'' Kaikottikali''', an ancient folk dance form of Kerala has managed to survive to this day!!

''kaikortikali, native  dance of Kerala. eastcoastdaily.in

   ''kaikortikali, native  dance of Kerala  alamy.com

The name ''kaikortikali (also known as Thiruvathira kali) refers'' to the clapping of hands done by dancers  and it  is a popular  dance form in Kerala performed  exclusively by women on the day of Thiruvathira to the accompaniment of Thiruvathira paattu - folk songs telling tales of love-stricken Parvati and her pangs of separation from the lord.  Women   perform it   with sinuous movements of the body, seeking blessings for eternal marital bliss. Groups of up to eight or ten women with red lips are seen dressed in traditional Kerala attire (whitish Saris with colored border) and jasmine flower  dance in a circle  and move clock-wise  around  a  lit traditional  brass  lamp ( nilavilakku) placed in the middle of flower Kolam  with singing,  clapping in unison and  executing rhythmic graceful movements, bringing forth the nuances of  laya and the amorous charm and elegance of the feminine traits. The songs sung in the raga of Kamboji and Bhairavi are  drawn from selected episodes of  Krishnaleela, Shakunthala, Kuchelavritham and Dhruvacharithram. The unique fact is greater emphasis is given to the rhythmic movements, and coordination  than mudra; no accompaniments of musical instruments.  This dance is  similar to the one  that brought Kamadeva / Manmadan (God of Love) back to life when he had been burnt to ashes by Lord Shiva's fury. He used his third eye (gnakkaan) and the flame from the eye burnt Manmadan because of his overtures toward his consort  Parvati.  He was restored   to life by the God upon Rathi's  persistent efforts. The dances  emphasize woman's fidelity and devotion to husband. Quite popular among women of Kerala, they painstakingly make preparation for this occasion.
Thiruvathira kalli, Kerala. pinrest.com 

Centuries ago  during the festival  women used to perform this dance in the privacy of their  homes, hence the  Malayalam name -  Kaikottikali: aka-inside + kaikottikali-play clapping hands.  This folk dance showcases the emotion of married women toward their husbands and the longing of young spinsters' aspiration for combatable male company.  Native style of attire is worn by dancers with mundu and neriyathu and the hair bun adorned with jasmine garlands.  The union of God Shiva and Parvati  symbolizes the eternal bondage between a husband and a wife, promoting harmony in the family. The purpose of this ritual dance at night is to recall the rebirth of Kamadeva, the God of romance and love. It emphasizes the  importance of the bondage between man and women  and the birth of new generation of people. 

 Tracing the origin to the Sangam period,   experts say Kerala’s indigenous dance forms like Mohiniyattam  and others owe their origin to the  stylized footwork and gait (chari)  of  Thiruvathirakali. Women are given full freedom  and allowed to go out at midnight and participate in the ritualistic dances all through the night. Surprisingly, no taboos are cast on them.  Such a flexibility in the social space offers them ample scope to socialize. The teachers - Gurus are mostly male well versed in this old form of dance.  Young girls from rich families learn this dance from them  at a very young age to get the coordination of movements and rhythm  when dancing. It needs years of experience to learn the art. Normally, they begin to dance after offerings are made to God Ganesha, Parvati and Shiva and the ritual of  ettangaadi.  Yet another interesting fact  is women  bathe in the early morning hours while singing and rhythmically striking the water.  Preparations for Thiruvathirakali will start  days before the Thiruvathira night. 

Thiruvathirakali is performed in two different styles in the South Kerala and  North Kerala.  In the former one could see certain elements   evolved from  Kolaattam - in this folk dance   women hold small decorated carved   sticks in their hands and strike them  against each other, Thalam Vechattam  - women dance with small brass plates (thalam) in their hands, Kudam Vechattam -  balancing a small pot (kudam) on the head,  women  dance to the music   and Pinnalaattam,  ( moving in tandem women weave impressive patterns  with strings held in their hand. It  is held either under the  tall shamina/ sheds or under trees or in the open air).

  kaikottikali dancers around flower kolam, Kerala. pinrest.com

''Thiruvathirakali'', the  old folk dance has survived  so far despite the impact of westsern culture, the arrival of an array of entertainments on TV and internet and most importantly  the decline of joint family systems, quite common in the rural areas  It is  confined to some places and some  Nambudri illams. Part of the reason is  schools and colleges encourage  competitions in folk dances and performing art forms among the  youths on the college festival circuits. There should be more workshops, just like the one held at Irinjalakuda organized by the Natanakairali, the cultural organization in January 2018 and the interaction of the masters with the ones interested in folk dances, etc., will keep the ancient dance forms alive.

     kaikottikali, Guinness Book of Records dance 2015.  metro.co.uk

 The 16-minute performance, held on 1 May 2017, had been adjudged the largest Thiruvathira ever held with a total of 6,582 girls and women in the age group of 10-75 participating in it. The credit goes to Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam.  for holding the largest Thiruvathira. It was   organised  the CSR wing of the Kitex Group, along with Chavara Cultural Centre and the Parvanendu School of Thiruvathira.