In Cochin, live music accompanies the performance, tho' the performance I saw in Kovalam was to tape recorded music. ( which was a problem with the frequent power cuts!)
The musicians are usually illuminated by a single lantern or candle flame, which adds to the atmosphere.
The main instrument is the drum, a long barrel shaped instrument (sudda mandalam) It is beaten at both ends, producing a resonant rythym.
Singers accompany the drummer, the sounds they produce and the drum beat alters to portray the emotions the dancers are acting.
The musicians are highly skilled professionals.
The dancers don't speak or sing, but rely on the accompanying musicians, together with their facial expressions/hand gestures etc to portray moods and emotions to tell the story
The preparation of make up and dressing can take 2 hours or more, and follows a disciplined procedure, as the performer, takes on the whole persona of the character they are to present.
Special aryavaida massages are essential to maintain the dancers stamina and flexibility.
All the make up is prepared specially for each dancer, from minerals, vegetable and woods. Each being symbolic, and applied in a strict routine , with an assistant who mixes the make up and hands it to the dancer who applies it with thin wooden sticks.
Paper beards, and nose rossettes worn by certain characters, are made for each individual performance.
The final part of the make up/ dressing procedure, is the insertion of a seed from the cunlappuvu plant inside the lower lid of each eye, which turns the eye white a flaming red, used to symbolise demons, a softer pink is for kindly characters or beautiful women.
Viewing of make up/dressing is open to the audience and is included in the admission price.
Please visit my Kovalam and Cochin pages for more Kathakali info
Kathakali means story play. It is a classical dance- drama , derived from a form of yoga, that is believed to have its beginnings in the 2nd century BC, with the contempory form dating from the first half of the 17th Century AD.
Many elements of art form are combined into a Kathakali performance.
There are about 30 plays in existance,(originally there were about 100) based on stories from the Hindu epics like Ramayana and Mahabharatha, where common themes of good v evil, weakness & courage, wealth & poverty, War & Peace are dramatised.
Attakatha (the script) is a sanskrit form of Malayalam, vocalised by singers or musicians.
The dancers narrate the story through intricate facial expressions and gestures, with sudden leaps, spins and freeze balances. Each wearing fantastic costumes and elaborate make up.
Dancers usually begin a disciplined training at around age 10 or 12, lasting for about 8 years, where intense physical exercises and instruction in footwork, body movements, eye movements, hand gestures and facial portrayal of emotions are undertaken.
Each dancer learns the different characters parts /make up etc. as he may play a different character at each performance.
See my Kovalam and Cochin pages too for more tips about this fascinating tradition!
Kathakali traditionally took place in temple grounds, with performances lasting 4 hours or longer. During Temple festivals the performance starts at 9pm and continues through the night until early morning.
This artform was in danger of becoming extinct, but had a revival about 40 years ago.
Tourism keeps the performance alive today, but concessions have been made. Performances are shorter, and many now take place in indoor halls, restaurants and hotels.
The music (Geetham) and musical instruments (Vadhyam) form an integral part of the art performance, with highly trained artistes. Some performances are now accompanied by taped recordings. (The performance I saw in Kovalam was done this way, but suffered as a result of a few power cuts that night!)
I'd read that lower castes and women are now allowed to perform, but when I asked our guide about this he denied it.
Although Kathakali has rigid codes and a preciseness of training and practice, it is still allowed to progress with the individual interpretation of the performer.
Thadi or Tati (Beard) characters.
Demon characters such as The Hunter
Wears a red beard and false nose, with an outsized crown. He also is seen as a comic character.
Face paint is black, representing evil.
Other tati characters may have black or white beards as does Hanuman the monkey god
Samudra beach is a pleasant walk from Kovalam, about 2 kilometers a slow pace does the trick in the heat. This beach is very quiet and the best one for watching the fishermen. At the beggining of the beach are a few restaurants and shops. Once away from the hotels beaches you come to the quieter part nice for swimming, behind the beach is a lake where locals also fish. If you walk right along as far as you can go you come to a temple which is partly derilect and a small village, which is very traditional.
Hawa beach in kovalam is situated right next to lighthouse beach , the 2 are seperated by a rocky outcrop. Hawa beach in my opinion is the better of the two. As with lighthouse beach a few sunbeds are for hire and fishermen frequent the beach, It is a lovely sight to watch the men pulling in the nets and singing as they do so. The far end of hawa is the nicest and less crowded. Locals frequent the beach and there are 2 shack type restaurants and an icecream vendor. at sunset it can get quite busy with locals and tourists waiting to see the spectacular sight.
There are many beautiful beaches in Kerala, around Kovalam where we were based the main beach is Lighthouse beach, where of course the lighthouse is situated. In my opinion this is not the best beach and we did not bathe here. However you can sit in one of the many restaurants here and watch the world go by. A few rickety sunbeds are for hire and some people were body surfing, which looked fun. The lighthouse is situated at the end of the beach and is quite picturesque. This is the main tourist drag with shops selling crafts, gifts and jewellery. A nice spot to eat at night and take a stroll.
