Poothamkali, an art form that is nearing extinction

Intricately designed colorful masks carved out of the pala and murukku trees


Image source_wikipedia(V M Devadas)

Performers usually undergo a week of austerity before the presentation

Poothamkali is a folk art more commonly a temple art form, in the Bhagavathy temples of Malabar. Pootham is the character who accompany Durga/Kali in her combat with Darika asura. As per the ritual the performers undergo a week of austerity before the presentation. Firstly Pootham will be performing in the temple premises and then will go from house to house and perform. Secondly householders respectfully receive the Pootham with the traditional “Deepam” (lighted lamp). They are also gifted paddy, rice and money.

Intricate design of colorful masks carved out of the pala and murukku trees are the highlights of the attire. For instance the performance starts slowly and becomes frenzy towards the end, like many traditional dances. The thudi provides rhythm to the dance. The artists of Poothamkali especially the dancers belong to the Mannan community, they do also practice indigenous medicine.

In the performance of Poothamkali footsteps of the dancer are the highlights. Moreover the performers who wears chilanka, an anklet uses for dance dances according to the rhythm of a musical instrument (thudi). Peacock feathers, cloth, silk, canes, mirror, papers with various colors and bamboo form part of the decoration. Also the performers wear different types of ornaments in neck and waist. They also wears special bangles with thorns in wrists and shoulders. These ornaments are usually worn above a red cloth.

The artistes are a vanishing tribe, lie between their commitment to their art and the biting reality of their poverty. Even annual temple festivities that gave the artistes an opportunity to display their art have now been replaced with popular shows,

Here a video of this art form

Mayesh Babu