Pronunciation and Phonetics

Learning proper pronunciation can be done without much knowledge of phonetics, actually. A basic knowledge, however, helps to make pronunciation clearer and thus facilitates the process of learning how to speak a foreign language properly.

eAmbalam introduces a phonetic chart which is based on Dhevanagari script. The sounds of vowels and consonants and other speech sounds in Sanskrit and the languages which have completely or mostly borrowed from it can be covered with the help of the chart. A few other sounds common to some languages in this group and outside are also put in. Unique sounds of some languages are specified too.

Diacritical marks are used to aid perfect pronunciation. World over, these marks have been created and propagated by scholars to make understanding of the differences in speech sounds in different languages better. Team eAmbalam also has created a phonetic chart which helps even first timers to pronounce words accurately.

Our Phonetic chart is unique, comprehensive, learner friendly and is divided into four columns wherein:
  • In the first column, the letter is written with the associated diacritical mark.
  • In the second column, an example is given in Dhevanagari language containing the letter.
  • In the third column, an example is given in English, which contains the sound closes to the letter or instructions in few cases, to facilitate better understanding.
  • In the fourth column, an audio button is placed with the help of which you can hear the actual pronunciation of the letter.
An open minded approach with the above introduction and guidelines will definitely enable the user to understand the speech sounds of any language and pronounce it like a native, which is eAmbalam’s aim in this exercise.

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
A or a Aḍavu Arise
Ā or ā Ānanda Vast
I or i Indhira Sing
Ī or ī Īśha Meal
U or u U ṣhā Good
Ū or ū Ū rdhhva Boost
R or r Riṣh i Try
Ṛ or ṛ Ni ṛ uti Grr!
Lr or lr   Pronounce L and R together.
E or e Eka Ate
AI or ai Aikya Sight
O or o Ojas Robe
AU or au Audh ā rya Now
A M or am Śhiva m Drum
A HA or aha R ā ma ha Aha!
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
KA or ka Kavi Car
KHA or kha Khalu Mark -Him
GA or ga Gamana Gut
GHA or gha Ghata Ugh!
Ṅ A or ṅa Tura ṅ ga Ring
CHA or ca Chakra Chart
CHHA or cha Chhandas Branch
JA or ja Jagath Jug
JHA or jha Jhallari Fudge
NYA or nya Gnyana Knew
Ṭ A or ṭ Ṭ anka Top
ṬHA or ṭha Pāṭha Pothole
ḌA or da Ḍ amaruka Dog
Ḍ HA or ḍ ha Mūḍ ha Madhouse
Ṇ A or ṇ a Ga ṇ a Wander
THA or tha Thanu Health
THHA or thha Athha Theater
DHA or dha Dha śha This
DHHA or dhha Dhhana m Dha with an additional H sound
NA or na Namask ā raha Nut
PA or pa   Path ā ka Past
PHA or pha Phala m P with a H sound
BA or ba Bandhhu Ball
BHA or bha Bhadra Abhor
MA or ma Manas Money
YA or ya Yama Yummy
RA or ra Rajas Rub
LA or la Lath ā Lust
VA or WA, va /wa A śh va or A śhwa Water/Valour
ŚHA or śha Śhakthi Shutter
ṢHA or ṣ ha Ṣh a ṇ mukha Shunt
SA or sa Sarasvatī Sun
HA or ha Hari Hum
Ḷ A or ḷ a Ar āḷ a Bold
KṢHA or k ṣ ha Ak ṣh i Try to pronounce Ka, Sa & Ha – all at one time.
Extra Vowels in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada & Malayalam Scripts    
É or é Éṇi Angel
Ō or ō Ō m Ō M
ZHA Exclusive to Tamil & Malayalam Fold the tip of your tongue backwards and try to pronounce it with the aid of the audio button.
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English


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The Music of  Kerala  has a long and rich history. It is not the same as Malayalam poetry although most of it is poetry driven. Kerala has a rich tradition in  Carnatic music . The significance of music in the culture of Kerala can be established just by the fact that in Malayalam language, musical poetry was developed long before prose. With the development of music in the region, different branches were formed out of it. The most basic branches are classical music which is primarily Carnatic music oriented, and  popular music  which includes film songs and album songs. Then there is music like  chenda melam which is quite popular.

