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
A Christian art form of Kerala. Evolved at the turn of the 16th Century AD during the Portuguese colonization and bears definite traces of the European Christian Miracle Play. In this musical drama, the actors wear Greco-Roman costumes and even the stage props bear several foreign influences. In the past, the Chavittunatakom was performed on open stages, though sometimes the interior of a church was also a venue. The language is a colloquial mix of Tamil and Malayalam.
Other Temple Arts
Of the most famous temple arts the important are Gitam, Chendamelam, Panchavadyam, Parishavadyam, Tayambaka and Nagaswaramelam, Chavittunatakam.
The credit for having given to Kerala an important place in the field of Karnatic music goes to Swathi Thirunal (1829-47), the ruler of Travancore. Some great names like Shadkala Govinda Marar, Vativelu, Ponnayya and the Tanjavoor Brothers have contributed to the growth of music at that time. In addition to classical music, Kerala can also be proud of its contribution to the development of folk music and light music. The Vadakkan pattukal (Northern ballads), which celebrate the exploits of Tacholi Othenan, are among the best known of its kind in Kerala.
Kerala has its own tradition in the field of drama, which is intimately bound up with the origin, and growth of the art form, Koodiyattam. A very decisive phase in the evolution of modern Kerala drama began with the composition of a series of short plays with historical themes by C.V.Raman Pillai. The Kerala people’s Art Club paved the way of bringing social issues into the stage and contributed to the development of drama to a great extent.
Malayalam cenema is always in the top of the list among other Indian cinemas. By portraying the real life to the celluloid Malayalam cinema won many awards and international fame. Chemmeen, Swayamvaram, and Nirmalyam are some of them. The State government have extended its patronage to the films by instituting state awards with effect from 1970. It has also set up a Film Development Corporation and a studio in the Public Sector at Thiruvananthapuram.
The Tantrasamuchaya, Vasthuvidya, Maushyalaya chandrika and Silparatna are the celebrated treatises in the field of Architecture that Kerala has contributed to the world. The Nalukettu of Kerala is famous for building along with the rules of Tachu Sastra (Science of Architecture). The Padmanabhapuram palace, the Dutch Palace at Mattancherry and Krishnapuram Palace near Kayamkulam are some of the famous palaces of Kerala.The rock temples, woodcarvings, and metal cuttings are excellent pieces of works of Kerala.
The art of painting in Kerala has a tradition, which goes back to the immediate Post-Aganta Period. The murals of Tirunandikkara (Kanya Kumari dist) are the specimens of this art in Kerala and they are believed to be of Pandiyan origin. Churches of Kerala also contain some valuable pieces of paintings. The performance of religious rites necessitated the development of a special kind of pictorial art in Kerala known as Kalamezuthu. Raja Ravi Verma is one of the outstanding names in the art of painting in Kerala. The paintings of Raja Ravi Verma adorn the Sri Chitra Art Gallery, Trivandrum and some other notable art galleries of India.
The Handi crafts of Kerala, noted for their uniqueness in style, perfection of form and elegance of design form an invaluable part of the life stream of Kerala culture. The craftsmen of Kerala have made the most skillful use of the raw materials without sacrificing the requirements of the aesthetics and thus made their rich contribution to the life of the community. By Bell Metal casting the craftsmen of Kerala produced a variety of images of gods and goddesses. Aranmula Metal Mirror deserves special mention in the bell metal industry of Kerala. The mirror is made of an alloy consisting of ten parts of copper and 5.50 parts of tin. It is oval in shape and 6 inches in size and .50 inch thick and has a tail like handle by which it is to be held. The artisans of Aranmula who have practiced this art all these years almost as the family secret. Koftgari works, Wood Carving, Marquetry in wood, Ivory and Buffalo horn Carving, Screw Pine mat Making, Bamboo Reed Weaving, Palmyra Leaf Weaving, Kora Grass Mat Making, Rattan or Cane work, Embroidery and Lace Making, Lapidary work, Granite carving, Coconut shell carving, Lacquer work, Cotton map making, Toys and Dolls, Jewellery, coir Products, Musical instruments manufacturing are also some of the important handicraft making activities of Kerala.
Among the people who have enriched Indian Cultural Heritage and helped the cause of national integration, the people of the Kerala region of South India have a place of honour. Kerala culture is in fact, an integral part of Indian culture. Kerala like the Indian sub continent can claim to have a culture the history of which runs into the dim recesses of antiquity.
Kerala’s culture is also a composite and cosmopolitan culture to which several people and races have made their significant contributions. The gradual evolution of composite and cosmopolitans culture led to the emergence of a spirit of tolerance and catholicity of outlook, which still persist among the people of Kerala. Its history unfolds the romantic and fascinating story of a unique process of cultural synthesis and social assimilation. In response to every challenge Kerala has demonstrated through the ages its genius for adaptation and fusion of old traditions and new values in every sphere of human thought and endeavour.
The culture of Kerala has persisted through the ages precisely for the reasons of antiquity, unity, continuity and universality of its nature. In its widest sense it embraces the highest achievements of the human spirit in every sphere of life. Thus, in its totality, it represents the quintessence of the collective achievements of a people in the fields of religion and philosophy, language and literature, art and architecture, education and learning and economic and social organisation. In fact, all through its history the genius of Kerala has blossomed forth in all its vigour and vitality and has helped its people to reach the peak of excellence in all their endeavours.