Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Padayani is a ritualistic art form performed in Bhadrakali temples of Central Travancore mainly in Pathanamthitta,Alapuzha and Kottayam Districts of Kerala.
It is done as part of annual festival of these temples and mostly celebrated in the months of February to May.(Malayalam months Kumbham,Meenam and Medam).
The legend is that Goddess Bhadrakali after killing the Demon Darika  became very furious and destructive.Because of her immense power nobody was brave enough to go near her to make her calm.Her creator Lord Shiva laid on the way and Kali Devi without noticing him stepped on him.She understood that by mistake she stepped on him and regained  her senses.But yet she was in an angry mood and to make her calm down and happy Lord Shiva with his aides(Bhootha Gana) wore effigies of different characters and danced before her.Goddess Bhadrakali Devi witnessing the painted masks, costumes of areca tree sheaths, and painted headgears became very happy.Since this dance was enjoyed by her,  every year in Bhadrakali temples effigies which are known as 'Kolam' are made and dancers perform with the aid of percussion instrument known as 'Thappu'.Cymbals and Chenda are other musical instruments used.
                           Padayani is very ancient art form originated before Brahmin supremacy and purely a Dravidian cult is followed for it.The songs are traditional handed over to generations which are in simple Malayalam.
Apparitions of Gods,Semi Gods or Demons are made on 'Sheaths of tender arecanut flower bunches' which are off-white in colour.Such sheaths are cut out to required sizes, sewed together and painted with natural colours.Lime,
Carbon,turmeric paste,green paste made of certain leaves,powder of certain
coloured stones etc are used for painting on them.
Different characters have different forms and designs and they are all followed strictly as per the traditional ways, instructed by their  'Guru'.It is believed that the 'deity' of the respected  'effigy' will have the presence at the time of the performance of that 'Kolam' and influences the dancer also.That deity and Bhadra Kali Devi will bless the painters, dancers,devotees who made arrangements for the Kolam,  Villagers and spectators is the belief.So  during the making of the effigies and while performing them everybody pays all kinds of respect and follows the rituals strictly.
There are so many varieties of 'Kolams' like " Pakshi,Yakshi,Maadan,Marutha,
Pisachu,Kuthira Kolam,Kalan Kolam,Bhairavi Kolam,Bhadrakali Kolam,Dhoomavathi,Ambara Yakshi,Arakki Yakshi,Sundara Yakshi" etc etc.
Padayani may be performed for one day or for  several days as per the tradition of the temple concerned.If the festival extends for many days every day 'Kolams' such as 'Pakshi,Yakshi,Maadan,Marutha and Pisachu' are  surely performed which are collectively known as 'Pancha Kolam'.The Villagers seek Bhadrakali's protection and blessing for not to get any harm from them.'Kalan Kolam' and 'Bharavi Kolam' are also performed every day.
                          At the 'Neelamperoor Temple' some special Kolams like 
'Swan' (small and big sizes) are performed and believed that they are remnant of the Budhist cult prevailed in Kerala.
Occasionally very large 'Kolam' known as 'Chattakolam' which are created  out of more than 1000 sheaths are made.Such Kolams can not be carried on head because of huge size and weight  but drawn on carts around the temple and placed at a place.It will be a ravishing and imposing vignette show piece.

The word padayani means an array of soldiers.Lord Shiva's 'Pada'(Soldiers) started 'Padayani', and hence the name is a belief.The 'Nair' soldiers of yesteryears used to perform in olden days and the name derived is another belief.Still now, before the perform of 'Kolams' some  men of the village displays acrobatics,martial arts,physical strength-stamina-physical  abilities and flexibility  as a Custom which is known as 'Kappoli' at the temple premises.
Padayani is the festival in which all the villagers take part without any discrimination.It is the festival period of unity,enjoyment and 'True Devotion'.

