Kathakali and Kalarippayattu

The winding, hairpin bends up to the hill station of Munnar, dotted with splendid waterfalls takes four hours from Kochi. En route we stopped for snaps of tumbling white water and cheeky monkeys, daring to get close to the human visitors and their snacks with babies secreted tight against their chests.
Praveen, our illustrious guide, took us to a small shack which was promoting Kathakali dancing and Kalarippayattu – a marial art form. Dubiously, we followed him down some treacherous stairs into a small theatre. We paid for premier seats which meant we were close to the front but the cost was still only £3 each. After some time a man’s voice came over the microphone and began to explain, in quite halting English, the use of drums in Kathakali dance. Three men in only dhotis (long white sheathes of fabric wrapped expertly around their waists) and huge, heavy drums started beating rhythms. After some time a dancer came out and impressed us with all the facial expressions used in the dances to tell the stories – shyness, anger, joy, fear and annoyance were all conveyed just by eyebrow movements and her enormous kohl-painted eyes darting this way and that. She had a fantastic sense of humour and played with two or three audience members with flirtatious and then horror at one girl in her shorts!

The martial art form is apparently the original form of martial arts, adapted by oriental forms. This uses many dangerous weapons and was fearful to watch.image

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