KERALA ART FORMS
Kerala is a land blessed with distinct styles of Art forms. It has an history rooted in the cultural, religious and social structure of Kerala. As in any other culture, the primitive art forms in Kerala are based on folk.
Folk arts are the simple art forms of common man. It aims at instant communication and it features social themes. It always had a biotic link with the prevailing community structure.
Feudalism gave a bloom to Folk arts. Protests against the social and economic inequalities were expressed in the form of Folk arts. Kakkarrissinatakam, Porattu natakam and Kuruthiyattam are examples. Ritualistic elements were less in these types of folk arts forms.
Mans ability to fight against nature and natural calamities influence the formation of Ritual arts – a part of magical and religious custom. Ritual arts have three components – the myth, ritual and the theatre. There is a freedom of alteration and improvisation in ritual arts, maintaining the basic structure of the art form. Theyyam, Mudiyettu and Padayani are examples of Ritual arts.
In the early stages ritual arts were not performed before the audience and the performers were not considered as artists, but divine beings. Hence the skills of the performers were irrelevant. Gradually these ritual arts got transformed to performing arts.
In a broader sense, performing arts can be divided into – the Folk Arts form, the Classical Art form, the Martial Arts form and Music of Kerala.
The Folk Arts Form
As mentioned earlier, Folk Arts are the oldest art forms of Kerala and is closely associated with rituals. The elements of art, rituals, dance, drama, music and paintings are beautifully blended in most of the Folk Arts forms. Folk Art forms can be classified into Ritualistic and Non-ritualistic. Ritualistic again be divided into Devotional and Magical.
Devotional Art forms are performed to satisfy a peculiar God or Godess. Examples are Theyyam, Thira, Poothamthira, Kanyarkali, Kummattikali etc. Pananpattu and Thottampattu are composed in the form of songs. In Kolkali, Margamkali and Daffmuttukali, the ritualistic elements are not very strong.
Folk Arts form of Kerala includes Theeyaattu, Kunhitheyyam, Mayil Nrutham, Mudiyettu, Arjuna Nrutham, Padayani, Pulikali, Kuthiyottam, Thidampu Nrutham, Ayyappan Theeyattu,Kavadiyattam, Velakali, Kolkali, Parishakali, Thiruvathirakali, Tholpavakoothu, Kakkarrissinatakam, Kalikettu, Cherumarkali, Chavittunatakam, Oppana, Kalampattu, Kaliyoottu, Sarppampattu, Paana etc
The Classical Art Forms
With the evolution of social and cultural structure, Classical Art Forms developed in Kerala with its base in the Folk Arts Form. Classical Art forms are characterised by its style, principles and techniques. Unlike Folk Arts, it involves the grace and precision in movements, formal gestures, steps and poses. It is performed by trained professionals.
The most popular Classical Art Form of Kerala is ‘Kathakali’. It’s a beautiful blend of dance, drama and music. Kathakali is directly obliged to ‘Krishnanattam’ (another classical art form of Kerala) in makeup, costumes, lighting the lamp before the performance, the structure, the steps and in music. It also incorporates elements from the indigenous art forms like Theyyam and Mudiyettu and from the Martial Arts form Kalarippayattu.
Other forms of Classical Arts of Kerala are Chakyarkoothu, Ottanthullal, Koodiyattam, Ramanattam and Mohiniyattam.
Martial Art Form
Kalarippayattu is the traditional Martial Art Form of Kerala. It is believed that all other Martial Art forms are derived from Kalarippayattu. The training place is known as Kalari, and the teacher – the Ahsan or the Kalari Gurukkal. Kalarippayattu training includes systematic fighting techniques with and without weapons, body fitness, self defence, body fitness, mental discipline, character development, building self confidence, Ayurveda, kalari treatment etc.
Music of Kerala
Like other art forms of Kerala, Music also had it origin in the primitive period, connected with labour. Music helped the people to overcome monotony and hardship of tough physical labour. Folk music and folk songs were associated in all phases of agriculture like sowing seeds, removing weeds and for harvest. Folk music doesn’t have an organised scientific form. It is orally transmitted through the generations.
Music has its own importance in festivals like Onam and Thiruvathira. Moreover music is an inevitable element in all types of Folk, Ritual and Classical Art forms.
Sopana Sangeetham is the unique music form of Kerala that developed in the temples. It stands between Folk music and Carnatic music, with the elements of Vedic and Tribal music. Sopana Sangeetham is sung by the side of the Holy steps (Sopanam) of the Sreekovil of the temple. It is hereditarily performed by men of Marar and Poduval caste of the Ambalavasi community.
PAINTINGS OF KERALA
Kerala has a fascinating heritage of paintings like Kolamezhuthu, Kalamezhuthu, Chumarchithramezhuthu, Mughamezhuthu, Meyyezhuthu and Muzhavaranam. It is related to religious rituals.
Kolamezhuthu is done using a single colour (white) powder in front of the house, usually by Brahmins. Its bring prosperity to the family. Although Kolamezhuthu has its origin in Tamil Nadu, Kerala has its own ancient forms like Kalamvarayal and aniyal.
Kalamezhuthu is a means of pleasing Gods. It’s a multi colour three dimensional drawing done by trained artists. Kalamezhuthu is a part of Art forms, like Thottampattu, Ayyappan theeyattu and Sarppamthullal.
Chumarchithramezhuthu or mural paintings are drawings on the walls of temples and churches. It potrays mythology and legends. Natural pigments and vegetable colours are used in chumarchithramezhuthu.
Mughamezhuthu is a ritualistic art, featuring the painting tradition of Kerala. It is paintings on the face, for folk and classical art forms. Examples are Kathakali, theyyam, mudiyettu etc. Almost forty patterns are used in this art form.
Meyyezhuthu is painting on the body of a performer in folk art forms. The chest and stomach of the performer is painted as seen in theyyam and pulikali.
Mughamvaranam or mask is an essential element in the art forms like theyyam, padayani, thira, poothanthira and mariyattom. Paintings on the masks are done using red brick powder, charcoal and other natural materials.