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Album: By Country | By Date India | April 2001 < Prev: Kochi | Next: Munnar >
Travelogue: By Country | By Date India | April 2001  

April 2001 - Kathakali Dancing

A form of classical Indian dance-drama indigenous to Kerala

Putting on makeup.  Pigments are mixed with coconut oil. Getting made up as  a "Pacca," one of seven Kathakalli characters.  The Pacca ("green") is the noble hero whose face is painted bright green and framed in a white bow-shaped sweep from ears to chin. Heroes such as Rama, Laksmana, Krishna, Arjuna, and Yudhisthira fall into this category. This fellow is having his white jowls attached.  The making up took about an hour. The second dancer is making himself up as a Minnukku ("softly shaded").  The  Minnuku represents sages, Brahmins, and women. The men wear white or orange dhotis. Women have their faces painted light yellow and sprinkled with mica, and their heads are covered by saris.
Kathakali (katha, "story"; kali, "performance") originated in the 17th century in Kerala, the lush tropical coastal strip of South India washed by the Arabian Sea. It was devised by the Raja of Kottarakkara, who, angry over the refusal of a neighbouring prince to allow his dancers to perform a Sanskrit dance-drama in his court, decided to create his own dance troupe using Malayalam, the spoken language of the people. Characters have their fingers fitted with long silver nails to accentuate hand gestures.   Woman, brahmins and sages excepted.  This dancer is demonstrating gestures.  Later, when he plays a woman, he has taken off his fingernails.  The dancers enact the story being told by the drummer with cymbals, using a repetoire of eye movements and patterned gestures.  This man translated the story into English. In the foreground is a tall brass worship lamp brimming with coconut oil burns brightly.
The noble prince and the demon disguised as a woman.  The superhuman characters represent primal forces of good and evil at war. The prince refuses to be seduced by the woman And he eventually triumphs Here you can see the drummer who accompanies the dancers and sang the story.
It was Vishu, a new year holiday celebrated by Hindus in Kerala.  The kids took advantage to light fireworks.