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Arts & Entertainment
As much as with the beauty of the land, Kerala is equally blessed with diverse and rich art forms passed down generations and still maintained in all its glory by the performance artists as well as art connoisseurs and general public. The traditional art forms of Kerala can be broadly classified into five groups namely Classical Arts, Folk Arts, Fine Arts, Martial Arts and Kerala Temple Music.
Kerala is home to many classical art forms such as Kathakali, Koodiyattam, Ottamthullal, Mohiniyattam and Chakyar Koothu to name a few. They involve story telling though dance steps, gestures and expressions accompanied by music. Classical arts generally follow Natya Shastra (the ancient manual for dance) and are performed by seasoned artists after years of learning. Elaborate make up, grand costumes and ornaments, all add to the visual appeal of these art forms unique to Kerala.
Theyyam, Thiruvathirakkali, Chavittunatakam, Markkam Kali, Oppana and many more come under popular Folk Arts of Kerala. Most of them are a mix of dance and music, some evolved from a tribal culture like Theyyam, supposed to be a dance ritual by God itself performed via a designated person to fulfill the vows by devotees, while some are a way of celebrating an event or festival.
Kerala fine arts include Mural paintings, done on the ancient temple walls using pure, earthy colors prepared from organic mediums mixed with coconut water or neem extact. Kalam Varakkal is another traditional art, where intrinsic designs are created on the ground using different coloured powder mediums during various rituals like Kalam pattu, Naga Pattu etc.
In addition, Kerala has been home to some outstanding artists like Raja Ravi Varma whose paintings are displayed in the various art galleries and palaces here.
Kalaripayattu is the ancient martial art form originated in Kerala and is one of the oldest of its kind of physical fighting in the world. It requires perfect coordination between mind and body and can only be mastered by long years of training. Increased body agility and suppleness is also essential to become a Kalaripayattu practitioner so the training starts with elaborate and extensive oil massages. Kalari means the training ground and Payattu means fight which can be with bare hands as well as with weapons like swords, spears, daggers and Urumi which is a snake like long sword etc. Kalari is also treated as a sacred place where Kalari deities are worshipedand blessings are sought before fights.
Kalaripayattu is undergoing a revival in Kerala with increased awareness of its potential as a form of self-defence. There are many people and institutions teaching and practicing Kalari all across Kerala. Demonstration events and performances are also conducted for tourists visiting.
Kerala temple music forms the fifth group. This include Panchavadyam (literally means five instruments), Pandimelam or Pancharimelam which are temple percussion music accompanying processions and events. And then there is the music for the Gods themselves, Sopana Sangeetham. Sopanam means the Sanctum Sanctorum of the temple and sangeetham means music. This is performed by a person belonging to a particular religion and sub caste, who stand near the Sopanam and sing while playing music instrument called Edakka. The songs are renditions of devotional music like Ashtapadi and the singing style follows a rhythmic rising and falling reminding of waves. Sopana Sangeetham, whether performed in temple or on a stage evokes presence of God itself – such is the effect of this style of singing.
Other traditional musical art forms are Thottam paattu, Kutthiyotta paattu , Pulluvan paattu all of which accompany certain religious and classical rituals that were part of ancient Kerala customs.