Kerala Dance Forms: Know About Classical Dance Forms of Kerala

Among the many folk dances and classical dance forms, some are indigenous and have only acquired fame within the state like Kerala while others have gained international acclaim. In this article, lets learn about some of the most popular Kerala Dance Forms.

Many of these dances performed at temple festivals and other special occasions.

Journey through the intricacies of the classical dance forms, as we have put together some useful information regarding Kerala’s unique classical dance forms.


Kathakali is a magnificent classical dance that started more than 500 years ago in Kerala, India’s southernmost state.

It combines dance, theatre, music, and a religious theme in a unique way.

Kathakali is one of the oldest styles of theatre in the world. It means “Story-Play,” “Katha-Story,” and “Kali-Play” in Malayalam (the indigenous language of Kerala). These dances are distinctive in the manner they present with. Followed by great expressions given by the best dancers. The dancers use stunning costumes and embellishments that add to the dance’s appeal.


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Mohiniyattam dates back to the 16th century CE. The Sangeet Natak Akademi has named Mohiniyattam as one of the eight Indian classical dances. Vaishnava devotees are famous for giving the dance the name “Mohiniattam.” Further, Devadasis performed this ages ago in holy temples.

Legend has it that Lord Vishnu, disguised as a Mohini, enchanted the people.Delicate footfall, classical Carnatic vocal melody, fascinating expressions, and sombre white and gold attire are all part of Mohiniyattam. These dances are distinctive in the manner they present themselves, with great expressions given by the best dancers. The dancers use stunning costumes and embellishments that add to the dance’s appeal.

In this dance form from Kerala, the dancer dresses up her head with a traditional jasmine garland. As a result, Mohiniyattam is regarded as an alluring dance or the dance of the enchantress. Mohiniyattam, a popular and sensual Kerala classical dance genre, incorporates delicate moves.

Mohini means ‘a maiden,’ and Yattam means ‘dance’. Hence, this is traditional dance carried out by a lone lady dancer. Because it incorporates aspects of both Bharatanatyam and Kathakali, Mohiniyattam is a hybrid of the two dances. The delicate and graceful motions, as well as the fascinating eye movements, make this dance particularly elegant.


Thirvathirakali is a female-only dance form from Kerala that takes place in the month of “Dhanu” (December-January). It is a popular group dance we get to witness at Kerala’s harvest festival, Onam. The females perform this dance form, who move in a circular motion to the music of Thiruvathira songs.


Chakyar Koothu

It is a highly respectable ancient Kerala dancing genre. In Chakyar Koothu dance form, The narrator tells episodes from Hindu epics such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. It is performed at temples during festivals and other occasions.


Kerala’s traditional dance form, koodiyattam, is quite popular. For generations, this dance genre has been performed in temples. Kuzhitalam, Mizhavu, Sankhu, and Kurumkuzhal are the musical instruments used in Koodiyattam.


Kolkali is another popular dance form from Kerala. A group of 24 dancers from the rural classes perform it. This is a very rhythmic dancing form. The dancers make use of wooden sticks as props. They move in a circular motion while beating these sticks.


This dance genre dates back to the 18th century and has grown in popularity in Kerala. The history of this dance genre goes back to Kalakkaththu Kunchan Nambiar, a well-known Malayalam poet.

Ottamthullal is a style of group dancing. The groups perform it with full make-up and colourful costumes. The dancers get to convey a mythological story through this medium.


Theyyam and its ceremonies are therefore practised in this region for thousands of years. It is quite popular since it is available to those from lower castes. It is a sacred ritual dance and a Dravidian art form dedicated to Goddess Kaali. Further, the name ‘Theyyam’ is thought to be a corruption of the Malayalam word ‘Daivam,’ which signifies God.

There are around 50 different types of dance in Kerala. Theyyam, Thiruvathirakali, Chakyar Koothu, Koodiyattam, and Ottamthullal are some of Kerala’s most well-known dances. Kerala is famous for its two ancient dance forms, ‘Kathakali’ and ‘Mohiniyattam,’ which attract tourists from all over the world.

Classical Dance Forms Throughout India

Several dance traditions have endured for centuries, and while they are not popular in modern India, they do have a loyal following and a small audience. Generations of fresh performers have breathed new life into these historic dance forms by altering their tonality, texture, and storyline while remaining loyal to its grammar.

Although, each form has a different name and steeps in the culture of the place from which it comes. Due to regional influences, each form has a separate name and anchors in the culture of the region from which it originates.

Bharatnatyam, for example, developed in Tamil Nadu, Odissi in Odisha, Kathak in Northern India, Manipuri in Manipur, Kuchipudi in Andhra Pradesh, and Kathakali and Mohiniyattam in Kerala.

Take a glance at the most breathtaking and inspiring dance forms India around the states, that have kept our spirits alive. In all these dating back to the beginning of modern era.

Other than Kerala, many states of India serve as a historical group of such enthralling dance forms. Those will help in instilling discipline in children as well as moral character.

But that is not all! Tap here to know in-depth about the traditional dances from around the country. They are the essence of the tribes folk and the folk in general. From which we have evolved!

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