Thiruvathirakali, age old folk dance of Kerala needs to be revived

Thiruvathirakali, Dance, Kerala,

Thiruvathirakali, Dance,

Among the traditional dances of Kerala such as Kathakali, Mohiniattam, etc, Thiruvathirakali or Kaikottikali  is a unique dance performed in  God's Own Country, Kerala on the auspicious day of Thiruvathira, the birthday of  Lord Shiva. It is one of the earliest forms of dance in Kerala. The performers are women who want to get blessed with  eternal marital bliss and happiness in their married life. Falling in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December-January), it is a popular one and according to the Hindu mythology  this dance was performed with a view to bringing  Kamadeva (God of Love) back to life.  Kamadeva was burnt to  ashes by Lord Shiva' when he was in rage.

Kerala state coconut grove and backwaters.

Dressed in traditional Kerala attire, women in groups of eight or ten or more dance in circle with a lit-oil lamp in the middle  invoking this mythological event.  This dance is reminiscent of the fire dance performed by the pre-historic people  around the fire, moving in a circle; indeed this type of dance is a  primordial one,  out-dated  other dance forms of India.  The striking feature of this traditional dance is the  graceful movements of dancers in tandem with the beats, careful  steps and rhythms. Quite elegant and interesting to watch, the women adorning their hair with flowers-Jasmine and wearing  traditional saris with  colorful borders.  In the Kaikottikali dance, the Lasya or the beauty element is important. The sinuous dance  movements  of the  dancers around a nilavilakku, embody  the amorous charm and grace of the feminine. An element of Rudra thandava (Lord Shiva's dance of destruction of the universe) is also included and the performers are well-trained  men. Popular ragas normally found in Kaikottikali songs include Hussaini, Bhairavi and Kamboji.  On several occasions songs deviate from puranic stories and make use of folk tales. The worship of Saraswati, Ganapati and Krishna is common. Special songs are sung in praise of Mahabali.
Traditional thiruvathirakali dance, Keala

According to Guru Nirmala Paniker, an exponent in Mohiniattam, who made appreciable contribution to popularize Kerala’s indigenous dance forms, the  month of Dhanu in the Malayalam almanac is an auspicious one. The ritualistic performance of Thiruvathirakali on the day of Thiruvathira in a way echoes  women's empowerment. On this rare occasion, women  in the villages are allowed to socialize  without any social  restrictions and  taboos. They are free to go to  the bathing ghat near  the pond at midnight  for a bath and take part in some rituals as part of the festival. Women have to stay awake the whole night and  the group dance is  an easy way to spend the night  and keep the villagers  entertained.

Kerala: Thiruvathirakali- Pinnalaatam, 

Kerala: Thiruvathirakali -Kolattam

There are two styles of Thiruvathirakali - southern and northern styles. the former is more evolved and complicated than the latter with variations. In the case of  Kolaattam  women holding small colored sticks  in their hands strike against each other while dancing. As for Thalam Vechattam,  women dance with small brass plates (thalam) in their hands; Kudam Vechattam involves women carrying  a small pot (kudam) on their heads. Pinnalaattam, yet another variation, is performed in the open air, preferably under the tree or in a specially made shed or shamina. In this form, dancing around a center pole  that carry strings, the performers hold the strings  and form beautiful  patterns by moving in tandem in a specified way. Presently, Thiruvathirakali  stays alive because of  competitions in schools and college youth festivals; this being due to gradual decline of rural life and joint family systems.

This dance is a personification and  celebration of marital fidelity and  female energy as women have to bear more  responsibility at home than men. So female integrity and sustaining power need to be focused. This old folk dance form of Kerala needs to be rejuvenated and revived for the  posterity.  The conduct of  Thiruvathira celebrations held  on the premises of the Office of the Deputy Director of Education at Mananchira in  January 2017 with singer Sindhu Premkumar using the traditional swing (Oonjal) was a good move in the right direction.  The main attraction was the women clad in the traditional Kerala attire took their turns on the swing too.