King of Performing Arts

Widely known as the ‘King of Performing Arts’, Kathakali is one of the oldest theatrical forms of Kerala. The term ‘Kathakali’ is coined from the terms ‘Katha’ (story) and ‘Kali’ (play) and literally means ‘story-play’.

Kathakali is believed to have originated in the 17th century. The administrative head (Raja) of Kottarakara in Southern Kerala is said to have compiled the first ever Kathakali performance or ‘Ramanattam’, based on a cycle of eight stories from the epic Ramayana. Kathakali as it is, draws heavily from not only the two epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha but also from ancient scriptures or Puranas. Kottarakara which boasts of a historical museum is just 2 hours drive from the resort.

Kathakali involves a great deal of stylized mimicry and it essentially seeks to drive home the message that the good always prevails over the evil. This Kerala classical dance form, performed in accordance with the dictum and fundamentals laid down by Bharatha Muni, the father of Indian Classical Dances, incorporates the five ingredients of literature (Sahithyam), music (Sangeetham), painting (Chithram), acting (Natyam) and dance (Nritham).

Traditionally performed in temple courtyards in a simple stage erected for the purpose, human feelings find expression in this art form. The nine human emotions or ‘Navarasas’ are amply personified in this form of dance. Artists dressed in brightly coloured costumes and traditional make-up and hair-do; subjugate themselves to the essence of the character. Singers render vocalized scripts to the accompaniment of native instruments like ‘Maddalam’, ‘Chengala’ and ‘Elathalom’. Kathakali is primarily a male dominant art form with female roles being played by men themselves because of the high physical demands made on the artist. But recent times have also witnessed the entry of female Kathakali artists.

A unique feature of Kathakali is that it is emotive and narrative at the same time. Hence, a basic understanding of the story being told is called for to comprehend and enjoy this dance form fully. The mythological characters come alive in the extraordinary eloquence of the performers leaving the audiences in a state of sublime trance.