Classical Music

Keraḷa  is musically known for  Sopānam . Sopānam is religious in nature, and developed through singing invocatory songs inside temples. Sopānam came to prominence in the wake of the increasing popularity of Jayadheva 's  Gītha Govindha  or  Aṣhṭapadhis . Sopāna sangītham (music), as the very name suggests, is sung by the side of the holy steps (sopānam) leading to the  sanctum sanctorum  of a  shrine .

  • Sopānam Sangitham

Sopānam Sangītham consists of step-by-step version of rāga-based songs. These songs are sung in the Bhakti (loving devotion to God in the form of music and poetry) tradition in front of sopāna (steps in front of the holy place) and are dedicated to the deity of a temple. Musicians normally stand on the left side of the steps or sopāna and and sing devotional songs with the accompaniment of musical instruments like eḍakka drum (a typical Keraḷa percussion instrument), and chengila. So the name Sopānam Sangītham has been derived from the term Sopāna or Sopānam meaning 'Sanctum Sanctorum' of the temple. Sopāna Music or Sopāna Sangītham was an exponent of the Keraḷa Bhakti Cult Movement and most of the lyrics (aṣthapathi) are rooted in famous poet Jayadheva’s immortal work, 'Gītha Govindha'. The traditional Kathakaḷi music is the perfect instance of the uniqueness of Sopāna sangītham.

Some famous sopānam singers are  Neralattu Rāma Poduvāḷ Janārdhanan Neḍungadi and Dhāmodhara Mārar.

Legends like Swāthi Thirunāḷ, Ṣhadkalā Govindha Mārar,  Chembai Vaidyanātha Bhāgavatar , Yesudhās(Jesudhās),  Pālghāt Maṇi Iyer , Vidhwān Gopāla Piḷḷai, Chertala Gopālan Nair,  M . D . Ramanathan ,  T . V . Gopalakrishnan , Śhankaran Nambūthiri and  T . N . Krishnan  are renowned musical exponents from Keraḷa.

Other styles :

Kathakaḷi Music

The language of the songs used for Kathakaḷi is  Manipravāḷam , a mixture of  Tamil  and  Sanskrit . Even though most of the songs are set in rāgas based on the microtone-heavy Carnātic music, there is a distinct style of plain-note rendition. This typically Keraḷa style of rendition takes its roots from the temple songs which used to be sung (continues even now at several temples) at the time when Kathakaḷi was born.

Puḷḷuvan Pāttu

The  puḷḷuvar  of Keraḷa are closely connected to the serpent worship. One group among these people consider the snake gods as their presiding deity and perform certain sacrifices and sing songs. This is called Puḷluvan Pāttu. The song conducted by the puḷḷuvar in serpent temples and snake groves is called Sarppapāttu, Nāgam Pāttu,  Sarpam Thuḷḷal , Sarppolsavam, Pāmbum Thuḷḷal or Pāmbum Kālam. The main aspects of this are Kaḷamezhuthu (Drawing of Kaḷam, a ritual art by itself), song and dance.

Oṭṭamthuḷḷal Songs

Oṭṭamthuḷḷal songs are meant for the performance of the art form called Oṭṭamthuḷḷal. The Oṭṭamthuḷḷal artist has to sing and dance to his music. Unlike in the case of  Kathakaḷi , the language is not heavy Sanskritized Maḷayāḷam and the lyrics are set to rhythms that range from simple to rare and complicated.

Folk Songs

Keraḷa is very rich in its folk song tradition and has many varying folk songs as there are there are variances in the climate, land, people and their occupations.

The nāḍanpāṭṭu (nāḍan-native, pāṭṭu-songs) of Keraḷa or  Keraḷa  folk songs narrate unrecorded tales of the land and people. These lyrical songs are evoked from the emotions and simple wisdom of agrestic folk. Almost every aspect of life and occasions such as childbirth marriage, festivals, the glee of the harvest season, weddings, war, the union of man and woman, mythology and religion and death finds a place in Keraḷa folksongs.

