Kummattikkali is a mask dance usually performed in the northern districts of Kerala. The dancers, in painted wooden masks and sporting sprigs of leaves and grass, go dancing from house to house.
The group of dancers numbers eight to ten and each wears a distinct and peculiar Kummatti garb. One of the dancers is the thalla (witch) who leads the group in dance, music and enactment. The Thalla character wears the mask of a very old woman with hair worn in an ancient style. Children donning the masks of several Hindu gods and goddesses also make part of the dance group.
The songs are usually based on devotional themes and are accompanied by a bow instrument called Onavillu. The Onavillu is a typical Kerala string instrument made of the pith of the palmyra stem shaped as a bow and bamboo slivers used as bowstrings.
When the dancers enter the courtyard of a house the Thallakkummatti holds a baton in hand and starts the song and dance. No special training or settings are required for Kummattikkali and often onlookers join the dance.
This ancient folk art form is performed in Wayanad and certain parts of Palakkad as a ritualistic ceremony to propitiate Devi, the mother goddess, but in Thrissur it is also a form of social entertainment. In Ottapalam, Kummattikkali marks the beginning of the harvest festival.