From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Dance and music has always been a medium of expression for the human beings. In most of the societies there are dances for every important social occasion. Indian dance is said to have originated from Śiva and Pārvatī, the divine couple. They are believed to be the parents of the world. Gods like Gaṇapati and Kṛṣṇa and minor deities like Nandi and Bhṛṅgi are fond of dancing. Many goddesses like goddess Sarasvatī are also fond of dancing.

Kathakali is a special dance form of the Kerala State and Malayālam culture. It seems to have originated from folk dances with paurāṇic themes. In the Kathakali, the dancers do not speak or sing but express all the sentiments through acting. The themes are invariably from mythology. Colors of the dress and ornaments are apportioned as per the nature of the character. The themes can be:

  • Sāttvik
  • Rājasik
  • Tāmasik

Types of Kathakali dance[edit]

Kathakali dance is of three varieties. They are:

  1. Kuttu : The Kuttu dance was the privileged possession of the Cākyār community of Kerala. It used to be exhibited in temples during festival days. The themes of this dance was chosen from paurāṇic legends or even famous incidents culled from history.
  2. Rāmanātṭam : This dance form depicts the Rāma episodes through dance. It is also performed at the temples during festivals and special days.
  3. Kṛṣṇanātṭam : This dance form depicts the Kṛṣṇa episodes for their themes. It is also performed at the temples during festivals and special days.

Aspects of Dance[edit]

The Kathakali dances are usually held in the open fields and that too in moonlight. Various aspects of the program are:

  • Announcing about the Kathakali program
  • Invocatory verses from behind the screens
  • Beating of drums
  • Entry of the first dancer
  • Narration of the story from the background
  • Dance and acting by the persons playing the various roles
  • Conversations recited in the background


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore