By Somali K Chakrabarti


Jingling anklets

flicking fingers, shifting glance,

moving in tandem – 

sea of emotions in a

lavish spectacle of dance


© Somali K Chakrabarti


Kathakali, the classical dance form of Kerala, originated in the 17th century, though the roots date back to 1500 years ago and lie in the ritual folk dances and dance dramas of Kerala.

Characterized by ornate makeup and fanciful costumes, the dance drama form blends dance, drama, mime and song to depict stories from Indian epics.

The body movements of Kathakali are influenced by Kalaripayattu, the early martial arts of Kerala.

In an excerpt from the novel ‘Arjun Without a Doubt‘ by Dr Sweety Shinde,  Arjuna, of Mahabharata, draws parallel between dance and martial arts.

‘I would never regard dancers with disdain; I now know what efforts and grueling hours went into excelling in it. Archery and dance, both required an equal amount of dedication and dexterity; timing and tempo; elegance and concentration. Both required rhythm and restraint. War-dance had its rhythm too. ‘

The dance form makes extensive use of  the facial gestures such as movement of the eyebrows,  eye-balls and the lower eye-lids than any other dance style. Performers enact the story using hand gestures, facial expressions and eye movements that capture a whole range of emotions.are used to convey the story and translate words into the visual language of dance.


A Tanka is a Japanese poem consisting of 31 syllables in 5 lines, with 5 syllables in the first and third lines and 7 in the rest.


Lei: A wreath for your soul  is a string of short poems reflecting on nature, life, illusion and inspiration.Lei




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  • What a beautiful portrayal of the dances… I have seen the dance form in my school and very well know how beautifully a kathakali dancer exudes emotions. Your words made me visualize it again! :)

  • Amazing poetry Somali, I loved the pictures and the description too. So well written :)

  • I have always been amazed by the expressions of the Kathakali dancers behind that heavy makeup. How have you been, Somali?

  • greenspeckblogger

    June 1, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    A fascinating dance it is :-)

  • Beautifully captured. I have been always amazed with the ability of the Kathakali performers on being able to use the tiniest of muscles on their face to make unusual expressions. It is indeed mesmerizing

  • Beautiful indeed Somali, unlike other art forms, dance combines the mind, the body and the soul into action. Something we get do through yoga and meditation. It is perhaps one of the most fascinating form for an artists to engage and entertain with self and others. Yes, Somali you have beautifully described the various nuances and facets of this dance form, the coordination between eye lids, eye balls and eye movement appears so easy and that is because of the dexterity of the artists, and when we sit down observe we realize how difficult to do it. The focus is on eye and face movement. Not easy to learn the skills of dancing but those who have the passion for dance, it comes so naturally and it comes with ease and there is so much grace when the artist does it without hesitation and with all the emotions expressed with full throttle and the facial expression truly captivates the audience. The color and the combination of movement in the colorful attire makes it truly colorful and fascinating to watch in awe. As I understand the artists needs many hours before the performance to do the makeup and it is a tedious process where the makeup team and the artist has to have lot of patience and like all art forms patience is big virtue and all artists have a bagful of those quality so much needed in excelling in such art forms.

    You have written such lovely lines “jingling anklets, flicking eyes and shifting glances”, I was driven by the lively choice of words and it just took me onto the dance floor when I combined the beautiful picture with the lovely flow of words…
    Eid Mubarak to you Somali, the typical style that is adopted in saying that greetings…the Hyderabadi style has a charm in talking with the Hindi and Urdu mix…

  • Thank you Nihar. Yes dancing is a supreme and dynamic form of art that combines creativity with energy to evoke different emotions. In a sense it encompasses a very wide range.
    Eid Mubarak to you as well. I love the preparation of sewain. :-)

  • A beautiful form of art gains expression through your beautiful words, Somali:)

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