West indian culture

Kathakali: Dance that describes the culture of Kerala

The culture of a place can be recognized from its art and dance forms. Dances are considered to be an integral part of the culture of any region. Kerala which is located in the southern part of India and is popularly known as “God’s own country” is beautifully famous for its palm-fringed beaches, backwaters, wildlife, cruises, and different forms of dance.

Among the many folk dances, some are indigenous and have only been recognized within the state, while others have gained popularity around the world. Many of these dances are performed on festivals and temple occasions.

These dance forms are unique in their way of presenting with wonderful expressions, which are performed by the best dancers. The performers are adorned with attractive costumes and ornaments which add charm to the dance.

Kerala has around 50 dance forms. And among these, a famous dance to describe the culture of Kerala is Kathakali.

Kathakali is a lively dance drama filled with alluring colors combined with the elegant movement of the body in sync with the music. Kathakali is from the 17e century and is still popular and widely performed in various parts of the state.

The drama portrayed usually involves mythology. This drama represented in dance is either adapted from the Mahabharata, or from the Ramayana, or from the Puranas. Kathakali is one of the most remarkable dances as people recognize Kerala, its art and culture through this folk dance.

Costume is the most distinctive feature of Kathakali. The makeup is very elaborate and the costumes are very wide and heavy.

There are several kinds of disguises. There are Sathwik (the hero), Kathi (The mean one), Minukku (women), and Thatti. These basic divisions are further subdivided in a manner well known to malayali (Keralite) public. Each character is instantly recognizable by their distinctive makeup and costume.

The makeup is very elaborate. It is so elaborate that it is more like a mask than a makeup in the usual sense of the term. The materials that make up the makeup are all available locally. White is made from rice flour, red is made from Vermilion (a red earth like cinnabar). Black is made of soot. Colors are not only decorations but are also a way to represent characters. For example, red on the feet is used to symbolize evil character and evil intention.

The music of Kathakali has some similarities to the wider body of South Indian classical music (Carnatic sangeet); however, the instrumentation is decidedly different. Its local color is strongly obtained through the use of instruments such as the chenda, idakka and shuddha madalam.

Previously, this art form was popular for the characteristic style it has represented for centuries. But over the years more and more themes, refined and polished gestures, percussion and song have added to the glamor of the dance. Also, more colors and more artwork were printed on the costumes of this art form, thus increasing the glamor quotient of these outfits.

More and more shades of makeup have been introduced with the years of sliding that have enhanced the entire look of this art form. The United States has pioneered many innovations in the creation of frames and make-up replacement parts, which are typically used in this art form by the characters, as well as props as well as costume replacements.

Thanks to the traditional essence of this art form represented through dance as well as its costumes, many countries around the world have recognized and acclaimed this art form on a large scale all over the world. The colorful makeup and costumes have enchanted people as they echo the heart of Kerala in its true words of ethnicity.

The art form of Kathakali is often compared to Koodiyattam in terms of style and costume. However, the elaborate and unique style of the kathakali costumes, as well as the local language, are better represented, used and preferred by the local audience.

Kathakali dance forms, as well as their costumes, have been vividly portrayed in Malayalam films like Rangam, Vanaprastham, Marattam, Parinayam and many more.


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