                            The finished 'Kolams' are  worn by  trained dancers and brought to the temple at night in a procession and torches made up of dry coconut leaves are used along with some oil lamps in the traditional way.Afterwards each and every 'Kolams' are performed according to their particular songs and respective rules.These dances will mostly finish at dawn only and as the last item a ritual known as 'Poopada' is performed.
The colourful effigies of the sanguinary characters in different shapes and sizes reflected   by the flames of torches,the schematic springy foot steps done deftly by the dancers creates  an enchanting and wonderful mood 
for the spectators.
Kadammanitta Bhagavathy Temple-Pathanamthitta,
Kurambala Bhagavathy Temple-Pandalam
Puthukkulangara Bhagavathy Temple-Othara-Chengannur
Vadasserikavu Bhagavathy Temple-Mundancavu-Chengannur etc
are some of the famous Bhadra Kali Temples where Padayani is celebrated
in a grand manner every year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013



Margam Kali is an ancient art form of Christians in Kerala, mainly Syrian Christians and it is held for entertainment purpose.It has resemblance with an art form of Brahmins which is known as 'Sangha Kali(Panenkali).Some people has the opinion that it resembles the early form of 'Thiruvathira Kali' of Kerala.
The word 'Margam' refers to the Path of Christ.The meaning of 'margam kali' can be said that a play of the people who has accepted the path of Christ.
In Kerala this has been popular for more than 500 years.In a Latin text which was published in 1589 there is mention of 'Margam Kali' of Kerala.
Earlier this play was handled by men but now a days it is mostly played by women.
Margam Kali is a competitive item of Kerala Youth Festival from the 70's and it has got an uplift from then on.It is held as part of ceremonial functions at present.
A lighted oil lamp is placed in significance to Jesus Christ and 12 players dance around it singing  specific songs meant for this art from.The players use gestures and actions with swift movements which need special coaching and practice.They wear 'dhoti' and a long blouse which is known as 'Chatta'.They may wear head dress adorned with a pea-cock feather also.After dancing in circles for a while they used to display martial arts with artificial sword and shield.Only cymbals are used as musical instrument for 'Margam kali'.The theme of the songs are about the descriptions of the arrival of St.Thomas to Kerala,the warm  reception he got in this region ,the details of the churches he established in Kerala etc.


This is an art form which has direct relation to martial arts 'Kalari Payattu' of Kerala.
The players display their ability to use sword and shield in a wonderful manner 
standing in a circle.This kind of play is popular among other communities of Kerala also.During ceremonial functions like Church fair, wedding etc 'Parichamuttu Kali is  widely performed in Kerala.The stories of St.Thomas etc are sung for this art form also.


Vattakali is largely performed as an entertainment item conducted for wedding ceremonies etc. Religious songs are sung for this play.The players swiftly dance in circles singing  songs which has different types of  tunes and dance accordingly.There were many variations of songs varieties such as ' Mangalyam Vattakali,Aadam Vattakali,Vadymanam Vattakali,Poorva Ouseph Vattakali,  etc.


This art form is popular in all places of Kerala in the names 'Kambadi Kali,Kolkali, Koladikali etc' and  Hindus, Christians and Muslims participates in this art form.There may be slight differences regionally but basically eight or ten  pair of youths in special attire play Kambadi Kali.The players use small sticks and display special dance varieties which require efficient coaching and practice.
'Chuttikol, Thettikol, Irunnu Kali, Thaduthu Kali, Chavutti Chuttal, Vattakkol'..etc etc  up to 60 variations are there in Kambadi Kali.The players has to concentrate on the tune, foot steps,sticks movements etc and play skilfully to make it appealing to the spectators.


Chavittu Natakam or Chavittu Kali  was very much  popular in Kerala among Kerala Christians but it is confined to certain parts of Alleppey District, Trissur District and some other places at present.It is a classical art form which was developed in 17 th century.This art form was initially started by two Christian eminent scholars from Tamil Nadu ' Chinna Tampi Pillai and Veda Nayakam Pillai' at Mattancherry in Kerala.
Earlier it was performed on stage made of wooden planks tied together and the players dance on them with heavy forceful steps (Chavittu- in Malayalam)
and hence the name for this dance-drama.
The participants use glittering costumes (Roman), and the main characters 
wear broached dress, headdress and crowns.The soldiers wear hats fitted with a quill.The participants make detailed body movements,shows gestures and dance or act with specific pounding  steps  along with accompanied songs and percussion instruments.It is performed on stages,on open places or inside churches.
The drama starts with a prayer and then a comedy actor enters who is known as 'Kattiyakkaran' and sings comedy songs.The real play starts after wards.Chavittu Natakam has resemblance basically with the 'Opera' of Europe.

The theme of Chavittu Natakam varies such as Bible heroic stories,spiritual themes and or moral themes etc.