Art forms of Kerala

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Kerala, the southwestern state of India known as “God’s Own Country,” is renowned for its enchanting natural beauty, but its cultural richness is equally captivating. This culturally diverse state is home to a plethora of art forms that have evolved over centuries, reflecting the history, traditions, and creativity of its people. In this article, we’ll explore the vibrant and diverse art forms of Kerala, each with its unique charm and significance.

1. Kathakali:

Kathakali is one of the most iconic and visually striking art forms of Kerala. Known for its elaborate makeup, colorful costumes, and dramatic performances, Kathakali combines dance, music, and theater. The performers, adorned with intricate makeup and costumes, enact stories from Hindu epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The movements are highly stylized, and the performances often involve intense facial expressions and powerful gestures.

2. Mohiniyattam:

Mohiniyattam is a graceful and elegant dance form unique to Kerala. It is characterized by the gentle swaying of the body, intricate hand gestures, and expressive facial expressions. Mohiniyattam often narrates mythological stories and devotional themes. The dancers typically wear white and gold-bordered sarees, enhancing the ethereal quality of the performance.

3. Koodiyattam:

Koodiyattam is recognized as one of the oldest theater traditions in the world, with origins dating back over 2,000 years. It involves elaborate and stylized performances of classical Sanskrit plays. Koodiyattam actors, known as Chakkiars and Nangiars, undergo years of training to master this ancient art form, which includes complex hand gestures, eye movements, and body postures.

4. Thullal:

Thullal is a lighter and more comic dance form compared to the aforementioned classical forms. It was developed by the renowned poet Kunjan Nambiar and is often performed to entertain and convey social messages. Thullal dancers wear colorful costumes and use exaggerated facial expressions to engage the audience.

5. Theyyam:

Theyyam is a unique ritualistic performance art form that combines dance, music, and mythology. It is predominantly practiced in the northern districts of Kerala. Performers, often from the lower castes, transform into deities through elaborate makeup and costumes. Theyyam ceremonies are not merely artistic performances but are deeply rooted in religious and spiritual traditions.

**6. Martial Arts:

Kerala is also known for its traditional martial arts forms, including Kalaripayattu and Parashurama Kshetram. Kalaripayattu, in particular, is considered one of the oldest martial arts in the world. It involves a combination of physical training, combat techniques, and healing practices. The fluid movements and disciplined training make it a fascinating and culturally significant art form.

**7. Mural Painting:

Kerala is famous for its mural paintings, which adorn the walls of temples and palaces. These intricate paintings depict mythological and religious themes. The colors are derived from natural materials, and the attention to detail is awe-inspiring. The Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram is known for its exquisite mural paintings.

**8. Music and Folk Art:

Kerala’s musical traditions include classical Carnatic music, which has produced renowned musicians. The state is also rich in folk music and instruments like the chenda (drum) and the idakka (a percussion instrument). Folk art forms like Oppana (a traditional bridal dance), Kalaripayattu demonstrations, and street theater are commonly seen during festivals and cultural events.


The art forms of Kerala are a testament to the state’s cultural diversity, creativity, and deep-rooted traditions. They provide a window into the rich tapestry of Kerala’s heritage, where myth, spirituality, and everyday life are interwoven into captivating performances and visual masterpieces. For anyone visiting Kerala, experiencing these art forms is not just a cultural journey but a glimpse into the soul of this beautiful state.