Written By Himakshi Gupta (Grade 9)
Mark Twain’s words, “India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.” Well, the saying is true. Apart from several other things, India is the home to more than 100 dance forms, each having a unique and inquisitive form. Among these, Kathakali, a dance form originated in the state of Kerala, depicts the two famous epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana. Kathakali means “Katha” story and “Kali” means a dance or a performance.
Kathakali is not only famous for it’s extraordinary dance style but also it’s makeup and dressing. Kathakali make up, known as “vesham” is an elaborate process lasting for 3 hours. The actors are given an appearance of being superhuman with this effect. Each character has a different makeup and costume that tells us about them. Green makeup signifies that the character is the protagonist. Firstly the kathakali dancers start with “theppu” as the first stage where the artist himself applies the basic facial paintings, followed by “chutti” a series of white ridges built up from the chin to the either side of the cheek and then dress in the cumbersome clothing and jewelry. The colors used for the makeup are original colors, where they make pastes out of dyed stones. After the makeup is put on, Kathakali dancers wear a musical anklet tied just above the ankle. There are about thirty to forty pieces of short cloth that is draped around the dancer’s waist, followed by a 55 yard long skirt that is worn over that. Kathakali costumes weigh over thirty kgs. After the magnificent head gear is donned, the dancers get ready to get to the stage where they dance to live music. The major attraction for the audience is the facial expression of the kathakali dancers that tells us the story of Mahabharta or Ramayana. Kathakali synthesizes music, vocal performers, hand and facial gestures to express the famous Indian epics. The mudra is one of the ways that Kathakali actors express their ideas. An idea, a situation, or state of being can be depicted using mudra, a stylised form of sign language. The idea of Kathakali, seems to be quite straightforward but only a person practicing it knows the real struggle and the efforts that go behind it.
As part of India’s rich cultural heritage and vast artistic resources, folk dances play an integral part. They are astonishing in their variety and richness. These dance forms make India a single entity. Only India can display such a diversified unity. Despite social differences, dance connects India’s communities and makes it stronger. Throughout centuries, we have inherited a legacy of pride in our country.
Featured Image Courtesy – Thrillophilia