(Last Updated on : 28/10/2010)
Thullal is known as one of the popular performing art forms of Kerala that emerged in the 18th century. This classical art form has gained popularity because of its simplistic performance and expressive way of presentation. Thullal is performed with songs and the performer, with his or her dancing pose and gestures expressing the meaning of the verses. The songs are composed keeping in mind the basics of the principles of the treatise, Natyashastra
. In this performance, the actor is supported by a singer who repeats his lines, a drummer and a cymbalist. The narration is accompanied by dancing.
Origin of Thullal
The origin of Thullal is attributed to Kunjan Nambiar, a veritable genius and one of the foremost poets of Kerala
. Though based on classic principles of Natyashastra the technique of this art is not rigid. The songs are written in simple Malayalam language
and provide a direct appeal to every day life. This aspect made Thullal very popular. The word `Thullal` connotes jumping and it is said that in Malayalam, it is a genre of poem.
Classification of Thullal
Thullal is classified in three different categories according to the rhythm and metre of the songs. They are Seethankan Thullal, Ottan Thullal, and Parayan Thullal. The costumes and dances of Thullal vary from one kind to another. The Seethankan Thullal is performed during afternoon while the Parayan Thullal is performed during forenoon and Ottan Thullal after sunset. The dancer with his different dancing gestures sometimes with rhythmic movement and vigorous steps create an additional charm. The songs sung in the Thullal follow the tala and raga along with the use of Chaste Carnatic ragas.
Among the three forms of Thullals, Parayan Thullal is said to be the slowest in tempo. In this dance form the dancer with his expressive gestures defines the meanings of the verses. Basically the dancer enacts this performance by standing erect and sometimes adds minimal movements. A conical crown is worn by the dancer and the hood of a serpent is placed on the top of the crown. Bold eye highlights are done to make the expression of the dancer clear to the audience. The body of the performer is smeared with sandal paste and red cloth covers the legs and a white cloth is tied over it. Ornaments like ankle-bells, necklace
, etc. are used to bedeck the dancer.
Seethankan Thullal is another form of Thullal. This is slower in tempo, metre and rhythm in comparison to the Ottan Thullal. The costumes of the dancer include a black cloth that is tied around the head with tender palm leaves. This looks like a crown. Different ornaments made of palm leaves are used too. The waist of the dancer is decked with red and white cloth. Ottan Thullal has gained most popularity among the three forms of Thullals. This dance form is fastest among the three Thullal dances with a high tempo. In this form, the face of the dancer is painted in the pacha style Kathakali
make-up. Bold red, white and bland are used. A white and red coloured cloth is worn by the performer; extensive use of ornaments made of wood, beads is prevalent in this dance form. A many- headed serpent crown with black cloth is worn by the dancer.
Apart from these three Thullal dances there are other forms like Kolam Thullal and Thumbi Thullal. These dances are performed during temple festivals and Onam
in Kerala. Though these are considered as forms of Thullals, basically these are folk dances in which the women take active parts. The main instruments used in Thullal performance are maddalam and the cymbals
. The cymbal player, who tunes the rhythm, also assists the actor dancer (Thullakaran) in singing. The dancers of Thullals, before the performances, follow the set sequence of preludes of decorative dances with skilful footpaces such as Ganapati, Pallivattam, Mannarang, and Bhoopathi. The Shloka is chanted before and after the performances.