Māppilapāṭṭukaḷ, Paḷḷipāṭṭukal, Ōṇapāṭṭukaḷ, Mappiḷapāṭṭu, Vilpāṭṭu and Vanchipāṭṭukal, are some of these native songs of different castes and communities of Keraḷa.

Instrumental music

The instrumental music of Keraḷa is dramatic and lively with a large number of musical instruments such as Chenḍa, Dolak, Eḍakka, Mizhavu, Mrudhangam, Udukku, Takil and Timila and a few percussion instruments. Wind instruments include Kombu, Kuzhal, Nādhaswaram and Mughavīṇā and so on. The varied stringed instruments include Thambhuru, Sārangi, Swarabi, Vīṇā and Violin. The Chenḍameḷam has become an inseparable part of all the temple festivals of Keraḷa. 'Thayampaka' is another unique temple vādhya.

  • Mizhavu or Mizhav is a large drum made of copper or clay and is played as an accompanying percussion instrument in the famous ceremonial temple performances of Keraḷa- Kūthu and Kūḍiyāṭṭam .It resembles a big jar and has a narrow mouth with a leather covering. This musical instrument is solely played with hands. Only the traditional Ambalavāsi Nambiār community, Chākkiyār and the Nangiārs were entitled to play the Mizhavu inside the temples or Kūthambalams. The reverberating beat of the Mizhavu is still unparalleled when compared with the sonata of other percussion instruments.
  • Panchavādhyam
    Panchavādhyam is a classical performance of various musical instruments that are endemic to Keraḷa. As the term “pancha” in Sanskrit means five, Panchavādhyam consists of five percussion instruments- Idakka, Elathāḷam, Kombu, Shuddha Maddhalam and Timila. Edakka, Shuddha Maddhalam and Timila are different kind of drums while Elathāḷam is a cymbal and the Kombu is a kind of trumpet. Altogether symphony of these five musical instruments captivates the listeners. The performance of Panchavādhyam is an integral part of the festivals of the Temples in Keraḷa, especially in Central Keraḷa.

Church Choir

Keraḷa has a good tradition in choral singing and music. Many of the popular music directors like  Jerry Amaldhev ,  Ouseppachan , Johnson etc., have come from the church music background.

Māppiḷa Pāttu

The  Malabar  region of the state, with a large  Muslim  population had developed a signature music stream based on the Hindusthāni style. The stream consists of a variety of forms like  ghazals  and māppila pāṭṭu, and also music for authentic Muslim dance forms such as oppana and kol kaḷi. The poetry forms a main part of this stream of music, which is primarily in Maḷayāḷam with the use of  Arabic  words in between which is known as ArabiMaḷayāḷam. Māppila songs have a charm of their own as their tunes sound a mix of the ethos and culture of Keraḷa as well as West Asia. They deal with diverse themes such as religion, love, satire and heroism.

Popular music

Popular music  of  Keraḷa  had a linear development along with  classical music  of the region, till the branches separated. The popular music in Keraḷa is enriched by its highly developed  film music  branch. Other forms of popular music include light music ,  albums  otherwise known as Mallu Pop.  Devotional songs  also constitute a major part of Maḷayāḷam popular music.

      • Maḷayāḷam film music

Film music , which refers to  playback singing  in the context of  Indian music , forms the most important canon of popular music in India. Film music of Keraḷa in particular is the most popular form of music in the state. Before  Maḷayāḷam cinema  and Maḷayāḷam film music developed, the  Keraḷites  eagerly followed  Tamil  and  Hindi  film songs and that habit has stayed with them till now. The history of Maḷayāḷam film songs begin with the 1948 film Nirmala. The film's music director was P.S. Dhivākar and the songs were sung by P.Līlā, T. K. Govindha Rao, Vāsudeva Kurup, C. K. Rāghavan, Sarojini Menon and Vimala B. Varma, who is credited as the first playback singer of Maḷayāḷam cinema.

