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Get Ready for Onam 2023: Exploring Kerala’s Classical Dance Forms

Kerala's Onam dances: Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Koodiyattam, Thiruvathirakali, Chakyar Koothu, Ottamthullal, Puli Kali – Celebrate heritage through movement.

Kerala’s Onam showcases Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Koodiyattam, Thiruvathirakali, Chakyar Koothu, Ottamthullal dance forms, preserving rich cultural heritage.


As the 10-day harvest festival of Onam approaches, the vibrant cultural heritage of Kerala takes center stage. Starting on August 20 and culminating in Thiruvonam on August 31, Onam not only marks the Malayalam New Year but also commemorates the return of the mythical King Mahabali. Kerala’s classical dance forms are an integral part of the festivities, adding charm and depth to the celebrations. Here’s a glimpse into these captivating dance forms that will grace Onam 2023:

Read more:- Onam Sadhya 2023: Celebrating Tradition!

  1. Kathakali: 

Originating over 300 years ago, Kathakali is a mesmerizing fusion of dance, music, acting, and devotion. With elaborate costumes and makeup, performers use intricate hand and facial gestures to retell ancient tales, often from Indian epics, including episodes from the Mahabali legend associated with Onam.

  1. Mohiniyattam: 

This elegant dance form, predominantly performed by women, weaves gentle and flowing movements into expressive narratives. During Onam, Mohiniyattam relays stories connected to King Mahabali, enchanting audiences with its graceful storytelling.

  1. Koodiyattam:

 A UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, Koodiyattam is one of the world’s oldest classical theater forms. This ritualistic performance, adorned with traditional costumes and makeup, brings Hindu epics and Puranas to life. Some performances align with Onam, adding a historical touch to the festivities.

  1. Thiruvathirakali: 

Celebrating womanhood, Thiruvathirakali is a group dance characterized by elegant circular movements and synchronized clapping of hands. Performed under the moonlight, this dance radiates a sense of unity and joy.

Read more:- Expressing Kerala’s Culture: Pookalam Designs for Onam Celebrations

  1. Chakyar Koothu: 

Blending humor and drama, Chakyar Koothu is a solo performance where the artist narrates epic episodes like Ramayana and Mahabharata. While not purely a dance form, it complements Kerala’s artistic legacy.

  1. Ottamthullal: 

Created by poet Kunchan Nambiar, Ottamthullal merges dance, song, and satire. During Onam, performances often delve into light-hearted themes, infusing entertainment and laughter.

These classical dance forms embody Kerala’s cultural richness and contribute to the festive ambiance. They preserve the state’s artistic heritage while captivating both locals and tourists. Puli Kali, the ‘tiger dance,’ is an additional folk dance, where devotees paint themselves as tigers and dance to traditional percussion, enhancing the dynamic spirit of Onam. As Kerala prepares to celebrate, these dance forms offer a glimpse into the soul of the festival’s cultural mosaic.

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