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Kerala was known in distant countries in ancient times as the land of spices, cardamom, nutmeg and pepper. But the real treasure of Kerala lies in the cultural heritage of its people, in their ballads, their songs and dances, their rituals and their intellectual pursuits.
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Art & Culture
There are about 35 different types of tribal people in Kerala, tribal dances like Elelakkaradi, Paniyarkali and Mankali still survive. Of over 50 folk dances in Kerala, the popular ones are Kaliyattom, Kolam Thullal, Kolkali, Velakali and Kaikottikal. All these are performed in accompaniment of songs and drumming and often in colourful ornamental costumes. From these arose Kerala's classical dances like Koothu, Kathakali, Mohiniattam and Patokom. Kathakali uses vivid and eloquent mudras (hand signs). A visually powerful art form, the Kathakali dance dramas are based on stories from the two great indian epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is said to have evolved from a rivalry between two princely families. One had written a story cycle revolving around the life of Krishna, called Krishnattam, the other around the life of Rama called Ramattam. Mohiniattam, which literally means "the dance of the enchantress", is sensuous and lyrical. Dancers display grace as well as passion.
Martial Arts of Kerala - Kalaripayattu - consists of a series of intricate movements that train the body and mind. The discipline is continually practised and complemented by the Kerala's famous ayurvedic and nature cure techniques.These are believed to have travelled to eastern China, where they inspired the evolution of other martial art forms. 'Verumkai' is the final and most difficult of lessons taught in the kalari. The others are Maithozhil - combat through kicks, Kolathiri - combat using sticks and Angathiri - the use of metal weapons.
Kerala, rich in its cultural heritage, has developed through the centuries its own typical art forms, particularly folk dances.
Koothu has come to be looked upon as the monoact par excellence in which a single actor, viz the Chakiar, acts the role of all the characters impressing his audience with suitable gestures. Koothu is performed in theatres called Koothambalams, specially constructed for this purpose.
Koodiyattam is the earliest form of dramatic art in Kerala. In Koothu and Koodiyattam the actors enjoy freedom of speech and they criticise the important personages without fear or favour.
The Kathakali represents the most important stage in the evolution of Kerala Dancing. It was the original Chakiyar koothu, which is evolved into Kathakali.Kathakali, was performed with elaborate and majestic costumes. The Kerala Kala Mandalam founded by poet Vallothol at Cheruthuruthi in1930 has played a vital role in revitalizing Kathakali.
The Kasargode area of Kerala has its own characteristic folk play or dance called Yakshagana. It is very similar to Kathakali.
Literary Mohiniyattam means the “dance of enchantress”. This dance form blends within itself the features of Kaikottikkali, Bharathanatyam, and Kathakali.
Ottam Thullal is a kind of solo dance in which one actor adorning colourful costumes recites dance songs to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals
Other Temple Arts
Of the most famous temple arts the important are Gitam, Chendamelam, Panchavadyam, Parishavadyam, Tayambaka and Nagaswaramelam, Chavittunatakam.