Kerala's Kathakali

By Amith Ramesh


Kathakali is a highly stylized classical Indian dance-drama noted for the attractive make-up of characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the anchor playback music and complementary percussion. It originated in the country's present day state of Kerala during the 17th century and has developed over the years with improved looks, refined gestures and added themes besides more ornate singing and precise drumming.


  • It is a popular belief that Kathakali emerged from "Krishnanattam
  • Kathakali also shares a lot of similarities with Krishnanattam, Koodiyattam and Ashtapadiyattam.
  • The use of Malayalam, the local language, has also helped the literature of Kathakali sound more transparent for the average audience.
  • As a part of modernising, propagating, promoting and popularizing Kathakali, the International Centre for Kathakali at New Delhi has taken up a continuing project since 1980 of producing new plays based on not only traditional and mythological stories, but also historical stories, European classics and Shakespeare's plays.


The training can often last for 8–10 years, and is intensive!!!

A Kathakali actor uses immense concentration

The main facial expressions of a Kathakali artist are the 'navarasams'(Nine Tastes, but more loosely translated as nine feelings or expressions)