top of page


The Indian classical dance form kathakali originated from south India in the state of Kerala. The dance is a form of storytelling as the it uses footwork, hand movements and extensive facial gestures to convey a drama. The dance is derived from the ancient script in Hinduism and is mainly performed in the temples. The dancers are also actors, but they do not speak or sing. Instead, dialogic section (padams) are shown through mudras (hand gestures and facial expressions)

Definitions for clarification:

Shiva - one of the principal deities of Hinduism

Parvathi - Hindu goddess of fertility

Abhinya - Art of expression in Indian aesthetics

Lasya - gentle graceful dance

Padams- Dialogic section of the dance

Mudras- Hand gestures

Navarasam: Facial expressions

Chempada- The name for the eight beat rhythmic cycle of carnatic music

Panchari- The name for the six beat rhythmic cycle of carnatic music

The Learning Process:

For the Kathakali Dance, there is not a formal system to learn the art form, as the student progresses in  training at his or her own pace, making sure to master each skill thoroughly. The elements thought are Meisadhakam, Kaal sadhakam, Uzhichil, Chuzhippu, Todayam, Purappad, and Kalasam.

Meisadhakam: In this part of training the student learns how to  stretch, jump with articulated steps, move hips, do proper footwork, and learn proper leg and hand gestures. Then all these elements are learned to be incorporated together.

Kaal Sadhakam: In this part students learn to adapt the step learned from Meisadhkam, in to Chempada, and Panchari rhythms, in four tempos.

Uzhichil: Uzhichil (pronounced urrchhilla), is a process of healing the body from extraneous movement, and then once the healing is completed throughs these various stressed the dancer practices several jumps. The student learns how to do the certain jumps used in kathakali, and learns todo needle sitting. In general proper leg movements, eye movements, and mudras are practiced.

Chuzhippu: Chuzhippu (pronounced churrippu), is the  part of training the dancers learn movements that make his or her dance more graceful.

Todayam: Here the dancer learns a pure dance item. The dancers learn several todayamas , and when this is performed the dancers are not in the full kathakali attire.

Purappad: Here all the elements of kathakali are put together and performed in a play. The dance is done in accordance with the song being sung and combines all the dances elements to tell the story, of the song being sung.

Kathakali: Intro
Kathakali: Watch
bottom of page