The main trend in the early years was to use the tune of hit Hindi or Tamil songs in Maḷayāḷam songs. This trend was changed in the early 1950s by the arrival of a number of poets and musicians to the Maḷayāḷam music scene. K . J . Yesudas , who debuted in 1961, virtually revolutionized the Maḷayāḷam film music industry and became the most popular Maḷayāḷam singer ever. He became equally popular with classical music audience and people who patronized film music. He, along with  P . Jayachandran , gave a major facelift to Maḷayāḷam playback singing in the 1960s and 1970s. Maḷayāḷam film music also received heavy contributions from musicians like  Johnson ,  M . G . Rādhākriṣhṇan ,  Ravīndhran , S . P . Venkitesh  and  Ouseppachan, lyricists like  Srīkumaran Thampy,  Yusuf Ali Kechery, and  Kaithapurom Dhāmodharan Nambūdhiri , and singers like  M . G . Srīkumar ,  G . Venugopāl , K.s.chithrā and  Sujāthā Mohan.

A notable aspect in the later years was the extensive of classical  Carnātic music  in many film songs of the later 1980s and early 1990s. Interestingly, that particular period is also considered the peak time of  Maḷayāḷam cinema  itself and is quite widely known as the Golden Age of Maḷayāḷam cinema, a period in which the difference between art films and popular films was least felt. Similarly, classical Karnātic music was heavily used in several popular film songs, most notably those in films like Chithram  (1988),  His Highness Abdullah  (1990),  Bharatham  (1991),  Sargam  (1992) and Sopanam (1993).

The  male singers who got national award  are  K . J . Yesudhās  (1973, 1974, 1988, 1992, 1994),  P . Jayachandran  (1986) and  M . G . Srīkumar  (1991, 2000). Yesudhās has won two more national awards for singing in  Hindi  (1977) and  Telugu  (1983) films, which makes him the person who has won the largest number of  National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer with 7 awards, closely trailed by  S . P . Bālasubramaṇiam  with 6 awards.

The  female singers who have won the award  are  S . Jānaki  (1981) and ā (1987, 1989). Chitrā had also won the award for Tamil (1986, 1997, 2005) and Hindi (1998) film songs, which makes her the person with the largest number of  National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer  wins with 6 awards, closely trailed by P.Sushīlā with 5 awards.

Maḷayāḷam Pop music

Pop music in Keraḷa, developed in the later half of 1990s with the entry of East Coast Vijayan and his music company East Coast Audios. East Coast Vijayan can be regarded as the pioneer of non-film pop album songs in Keraḷa. Being a poet himself, Vijayan penned down the first non-film music album in Maḷayāḷam Ninakkai, which was released in 1998.The music was given by  Bālabhāskar  and the song "Ninakkay Thozhi Punarjanikkam" sung by Biju Nārāyaṇan became a big hit. In 1999, Vijayan came up with his second album in 'Ninakkai' series named Ādhyamāi, composed by Bālabhāskar and penned by Vijayan himself. The song "Iniyārkkum Ārodum" sung by  K . J . Yesudhās  became another hit. In 2001, East Coast came up with Ormakkai which is widely regarded as the biggest hit in the history of Maḷayāḷam Pop Music. The song "Ormakkai Iniyoru Snehagītham" from the album, composed by  M . Jayachandran , penned down by Vijayan and sung by  K . J . Yesudhās  and K.S.Chithrā is widely regarded as an all time classic hit.

Meanwhile Pop albums had caught up the imagination of college campuses and more talents started to come up with music albums. One of such early albums that had become a rage with the youth of that time was Valentine's Day. The song "Niranja Mizhiyum" from the album composed by Isaac Thomas Kottukappally and penned down by  Girīsh Puthanchery  had become a big hit in college campuses. Audio companies other than East Coast started to come up with Music Albums. Front runners among them were Johny Sāgarika, Sathyam Audios, Magnum audios and Octave audios. As a result Pop music culture grew in Keraḷa. After a gap of 6 years, East Coast came up with their 6th album in Ninakkai series, a very ambitious project 'Ennennum'. The album was released in 5 languages in India with 60 songs involving 30 leading singers in the country. This magnum opus album was composed by Vijay Karun and penned down by East Coast Vijayan. It can be regarded as the first big budget music album of Keraḷa. Talented young composers like Rāshī (Alone, Loved and Lost), Dijo Jose Antony (La Cochin), Nithin (Autograph), Mithun Rāj(Violet)have also created their marks in the Maḷayāḷam album industry.



