Kathakali Facts- Part 2 (Role of Colours; Play of Colours)-Post No.11,816


Post No. 11,816

Date uploaded in London – –  17 MARCH 2023                  

Contact – swami_48@yahoo.com

Pictures are taken from various sources for spreading knowledge.

this is a non- commercial blog. Thanks for your great pictures.

tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com



Part 2

Colours play a major role in the Kathakali dance. From the colours and facial make ups ,one can find out good and bad characters in the dance drama. There are five types of actors:

Pacha = green

Kathi = knife

Thadi = beard

Minikku = polished

Kari = black.

The costume and make up of Kathakali actors are impressive. Legend avers that the Raja Kottarkkara who first conceived the characters had a vision of SEA NYMPHS and MONSTERS from whom he copied the form. A Raja of Vettathunadu family made far reaching changes in the facial make up and head gears of characters. There are four different colourations of the face, each connoting a different mood.

Make up takes about three to four hours; an actor has to tie at least 80 knots in the process of dressing.


Five distinct types


Here the actors colour their faces deep green; the characters who impersonate gods and mythological heroes are called Pacha . they paint their lips dep red. The movements are dignified. They observe absolute silence.


Kathi characters paint their faces red and green; they represent ferocious and evil beings such as Ravana , the demon king. A knife shaped reddish marking on either side of the nose extending to the cheeks distinguish the Kathi type of actors. They wear artificial teeth and claws.


Actors who wear red, white and black beards are called Thadi. Bali, Sugriva and Kalakeya wear have red beards, while Kali, Kattalan/ hunter have black beards. Hanuman is depicted wearing white beard. All these characters roar loudly.


Those who impersonate Narada , ambassadors, ladies etc. come under the group  Minikku. They paint their faces in a mixture of yellow and light red and put white dots on their cheeks. They put on their fore-heads caste marks. They put black dye on eye brows. They redden their eyes.


Demons and evil characters symbolising savagery and primitiveness cone under the category of Kari.

Three to four years training is required for make up artistes.

Kathakali actors redden their eyes by applying the flower of Chunda (Solanum pubescence ).



The musicians need at least five years training. They follow classical Ragamala. A standard Kathakali performance will take 8 to 10 hours. Nowadays they perform it within a few hours.


Kathakali actors are masters of both Lasya and Tandava styles. They change it in quick succession. There are three distinct varieties of  Kathakali Dance.


The mild and gentle type usually adopted while depicting love and such other sweet and subtle emotions.


The intermediate type which is half way between the too slow and too quick varieties.


The extremely vigorous variety used in duels and battle scenes.


Mahakavi Vallathol

Kathakali has flourished long under royal patronage. Raja of Travancore supported various troupes.

Thanks to the great leadership of the foremost poet of Malabar,  Mahakavi Vallathol , the kathakali which was until yesterday a dying art has been revived. Poet Vallathol and his troupe of fine Kathakali dancers succeeded in rendering the historic art more attractive and popular. Now over 100 plays are available in print. Kerala Kala Mandalam and the academies are spreading the art.

Source book – Kathakali by K B Padmanabhan Tampy, 1963


Tags- Kathakali, Vallathol, Five types, Colours, Make ups

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: