Background of Kathakali

Kathakali brought humanity into Hinduism to express emotions that go beyond words. The temple rituals, first performed in secret, evolved into a vibrant drama that embraces the essence of what it is to be human.

Photo Garry Laybourn

Kathakali evolved from earlier temple art forms in the 17th century, is based on Hinduism and is a highly charged powerful drama that combines devotion, drama, dance, music, costumes and make up to produce one of the most impressive forms of sacred theatre in the world.

Kathakali is ancient and classical in nature and holds centuries of tradition and culture. It is not simply a dance-drama but an act of devotion featuring the universal struggle between good and evil.

Kathakali provides a window into the past and an opportunity to understand the ancient heritage that has been preserved for centuries in the Kathakali plays.

The Hindu epic stories in India were often told through a language the local people could understand – theatre. The stories were passed from one generation to the next as they were performed in the heart of their rural communities.



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