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Enchanting Kerala

KERALA TOURISM NEWSLETTER

ISSUE: 226

JUNE 2012

Kalamezhuthu

You might have enthralled beholding the large oil-on-canvas paintings, or by the beauty of the modern acrylic paintings; but what we introduce here is an art of drawing where religion blends with many traditions and cultures. Kalamezhuthu, a unique powder drawing ritual art of Kerala, though temple-centered, has the elements of tribal and Dravidian cultures. Kalamezhuthu is an integral part of rituals like Ayyappan Theeyattu, Bhadrakali Theeyattu, SarpamThullal, Mudiyettu, and Kalampattu.

Kalam in Malayalam means picture and ezhuthu denotes the act of drawing. Kalamezhuthu is observed mostly in Bhagavathy / Bhadrakali temples of Kerala. The deities usually depicted are Goddess Bhadrakali, Lord Ayyappa, Naga Devata (serpent goddess) etc. These drawings, essentially non-Aryan in nature, are impregnated with ferocity that inspires awe and devotion among the devotees. There are certain traditional norms followed by the artistes in this type of drawing, which varies according to the traditions followed, community involved and the deity worshipped or drawn.

The ritual of Kalamezhuthu develops through three stages - Kalamezhuthu, drawing of the picture, Kalam Pattu, which involves the rendering of the myth related to the deity to the accompaniment of some traditional instruments and Kalam Thullal, the final stage in which the myth is performed in a stylised form following which the Kalam is erased. This art form is multi-dimensional in that it bears religious, aesthetic and social aspects.

Kalamezhuthu is a combination of two-dimensional and three-dimensional designs drawn with the colours black, white, green, yellow and red. What is unique is that the colours used are natural products. Burnt husk of paddy is used for black colour, powdered turmeric for yellow and powdered leaves and mylanchi (henna) for green. These hues are further mixed to obtain more combinations.

The outline is drawn with powdered rice, which is also used to get white colour. The scale varies from five meters to three meters. The deity is drawn in bright colors and in a dark background. When the bell metal lamps placed on the four corners of the drawing are lighted what ensues is an enticing piece of art. These awe-inspiring depictions will lead one to the roots of the aesthetic traditions of Kerala.

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