There are 50 folk dances in Keraḷa, the popular ones are Kaḷiyattom, Kolam Thuḷḷal, Kolkaḷi, Veḷakaḷi and Kaikoṭṭikaḷi. All these are performed in accompaniment of songs and drumming and often in colourful ornamental costumes. From these arose Keraḷa's classical dances like Kūthu, Kathakaḷi, Mohiniāṭṭam and Patokom. Kathakaḷi uses vivid and eloquent mudhrās (hand signs). A visually powerful art form, the Kathakaḷi dance dramas are based on stories from the two great Indian epics - the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhāratha. It is said to have evolved from a rivalry between two princely families. One had written a story cycle revolving around the life of Krishṇa, called Kriṣhṇanāṭṭam, the other around the life of Rāmā called Rāmanāṭṭam. Mohini āṭṭam, which literally means "the dance of the enchantress", is sensuous and lyrical. Dancers display grace as well as passion


Mohiniyāṭṭam is a dance form said to have originated in Keraḷa. It is closely related to Bharathanātyam of Tamil Nadu, which was originally called 'Dhāsiyāṭṭam'. Originated as the temple dance performed by Devadhāsis, it portrays feminine love in its myriad forms - carnal, devotional and maternal- with accent more on Lāsya and Bhāva. In the main items Cholkeṭṭu, Padhavarṇam and Padham, Mudhrās and facial expressions are more important than the rhythmic steps. Costumes and ornaments of Mohiniyāṭṭam have much in common with female characters of Kūdiyāṭṭam and Kathakaḷi. The first reference to Mohiniyāṭṭam is found in 'Vyavaharamala' composed by Mazhamangalam Nārāyaṇan Nambūdhiri, assigned to the 16th century AD.

The theme of Mohiniyāṭṭam is love and devotion to god. Viṣhṇu or Kriṣhṇa is more often the hero. The spectators could feel his invisible presence when the heroine or her maid details dreams and ambitions through the circular movements, delicate fūtsteps and subtle expressions. The dancer in the slow and medium tempos is able to find adequate space for improvisations and suggestive bhāvas. In format, this is similar to Bharathanātyam. The movements are graceful like Oḍissi and the costumes sober and attractive. It is essentially a solo dance, but in present times it is performed in groups also. The repertoire of Mohiniyāṭṭam follows closely that of Bharathanātyam. Beginning with Cholkeṭṭu, the dancer performs Jathiswaram, Varṇam, Padham and Thillāna in a concert. Varṇam combines pure and expressional dance, while Padham tests the histrionic talent of a dancer and Thillana exposes her technical artistry.

Popular dance forms


Thiruvāthirakaḷi is a classical dance form, which is a pointer to the old customs followed in the Nair tharawaḍus (joint families). In this dance form, the women of the house dance elegantly around the ceremonial lamp or floral decoration on festive occasions to the accompaniment of the thiruvāthira pāṭṭu (song).

Thiruvāthirakaḷi or Kaikottikaḷi is a popular dance form of the women folk of Keraḷa. In this, eight to ten girls perform forming a circle by themselves. They sing and dance to the rhythm of clapping hands. Well-versed padams of Kathakaḷi and Mohiniyāṭṭam come alive in Thiruvāthirakaḷi with a folk accent. The music and movements of Thiruvāthirakaḷi has a native simplicity and lyrical grace. This graceful systematic group dance is performed on festivals like Oṇam and Thiruvāthira.

The dominant sentiment of this rustic dance is unalloyed joy. The footwork and movements of this form have grown naturally from the grace, simplicity, dignity, boldness, sense of beauty and such other qualities that are abundant in the woman of Keraḷa. This dance form has an amazing lāsya charm redolent of devotion and erotic sentiment. Moving in circle, clock wise and anti clock wise, the dancers bend sideways also for clapping together in beautiful gestures. The songs of the dance have sprung up from the everyday life of rustic generation, particularly from the simple amusement of women folk. For this reason, their tunes and rhythm are closely associated with the social life and natural beauty of Keraḷa. Some other forms are also prevalent of this folk dance known as kolāṭṭam and Kummi.


