Kathakali’s

Rituals, Costumes & Makeup

1. Keli

Keli is a festival where many percussion instruments are played in the evening to herald the oncoming Kathakali performance. Practitioners derived Keli from Mudiyettu, a foremost theatrical art. Keli involves lots of cultural elements like Maddalam, Chenda, Chengila, and Ilathalam.

When Keli concert is over, prominent artistes of the play get ready for their facial makeup known as Chutty. Chutty applications may take between one to two hours, depending on the role of the artistes.

Moreover, practitioners display other performances before the main play of the day. However, if Kathakali happens to be the only performance for the night when it’s precisely eight o’clock, a costumier puts the lamp on.

2. Arangu Keli

Before starting the Arangu Keli drumming by the Madhalam player, the traditional lamp must be put on, on the stage. After that, two individuals draw the curtains (traditionally known as Thirassila) to enclose the stage. A group of vocalists then starts to sing a hymn (Vandanalaslokam) to praise their beloved deities.

3. Thodayam

A duo of Minukku actors performs this ritual to gratify the gods. They wear traditional costumes and dance to the songs, which also serves as prayers to the gods. Despite the uniqueness of this ritual, these days, you can barely find the lovely Thodayam dance performed on stage.

4. Purappad

Purappad is a sequel to Thodayam. At this juncture, they add Chenda to the percussion instruments played. This action enlightens the crowd about the storyline of the drama for the night. The primary characters of the drama play the Purappad, most often the hero and his partner.

Subsequently, Purappad got canceled from the play, as it became a ritual. Presently though, minor artists perform Purappad posing as Sreekrishna and Balarama, Rukmini, and Subhadra. This art form presumes that the gods accepted the worship during Thodayam and are therefore present to watch Purappad with the crowd.

Purappad signifies the blessings from the gods for both the actors and the audience. Excerpt from Rajasooyam forms the Purappad lyrics, which is in honor of Sree Rama and Sree Krishna.

5. Melappadam

Now is when the singers sing the geetham song coined from Jayadava’s Geethagovindam, which may honor the late Ashtapadiyattam. This percussion concert is performed by the singers and drummers to show how gifted and skilled they are. Two drummers exhibit their talent for about 30 minutes. Instruments like cymbals and gong also come to play during this concert.

Upon concluding the Melappadam, the play begins. The Thiranokku (glancing over the curtain) rite accompanies the initial entrance of characters.

Characters and their Costumes and Makeup

In Kathakali, group members share all attires and makeup as opposed to performing arts. They group the makeup and costume into five major classes based on the similar personalities of the characters.

Pacha (Green)

The noble and gentle protagonists or heroes of the drama belongs to the Pacha (green) class. Hence the faces of these characters are colored green as their unique feature. Karna, Sreerama, Pandavasand Sreekrishna are characters belonging to this group. Other noble characters like Lord Balarama, Shiva, and Agni, however, full of wrath, are painted with saffron.

Kathi (Knife)

Kathi is the second classification, a makeup that takes a similar look to a knife, situated around the nose. It’s typically in red. However, Yama, the god of death, is colored in black, signifying Thamoguna (dark personality). The differences in the makeups are as a result of the differing natures of the characters. Hence, Kathi has other types of makeup, too. A romantic and daring Kathi character has a short (Kurumkathi) design. For instance, Ravana and Narakasura. Kathi characters act as tough men with larger designs (Nedumkathi); Yama falls into this class.

participants in Vadyam, Chutty, Vesham, and other Kathakali aspects. By so doing, we ensure this dance drama of Kerala travels far beyond its state of origin. With open arms, we welcome you to Kathakali center.