The word Kathakali is derived from two Malayalam words, "katha" (story) and "kali" (play or performance).
Here are some key features of Kathakali:
- Storytelling: Kathakali performances are primarily based on stories from Hindu epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas. The stories are conveyed through a combination of dance, music, and acting.
- Facial Expressions: One of the most distinctive aspects of Kathakali is the elaborate facial expressions, or "mukhajabhinaya," used by the performers to convey emotions and depict characters. The performers undergo rigorous training to master these expressions.
- Hand Gestures: The language of hand gestures, or "mudras," is another important aspect of Kathakali. Performers use a complex system of hand gestures to convey specific ideas and emotions.
- Makeup and Costumes: Kathakali performers wear intricate and colorful makeup, which is an art form in itself. The makeup and costumes help differentiate between various characters, such as gods, demons, and humans. The elaborate headgear, known as "kireetam" or "mudi," is a signature feature of Kathakali costumes.
- Music and Vocal Accompaniment: Kathakali performances are accompanied by traditional music, including vocalists and musicians playing instruments such as the chenda (drums), maddalam (barrel-shaped drum), ilathalam (cymbals), and chengila (gong). The rhythm and melody of the music help set the mood for each scene.
- Physical Training: Kathakali performers undergo extensive physical training, which includes exercises to improve flexibility, strength, and stamina. This training is essential for executing the intricate dance movements and poses.
Kathakali is a captivating art form that combines multiple artistic disciplines, including dance, drama, music, and visual art. It is a rich and unique tradition that continues to be practiced and celebrated in Kerala and beyond.