Thuḷḷal, the dance form of Keraḷa is yet another gem in the vast repertoire of Keraḷa'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 Kūdiyāṭṭam, Kriṣhṇanāṭṭam, Kathakaḷi and Mohiniyāṭṭam, it requires no initiation to intelligently respond to it. One can easily react and enjoy Thuḷḷal without any prior exposure or sophisticated understanding. As this is composed in the language of the layman, it is known as the 'poor man's Kathakali'

The word Thuḷḷal 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'. Thullal presentation generally lasts two hours and are rendered at a pitch and pace that keep onlookers thoroughly gripped. The dancer dances and sings simultaneously and this entails a long period of rigorous training, an agile body and a communicative voice. The dancer must also be gifted with a sharp memory, for he must remember long poems some of which have over 1000 couplets. The emotions pertain mainly to valour, humour, pathos, anger and devotion. Śhrungāra, the erotic element, is virtually absent, but is rarely missed, for the burden of the songs and the nature of the dance are hardly conducive to tender passions.

In make-up and costumes, Thuḷḷal has the traces of colour and the gorgeousness of Kathakaḷi. The face is painted with yellow arsenic mixed with blue. The eyes are blackened and lips reddened. The dancer wears a breast-plate adorned with golden pearls, necklaces and colourful tassels. The white waist clothes resemble skirts. The head-gear is small, made of light wood, studded with bright stones and decorated with golden paper. The bracelets, amulets and waist lets are almost the same as in Kathakaḷi.

Thuḷḷal is of three kinds: Oṭṭan, Parayan and Sīthangan. The distinction between them lies mostly in the make-up and costumes and to some extend in meters and rāgas of the text. Of these, Oṭṭan Thuḷḷal is the most popular.

  • Oṭṭanthuḷḷal

A solo dance exposition, the Thullal is of three types. Its origin is attributed to Kunchan Nambiar, a veritable genius and one of the foremost poets of Keraḷa. Though based on classic principles of Natya Shastra the technique of this art is not rigid. The songs, written in simple Maḷayāḷam, frank outspoken wit and humour, the simplicity of presentation and the direct appeal to every day life made Thullal very popular.


A mixed dance in which both men and women participate. The performers move in a circle, striking small sticks and keeping rhythm with special steps. The circle expands and contracts as the dance progress. The accompanying music gradually rises in pitch and the dance reaches its climax .Sometimes it is performed on a specially constructed wooden stage .Thus the name thaṭṭinmelkaḷi.

Ritual dance forms


The Theyyam is a popular ritual dance of north Keraḷa. It is also known as Theyyāttam.It is usually the representation of a divine or heroic character from mythology and one of the most spectacular oldest temple art forms of Keraḷa. As a living cult with centuries old traditions, ritual and custom, it embraces almost all castes and classes of Hindu religion in this region. The term Theyyam is a corrupt form of dhaivam or God. It is a rare combination of dance and music and reflects important features of a tribal culture.


Mudiyeṭṭu is ritualistic dance springing from the Bhagavathy cult. The theme depicts the glory and triumph of Bhagavathy over the demon Dhārika. The characters are all heavily made up with gorgeous costumes, intricate and elaborate and with conventional facial paintings, tall head - gears etc. Attired and adorned exotically with a unique weirdness and hideousness, the characters seem quit supernatural. Their mien and array make them colorful, imposing and awe-inspiring in the extreme. The dance is performed by a set of people known as Kuruppanmār, mainly in Bhadrakāḷi temple.


A devotional offering performed in Bhadrakāḷi temples. A set of performers known as Thīyyaṭṭunnis alone are entitled to perform it. The theme is usually the killing of the Dharika by Bhadrakāḷi. The Unnis first draw the picture of Bhadrakāḷi (called Kaḷam) on the flūr, with a five different types of colour powers.

Community dance forms


An extremely vigorous ring - dance of the Vattuvar community. Both men and women participate in the dance. Twelve different types of 'steps' are executed. The beauty of the intricate footwork is heightened by the tinkling of anklets and bells and also by the rhythmic clapping of hand. The whirling movements become faster as the dancing reaches a climax. The dance is also called chuvadukaḷi or chavittukaḷi.


