South India  |  Folk Dances of Kerala

Folk Dances of Kerala

Kerala has a rich repertoire of folk dances. They reflect the temperaments and moods of the localities in music and costumes and are highly developed. Religious colouring is mostly seen in almost all of these folk dances, even in those performed in connection with harvests, sowing of seeds festivals etc. Men alone, some exclusively by women, perform many of these dance forms. There are also dances in which men and women perform
together. Most of the folk dances are performed to the accompaniment of songs, which are sung by the dancersthemselves or occasionally by a group of musicians.Some are performed to the accompaniment of musical instruments only. In several dances the performers form a circle and clap as they dance. Sometimes, instead of clapping they strike small sticks, which they hold in their hands. The costumes and ornaments are peculiar to the places to which they belong. In these folk dances there is no difference between the performers and the audience. Almost all of these dances are simple but beneath this simplicity are a profundity of conception is a directness of expression, which are of a high artistic order.

There are more than fifty well-known folk dances in Kerela. Of them the Kaliyattom, Mudiyettu, Kolam Thullal,Padayani, Kolkali, Parichamuttukali, Thappukali, Kuravarkali, and Thiruvathirakali are the most popular.



Among the ancient and indigenous performing art forms in Kerala are the rsitual dances known as Mudiyettu, associated with the Goddess Bhagavathi, the wife of Lord Siva.. These dance forms glorify the goddess and their themes revolve around the triumph of the goddess over the demon Daruka and other evil characters.

Theyyam or Kaliyattam

Theyyam other wise known as kaliyattom, is an ancient socio-religious ceremony performed in Kerala since very remote times. socio-religious ceremony performed in Kerala since very remote times. As the word kaliyattom denotes this is a sacred dance performance for kali. Kaliyattom is sometimes called Theyyattom because every thera or village was duly bound to perform it. In ancient times every village of Kerala has its own common shrine called Kavu and it was imperative tohave kaliyattom performed in front of it. As the word kali has also the meaning of safety in Malayalam, Kaliyattom may have the significance of a sacred dance for social or family safety.


Kaikottikali, also known as Thiruvathirakali is a very popular symmetric group of dance by the women of kerala, and is often performed during the festive season of Onam.


Is a mixed dance in which both men and women participate. The performers move in a circle, stricking small sticks and keeping rhythm with special steps.


This huge and wonderful festival is a replication of the cultural extravaganza that used to be held every 12 years by the Zamorins (ancient rulers of Kozhikode) in the middle ages


This is martial folk dance, which had its origin during the days when Kalaripayattu, the famous physical exercise of swordplay and defence was in vogue in Kerala.


This art form is very similar to Koothu on gestures and movements, but the narration is through prose and song sequences.


A folk art also known as Poothanum Thirayam was commonly performed in the Bhagavathy temples of Malappuram & Palakkad. Pootham is the character that accompanied Durga in her combat with Darika.


This is a group of dance of the Parayas of Malappuram district in which the dancers strike rhythm on a small drum.

Kuravar Kali

Kuravar belong to the former untouchable class of people who were not permitted to enter the precincts of temples. The Kuravarkali dance is usually performed outside the temple walls in connection with festivals.

Kolam Thullal

This is a ritual offering usually performed to get rid pf the troubles caused by evil-sprits.


This is a folk art, noted for the procession of huge, colorfully decorated images of bulls.


A Muslim bridal group dance performed the day before the wedding day.


This colorful ritual art is symbolic of the victory march of goddess Kali after she defeated the demon Darika. The art form has some resemblance to Theyyam.