Kerala backwater tour is a unique tour option that gives an opportunity to the travellers to explore the beauty of true Kerala. This wonderful tour package takes you on a journey on the beautiful canals, lakes and estuaries making the panoramic backwaters of Kerala. The palm fringed banks and the villages of Kerala make wonderful sights while you are resting on the deck of your Kettuvalam. It is a heavenly feeling to feel the cool breeze brushing your face and refreshing you to the very core. The Kettuvalams or the houseboats are traditional boats that offer you an unusual accommodation, taking you through this paradisiacal land.
Kerala houseboat tour is very popular amongst domestic as well as international travellers who want to escape to the beauty and serenity that Mother Nature has bestowed upon this land. Here the colourful culture and the hospitality of the people will win you over and would pull you to visit this place again and again. Kovalam is one of the most famous destinations for the embarking of one’s backwater journey. Other destinations include Alleppey that is another known tourist destination. This tour is also very famous as the Kerala honeymoon package that comes with some additional frills to make it a perfect getaway from honeymooners.
You can be part of the natural surroundings that the state of Kerala has, and can see this state from a whole new angle, the one that takes you to the soul of the life in this land by considering Kerala backwater tour as your next travel option. It not only will give you space and surroundings that would refresh your mind, body and soul, but will also give you the time to relax and ponder over the best things that you have in your life. The Best India Tours is one of the best and professional tour operators who offer well designed Kerala backwater tours to their clients. They are known for their diligence to understand the customers, their needs and their requirements and then to offer the best to them.
The trip on Kerala backwaters on the houseboat was something unmissable. The drive from Varkala up to kollam is eventful passing through towns and villages all busy , traffic jams, celebrations, trains crossing. When we eventually arrived at kollam to board our houseboat, we were to say the least in need of some peace and quiet. The boat sailed off into the Ashtamudi Lake which is a mix of sea and fresh water and oh the peace and the quiet after the buzz of the towns. Another world awaits you as you eventually leave the lake and take to the backwaters, villagers living thier lives as they have done for hundreds of years, small fishing boats and chinese nets, all kinds of wildlife and birds. The boats are equipped to stay overnight if you wish or just a halfday or full day cruise, we did the full day cruise and were treated like royalty for the day, drinks and lunch ,fruit, water ,tea and the most delicious banana fritters with our teatime cuppa, Yes a backwater cruise is a must!
In general it is a good month, it would be warm as usual but less rain or no rain and less humidity and a good time to spend a few days sailing along the backwaters. if you are just taking an afternoon visit to the backwaters which most of the backpackers do, then it does not really matter.. but if you are going to take a visit of more than two days, February is the month to do it in
Eat Kozha puttu, nool puttu(string hoppers);appam and stew;elai adai(a jackfruit stuffed pancake);chips(choose from banana,jackfruit,tapioca)
wash it down with some tender coconut water
You could also try some fish/sea food
1. For a visit to the Padmanabhaswamy temple, keep your cellphone, camera at the hotel room and carry a dhoti ( preferably white) to wear or wrap around. Men need to enter without shirt. 2. Don't miss the chance to climb the 'gopur' in the evening 5.30 to 6.00pm. 3. Travel to the Shanghumugham Beach fr. Rly.stn. in an AC bus and get a good view of the city. 4. Make a one day trip to the Ponmudi hill station ( 60 km) and watch cloves being harvested.
A beautiful fort spanning about 40 acres . This was built about 300 yrs back during the time of Nayaks for protection from seaside attacks. Fell in to the hands of Mysore Sultans and later the British. The fort was built using bricks which were locally available. The vast area has watch towers, ammunition halls, water storage facility, tunnels and a breath taking view of the sea.
Kerala is blessed with a large number of water bodies, including lakes, rivers and back waters. Sandy beaches, lush green forests and verdant hills add to the luster of this land.
Have you ever thought of having a lake-front get-away, that too in full view of the Arabian Sea? Would you like to swim a couple of lengths in the lake under a bright tropical sun and also savor a tall cool glass of your favorite drink on the shore? Are you interested in using a rod to fish in the lake, or would you rather accompany the local fishermen during their daily activity of fishing?
A drive of 40 Km from Trivandrum along the NH 47 will take you to Kallabalam. Turn to the left and proceed another 13 Km, you will see the breath taking beauty of Mother Nature in all her splendor. On one side of the road, you see the waves of Arabian sea. On the other side, you will meet the placid waters of Paravoor lake. You could stroll on the beach and see the 'pozhi', where the lake nudges the sea. The breeze will make you forget all tribulations of the city
The arabian sea separated from the 'Paravoor kayal '(paravoor back water) by a long strip of land studded with the swaying coconut trees. In monsoon excess water flows from the kayal in to the sea via the 'POZHI' – a sandy beach.
There is a boat club to take you on speed boat ride or on a safari cruise. For a more adventure person, paddle boating, row boating and para-sailing also available.
There are comfortable resorts around for those who like to stay put- you don’t need to burn a hole in your purse as there are non a/c rooms available from Rs 1000-1500 per night.
Kumarakom North Post, Kumarakom, Kerala, 686 566, India
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