A dance form essential to the wedding entertainment and festivities of the Malabār Muslims. Maidens and young female relatives sing and dance around the bride, clapping their hands. The songs of Māppiḷappāttu, are first sung by the leader and are repeated by the chorus. The themes are often teasing comments and innuendoes about the bride's anticipated nuptial bliss. Oppana is often presented as a stage item today.


Mārgamkaḷi is a ritual folk art of the Syrian Christians of Kottayam and Thrissūr districts. A dozen dancers sing and dance around a lighted wick lamp (Nilaviḷakku), clad in the simple traditional white dhoti and sporting a peacock feather on the turban to add a touch of colour.

Theatre (Dance Dramas)


Also called kūthu, is one of the oldest classical theatre arts of Keraḷa. The solo dance is usually presented in the kūthambalam of temples to the accompaniment of the mizhavu and elathāḷam. The performance begains with an invocation to the presiding deity of the temple. The narration is enlivened with the thānḍava dance movements, gestures and facial expression according to the guidelines in nāṭya śhāstra. Kūthu is distinct for its comic element which adds to its dramatic character. Themes are usually from the epics. The costume is colourful and bizarre with a strange headgear


Kūḍiyāṭṭam literally means "acting together". This is the earliest classical dramatic art form of Keraḷa. Based on Sage Bharatha's 'Nāṭyaśhāsthra' who lived in the second century, Kūḍiyāṭṭam evolved in the 9th century AD. The only extant classical Sanskrit theatre in India is Kūḍiyāṭṭam. This one thousand year-old theatre is the traditional privilege of Chākyārs and Nambiārs (temple-castes of Keraḷa). Chākyārs enact the male roles and the Nangiārs (women of Nambiār) take female roles. The actors and actresses render verbal acting in stylized Sanskrit and Prākrit (a colloquial form of Sanskrit) respectively.


It is a dance-drama based on the stories from the Ramayana and Mahābhāratha. The makeup process for the dance itself is a show and the rich costumes, face-masks and paints are specially made from natural material.

Kathakaḷi draws heavily from drama and is danced with elaborate masks and costumes. Kathakaḷi recitals are generally long and while other dance forms are more emotive than narrative, Kathakaḷi is both. It combines dance with dialogue to bring myth and legend to life in the temple courtyards of Keraḷa. The dancers use their stunning costumes and make-up, with the accompaniment of drums and vocalists, to create various moods and emotions. So strong is the identification of the dancers with the characters they play and so absolute their conviction, that they seem to surpass themselves, becoming one with the legendary heroes and heroines they depict.

Present day Kathakaḷi is a dance drama tradition, which evolved from centuries of highly stylized theatrical traditions of Keraḷa, especially Kūdiyāṭṭam. Ritual traditions like Theyyams, Mudiyāṭṭam and the martial arts of Keraḷa played a major role in shaping the dance into its present form. The great poet Vaḷḷathol rediscovered Kathakaḷi, establishing the Keraḷa Kalāmandaḷam in 1932 which lent a new dimension to the art-form.

Fusion dance form


The neoclassical dances of Keraḷa represent a delicate fusion of the folk and classical traditions of Keraḷa's dances. But the fusion is not artistically complete to the extent that homogenous blending of the two dance forms has not been achieved to perfection. The neoclassical dances surfaced at some intermediate stage between the process of evolution from the folk tradition to the classical tradition. The neoclassical dance, thus retain not only the essential flavours of the folk and classical traditions but project distinctive new ideas.

Martial art and Dance


It's a traditional martial art form where artist move with a grace of dancers at the same time wielding deadly weapons in their hands

  • Styles of Kalaripayaṭṭu
  • Northern Kaḷaripayaṭṭu places comparatively more emphasis on weapons than on empty hands.
  • Southern Kaḷaripayaṭṭu is a style of kalaripayaṭṭu, practice and fighting techniques emphasize empty hands.
  • The central style is a combination of northern and southern styles that includes northern meipayaṭṭu preliminary exercises.

Veḷa Kaḷi

A martial dance of the Nair community. This depicts ancient warfare in Keraḷa in all its ferocity and valour. Armed with shining swords and shields in exotic costumes they dance with vigour and force. The dance ends with the victory of good over evil.

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