dancers’ lavishly colourful make-up, costumes, and face masks.

Read more about other Indian dance forms.

Kathakali Costumes

Kathakali features the most ornate clothing of any classical Indian dance, including headdresses, face masks, and vibrantly painted faces. A Kathakali troupe’s preparation for a performance usually takes many evening hours. Kathakali’s appeal has grown beyond adults, with youngsters enthralled by the performance’s colours, makeup, light, and music.

When did Kathakali Originated?

Kathakali is a Hindu performing art that originated in Kerala’s Malayalam-speaking southwestern area. The fully developed form of Kathakali dates from the 17th century, although its roots may be traced back to the 1st millennium CE in the temple and folk arts of the southern Indian peninsula.

History of Kathakali

The dance originated with Natya Sashtras and evolved in the 17th century. Natya Shastras is one of Bharata Muni’s earliest Sanskrit works. The Natya Shastras were compiled between 200BCE and 200CE. Although the origins of Kathakali dance are unknown, it is said to have originated in coastal Kerala during the 16th and 17th centuries.

What is the literal definition of Kathakali?

Kathakali’s literal meaning combines the words ‘Katha’ which means traditional narrative and ‘Kali’ means art.

Kathakali Acting

Kathakali, like many other ancient Indian arts, is as much about choreography as it is about acting. It is regarded to be one of the most difficult genres to perform on stage, with young actors spending years training for their roles before getting the chance to do so. The performers use a “sign language” in which the character’s conversation is represented through “hand signals (mudras)” and emotions and mood are portrayed through “facial and eye” gestures. Parallel to this, backup vocalists sing the play in a rhythmic manner, matching the rhythms of the orchestra, so integrating the group into a resonant oneness.

Hand gestures or mudras are discussed in several ancient Sanskrit writings, including Natya Shastra and Hastha Lakshanadeepika. Unlike other Indian traditional dances, Kathakali strictly follows the Hastha Lakshanadeepika.

In Kathakali, there are 24 primary mudras. In order to represent the emotional condition of the character in the play, each actor studies nine facial emotions called Navarasas through facial muscle control during his instruction. Traditional Sanskrit books like as Natya Shastra explain the philosophy underlying the Navarasas, albeit with other titles, which may be found in other classical Indian dances as well.

In Kathakali, the nine Navarasas convey nine Bhavas (emotions) as follows: Sringara expresses Rati (love, pleasure, delight), Hasya expresses Hasa (comic, laugh, mock), Karuna expresses Shoka (pathetic, sad), Raudra expresses Krodha (anger, fury), Vira expresses Utsaha (vigour, enthusiasm, heroic), Bhayanaka expresses Bhaya (fear, concern, worry), Bibhatsa expresses Bibhatsa expresses

Who is regarded as Kathakali’s father?

Kottarakkara Thampuran is regarded as the dance form’s originator and father. He was also regarded as one of the top practitioners of this dance genre. He was the first to record the first dance drama for this dance genre. This dance genre was broken into eight sections that illustrated the Ramayana. This depiction of the Ramayana through Kathakali was named as Ramanattam.

What are the five main roles in Kathakali?

This popular dance genre is split into five primary Kathakali roles, which are also known as the Veshams of Kathakali.

Pacha (green) – this is used to represent many personalities or divine creatures. In the kathakali dance genre, it is mostly used to designate aristocratic roles.

Kathi (knife) – this is used to depict evil personalities with traits like as rudeness, arrogance, and so on.

Kari (black) – this colour is often used to represent malevolent characters.

Thaadi (beard) – includes the vella thaadi also represents the white beard and is used to depict characters which are not evil. Used to depict characters of ram from ramayana. On the other hand, the chuvanna thadi is used to depict characters which are evil in hindu mythologies.

Minukku (radiant) – This is a term used in Kathakali dance to describe spiritual personalities.

Who are the famous Kathakali dancers?

The famous dancers of Kathakali include Kalamandalam Gopi, Kalamandalam Krishna Prasad, Kottakal Sivaraman, Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody, Kavungal Chathunni Panicker.