Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Padayani is a ritualistic art form performed in Bhadrakali temples of Central Travancore mainly in Pathanamthitta,Alapuzha and Kottayam Districts of Kerala.
It is done as part of annual festival of these temples and mostly celebrated in the months of February to May.(Malayalam months Kumbham,Meenam and Medam).
The legend is that Goddess Bhadrakali after killing the Demon Darika  became very furious and destructive.Because of her immense power nobody was brave enough to go near her to make her calm.Her creator Lord Shiva laid on the way and Kali Devi without noticing him stepped on him.She understood that by mistake she stepped on him and regained  her senses.But yet she was in an angry mood and to make her calm down and happy Lord Shiva with his aides(Bhootha Gana) wore effigies of different characters and danced before her.Goddess Bhadrakali Devi witnessing the painted masks, costumes of areca tree sheaths, and painted headgears became very happy.Since this dance was enjoyed by her,  every year in Bhadrakali temples effigies which are known as 'Kolam' are made and dancers perform with the aid of percussion instrument known as 'Thappu'.Cymbals and Chenda are other musical instruments used.
                           Padayani is very ancient art form originated before Brahmin supremacy and purely a Dravidian cult is followed for it.The songs are traditional handed over to generations which are in simple Malayalam.
Apparitions of Gods,Semi Gods or Demons are made on 'Sheaths of tender arecanut flower bunches' which are off-white in colour.Such sheaths are cut out to required sizes, sewed together and painted with natural colours.Lime,
Carbon,turmeric paste,green paste made of certain leaves,powder of certain
coloured stones etc are used for painting on them.
Different characters have different forms and designs and they are all followed strictly as per the traditional ways, instructed by their  'Guru'.It is believed that the 'deity' of the respected  'effigy' will have the presence at the time of the performance of that 'Kolam' and influences the dancer also.That deity and Bhadra Kali Devi will bless the painters, dancers,devotees who made arrangements for the Kolam,  Villagers and spectators is the belief.So  during the making of the effigies and while performing them everybody pays all kinds of respect and follows the rituals strictly.
There are so many varieties of 'Kolams' like " Pakshi,Yakshi,Maadan,Marutha,
Pisachu,Kuthira Kolam,Kalan Kolam,Bhairavi Kolam,Bhadrakali Kolam,Dhoomavathi,Ambara Yakshi,Arakki Yakshi,Sundara Yakshi" etc etc.
Padayani may be performed for one day or for  several days as per the tradition of the temple concerned.If the festival extends for many days every day 'Kolams' such as 'Pakshi,Yakshi,Maadan,Marutha and Pisachu' are  surely performed which are collectively known as 'Pancha Kolam'.The Villagers seek Bhadrakali's protection and blessing for not to get any harm from them.'Kalan Kolam' and 'Bharavi Kolam' are also performed every day.
                          At the 'Neelamperoor Temple' some special Kolams like 
'Swan' (small and big sizes) are performed and believed that they are remnant of the Budhist cult prevailed in Kerala.
Occasionally very large 'Kolam' known as 'Chattakolam' which are created  out of more than 1000 sheaths are made.Such Kolams can not be carried on head because of huge size and weight  but drawn on carts around the temple and placed at a place.It will be a ravishing and imposing vignette show piece.

The word padayani means an array of soldiers.Lord Shiva's 'Pada'(Soldiers) started 'Padayani', and hence the name is a belief.The 'Nair' soldiers of yesteryears used to perform in olden days and the name derived is another belief.Still now, before the perform of 'Kolams' some  men of the village displays acrobatics,martial arts,physical strength-stamina-physical  abilities and flexibility  as a Custom which is known as 'Kappoli' at the temple premises.
Padayani is the festival in which all the villagers take part without any discrimination.It is the festival period of unity,enjoyment and 'True Devotion'.

                            The finished 'Kolams' are  worn by  trained dancers and brought to the temple at night in a procession and torches made up of dry coconut leaves are used along with some oil lamps in the traditional way.Afterwards each and every 'Kolams' are performed according to their particular songs and respective rules.These dances will mostly finish at dawn only and as the last item a ritual known as 'Poopada' is performed.
The colourful effigies of the sanguinary characters in different shapes and sizes reflected   by the flames of torches,the schematic springy foot steps done deftly by the dancers creates  an enchanting and wonderful mood 
for the spectators.
Kadammanitta Bhagavathy Temple-Pathanamthitta,
Kurambala Bhagavathy Temple-Pandalam
Puthukkulangara Bhagavathy Temple-Othara-Chengannur
Vadasserikavu Bhagavathy Temple-Mundancavu-Chengannur etc
are some of the famous Bhadra Kali Temples where Padayani is celebrated
in a grand manner every year.

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