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Kalamezhuthu Ritual Art of Kerala

 

To a true artist, the entire planet is their canvas. This simple ideal can be viewed at its epitome during the 40 day Kalamezhuthu festivals held at Bhagavathy Temples across God’s Own Country. Maestros combine coloured powders to draw beautiful drawings on the floor, exalting and worshipping the great Gods of the land including Bhadrakaali, Ayyappan, Serpent or Vettakkorumakan. From temples to noble households, one sees these unique portraits accompanied by the Kalamezhuthupattu. These are erased at the end of the ritual, with the rhythms of various musical instruments like the ilathalam, veekkanchenda, kuzhal, kombu and chenda, acting as accompaniment.

Only natural products are used for the ritual to make the Kalam, also called the dholichithram or powder drawing. The pigments are extracted from plants- rice flour (white), charcoal powder (black), turmeric powder (yellow), powdered green leaves (green), and a mixture of turmeric powder and lime (red). The entire process can take up to 2 hours and it is sometimes even decorated with a canopy of palm fronds, garlands of red hibiscus flowers and thulasi or Ocimum leaves. The artists have traditionally belonged to the Kurups, Theyyampadi Nambiars, Theeyadi Nambiars and Theeyadi Unnis communities, each having their own unique kalam traits. A wide range of emotions are expressed in these works, as the artists bare their very soul during the same.

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