Kathakali is a famous Indian classical dance form from Kerala. Kathakali means to present a story in the form of a dance drama. The ancient Hindu scriptures and Purans form the basis of this Indian classical dance form.
Kathakali takes place in any open space by placing a Shamiyana, or even without it. This dance traditionally takes place during the night. On lighting large brass lamps, these dancers showcase their art.
According to Indian mythology, Jamirin, the King of Calicut, was ordered by Lord Krishna to prepare Krishna Leela in his dream. Jamirin received a peacock's feather as a boon from Lord Krishna, after which Krishnaattam (Krishnalila) came to life.
When this dance started to gain popularity and fame, then the neighbouring king 'Kottakarta' invited this dance troupe to perform at his residence. On Jamarin refusing their invitation, the king called his dancers (Nimboodari Brahmins) and presented Ramatam's Leela in an artistic manner. In this fashion, the tradition of performing leelas as a dance drama carried forward outside of temples.
Thirnattam is an exciting and extraordinary part of Kathakali. It features Tandava by male artists. Similarly, the female artists perform Kummi. The repertoire of Kathakali also showcases certain pieces from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Makeup and Costume
In Kathakali, Aharya Abhinaya (costume and makeup) is notably significant. The dancers spend hours on face decoration. For an evening performance, preparations begin in the early hours. The craftsmen who apply makeup on Kathakali dancers are remarkably proficient.
Each character requires a different make-up paste. The face of Gods and gentlemen should be green which is known as Paccha. Demons have a red paste on their face and use the black paste to add fierceness to it. Apart from this, the faces of the female characters are white natural colour only. However, for a character like Surpanakha or Putana, the mouth is made with the same colours as the demons. The faces of bandits are blackened, whereas faces of saints and secondary characters have simple makeup. These secondary characters are known as Minakku.
In the makeup of Kathakali, Cethi (a paste of rice) is used by makeup experts in several layers, from one ear to the other that gives the illusion of a short beard.
Kathakali dancers put a small seed in their eyes, which enhances their eye movement even after layers of makeup.
Kathakali dancers wear full-sleeved tunics and golden colored lehengas from neck to waist, along with some jewelry. These lehengas consist of many layers of frill. Their elaborate costume adds more effect to their dance.
The performance commences by beating the drum before the dance starts, also known as Kelikottu. On people gathering, the ceremony of worship and music starts behind the curtains, known as Thodayam and Vandana shlokam. In Thodayam, there is a focus on the technical part of the dance. The Purappadu program starts with Shankh, Nagara and Mridang Ghosh.
In the Kathakali dance, the instruments are - flute, manjeera, muchalam and four nagadas called Chaindayi. Apart from this, there is a singer who performs the Leela gaan. The nagada is the life of this dance. Every dancer considers them pure and pays respect to them through touch before starting the dance.
In Kathakali, the expressional part is more prominent than the technical dance. There are 30 subforms of this dance, which takes enough time and power to learn in every way. In conclusion, Kathakali is India's most thrilling dance drama.
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