Performing Arts >Kannyaarkali


Kannyaarkali, also known as Desathukali, is a folk dance form exclusively practised by the Nair or equivalent community in parts of Palakkad district, Kerala. It originates from the martial arts practiced in the region which was under constant threat from attacks from neighbouring Konganadu. Dance and comedy were added to the rhythm, agility and grace of the martial arts giving rise to Kannyaarka.

The dance is performed solely by men in front of the Bhagavathy on a specially prepared stage of bamboo poles decorated with flowers. The performance lasts three or four days, depending on the tradition of the temple that hosts it, with a few days of rehearsal preceding it (this rehearsal is called idakali). A performing team can consist of six to twenty members. Kannyaarkali is usually held in the beginning of Meda month (April-May) when the sowing season starts. The team dances to the tune of devotional songs accompanied by percussion instruments. Each day's performance is called by a different name – iravakali, anadikoothu, vallon and malama.

The kannyarkali performance takes place over four consecutive nights, preceded by four nights of idakali and the previous night of pandhal urakkam (sleeping in the shamiana). The performance concludes with thottam chollal (singing verses in praise of Bhagavathy) in the three different pandhals set up for this and the final poovaral (removal of flowers) ceremony.


Contributed by: Neethu, CEE Kannur Field Office

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