Kathakali the classical art form of Kerala is a spectacular blend of dance, drama, mime and song and is over 300 year old. Presented in the temple precincts after dusk falls, a Kathakali performance is heralded by the Kelikottu or the beating of drums to the accompaniment of the Chengila (gong).
One of the most exotic of the India's performing arts, Kathakali demands years of rigorous training and lays great emphasis on complex body movements and facial expressions. Therefore oil massages and a separate folio of exercises for the eyes, lips, cheeks, neck and the body form an integral part of the training, aiming at making the body supple.
In addition to postures, movements and facial expressions the Kathakali artiste narrates his story through hand gestures or mudras. There are twenty four basic mudras in Kathakali, some of them having upto thirty or forty interpretations. Until the beginning of this century, Kathakali aspirants stayed with the guru or teacher to undergo a twelve-year intensive training. Today, with the advent of formal training centres, the Gurukula system has virtually disappeared. The Kerala Kalamandalam is the most renowned centre for Kathakali training besides others like Margi.