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Kerala is a masterpiece of a “Kala” (art) sanctuary. Many creative forms in this land known as “God’s own country” originate in cultural history and religious inspiration. The state is well-known for its own art forms, which mostly include mythological dance drama, colorful costumes, heavy make-up, and exquisite dance forms with mudras (finger and palm movements) and expressive expressions. While some of these creative forms, such as dance theatre or poetry, display various colours of human emotions, others demonstrate craft skills and even martial art competence. You have to read the below article as it consists of the various folk dances of Kerala with pictures.

Important Folk Dances of Kerala

Check the most important Folk Dances of Kerala in the below table.

Dance FormDescription
KathakaliKathakali is a classical dance form of Kerala that combines elements of dance, drama, music, and religious themes. It is characterized by elaborate makeup, vibrant costumes, and intricate hand gestures (mudras) and facial expressions. 
MohiniyattamMohiniyattam is a graceful and lyrical dance form performed predominantly by women. It originated in Kerala and is known for its slow, fluid movements, subtle facial expressions, and delicate hand gestures. 
TheyyamTheyyam is a vibrant ritualistic dance form indigenous to the northern parts of Kerala. It is a powerful and expressive dance that incorporates elaborate costumes, elaborate makeup, and vigorous movements. 
KutiyattamKutiyattam is one of the oldest surviving Sanskrit theater forms in the world. It combines elements of dance, drama, and music. The performances involve highly stylized and codified movements, facial expressions, and hand gestures. 
KalpariattuKalpariattu, also known as Ayyappan Kalari, is a traditional martial art form practiced in Kerala. It is associated with the cult of Lord Ayyappa, a Hindu deity. Kalpariattu involves a series of intricate movements, weapon techniques, and physical exercises. 

Folk Dances of Kerala with Pictures

Let us get familiar with some of the most famous Folk dances of Kerala with pictures below.


Kathakali is a popular dance form not only in Kerala but throughout India. This 300-year-old classical dance form is notable for its distinct dancing moves, significant mudras (movement of palm and hand), stunning clothing, and outstanding display of human emotions through expressions.

The most appealing aspect of this art is the five various styles of make-up with different coloured paints known as Vesham. Each form of Vesham represents a distinct character in the dance.



Mohiniyattam is a very graceful classical dance genre from Kerala. This ancient dance form is considered to have its roots in Kerala temples because it was performed by Devadasis in temples, which is why it was known as Dasiattam for generations.

A woman dressed in glittering clothing and jewellery captivates the audience with her subtle and exquisite dancing movements and fascinating expressions in this solo performance.



The most fascinating aspect of Kerala’s art forms is that the majority of them emerged from temple rites based on legendary stories about gods and goddesses. Theyyam is one of the 400 versions of these ceremonies found in North Kerala.

This art form is performed by performers dressed in unique makeup and bright costumes to the strains of numerous musical instruments such as Kurumkuzal, Chenda, Veekkuchenda, and others.



This art form is well-known not only for its unusual presentation but also for its entertaining value. This ancient art style was used to mock the monarchs and leaders of society in a funny fashion. This solitary artist dresses up in green make-up and fancy costumes and entertains the audience with hand movements, expressions and hopping to elicit laughter.

Ottamthullal requires preservation as a valuable Kerala art form, as it is rapidly losing its worth and existence in the current period.



Kutiyattam is a famous temple art form. It is a drama which is presented by both men and women together. This art form is based on Natyasastra wherein the male performers from the Chakkiyar community and female performers from the Nangiyar community perform inside the temples for 6 to 20 days.


Nangiar Koothu

This solo dance performance which has been a traditional art form for more than 1000 years is a very famous art form in Kerala. In this dance form, Sree Krishna Charitham is presented by a female performer in the temples.

This performer is known as Nangyaramma. Mudras and the facial expressions of the performer enthrall the audience throughout the performance.

This art form can be enjoyed at some famous temples like Vadakkumnathan, Koodal Manikyam, Sri Krishna temple, etc.

Nangiar Koothu


This martial art discipline is regarded as the forefather of all modern martial arts. The ancient warriors used to practice this traditional combat art form to acquire strength and learn self-defense. Jumping, running, and somersaulting are all part of this formidable art form.

Oil massages, the use of various weapons such as dagger, swords, spears, and so on, as well as the inclusion of medicinal practices, are some of the characteristics of this combat technique.


Folk Dances of Kerala FAQs

What are some popular folk dances of Kerala? 

 Kerala has several popular folk dances, including Kathakali, Theyyam, Thirayattam, Poorakkali, Oppana, and Kaikottikali.

What is Kathakali? 

Kathakali is a classical dance form of Kerala that combines elements of dance, music, and drama. It involves elaborate costumes, colorful makeup, and facial expressions to portray characters from Hindu mythology.

Are these folk dances only performed in Kerala? 

 While these folk dances originated in Kerala, they have gained popularity outside the state as well. They are often performed during cultural events, festivals, and other celebrations across India and even internationally.

Are there any specific costumes and accessories associated with these folk dances?

Yes, each folk dance in Kerala has its own unique costumes and accessories. In Kathakali, the performers wear elaborate costumes known as “Kathakali Vesha,” which include colorful skirts, headdresses, and facial makeup.

Can tourists watch these folk dances in Kerala?

Yes, tourists visiting Kerala have the opportunity to watch these folk dances. Many cultural centers, auditoriums, and temples organize performances of Kathakali, Theyyam, and other folk dances.

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