Photographer's Note

Velakali is a ritual art form presented in a temple courtyard or in the precincts of the temple tank. Among the martial folk arts, this is one of the most spectacular and extremely vigorous dances performed in Kerala. Originating among the Nairs, the traditional warriors of Kerala, this dance is now presented by other Hindu sects also.

The dancers numbering fifty or more are dressed up like traditional soldiers with colourful shields and shining swords. Sometimes the swords are replaced with long canes.They go through war like steps in a line to the accompainment of martial music with vigour and force.They display fighting techniques by coming forward from the line. The musical instruments like Thavil, Suddha Maddalam, Elathaalam, Horns and Trumpets are used for this art.

The ritual Velakali is performed in the temple courtyard. It is begun with the deity taken out in a procession on an elephant. This is called Thirumumbil Vela which literally means that the performance is in front of the deity. If this ritual is performed near the temple pond, it is called Kulathilvela.

The dancers are in fabulous attire with a conical head-dress, with the cone pointing to one side and beading of jari work at the lower edge. Their chests are covered with beads and other types of garlands. Armlets are also used. In some regions dancers wearing masks of tigers and bears, known as Velamudikaars, dance with grotesque gestures, among the dancers.

It is believed that this perfomance has reference to the war between the Kauravars and Pandavas or the war between Devas and Asuras from the Hindu epics.

This art form took shape at Ambalapuzha District under the dispensation of the local Raja (King), Mathur Panicker family and they form a Velakali troupe.

This is an appealing form of art with the variety of its choreography, including stances,steps and warlike gestures.

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Additional Photos by Ajay Nair (Digiman) Silver Note Writer [C: 0 W: 0 N: 29] (125)
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