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in Kerala and India
Coordinates Template:IndAbbr 9°16′N 76°47′E / 9.27°N 76.78°E / 9.27; 76.78
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State Kerala
District(s) Pathanamthitta
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)

19 m (62 ft)

Padayani is a traditional folk-dance form of Kerala.

Padayani or padeni colloquial speech, is one of the most colourful and spectacular ritual art associated with the festivals of certain temples in southern Kerala, south India. [1] [2].

Geographical Spread

It is predominantly seen in South Central parts of Kerala, known as the Central Travancore; mainly in Pathanamthitta district and the neighbouring districts viz Kottayam, Alappuzha and Kollam.

Pathanamthitta is the motherland of The Padayani.


The word padayani literally means military formations or rows of army, but in this folk art we have mainly a series of divine and semi-divine impersonations wearing huge masks or kolams of different shapes, colours and desingns painted on the stalks of arecanut fronds.

File:Kolam Thullall.jpg
Thazhoor View 1

Thazhoor Bhagavathy Temple - View from Thazhoor bridge


The Padayani is dedicated to the Goddess Bhadrakaali. It is a marvellous combination of music, dance, painting and satire. The Padayani is conducted during the Malayalam months of Kumbham, Meenam and Medam (The English months of February, March and April).

Kadammanitta Devi Temple and , Othera devi temple, kottangal devi temple rtc... are famous for the annual Padayani Performances. In Kurampala Puthenkavil bhagavathi Temple is perform adavi (chooral urulicha and Padayani) once in 5 years

Padayani is the annual ritualistic festival celebrated in Bhadrakali temples of Central travancore province with due dedications. It may be regarded as the remains of ancient Dravidian God concept and mode of worship offering Rathi (lust), Raktham (Blood) and Lahari (toxic mood) The very spirit of central travancore finds its appearance in Padayani as that of Malabar in Theyyam. All the Sixty Four art forms play their own vital role in Padayani. Actully this is a combination of music, dance , painting, satire etc. Padayani reflects the ancient socialist society before Aryanization and four caste system. So in Padayani all the villagers take active part without racial discriminations. Each and every Padayani Karappuram (centers or village celebrating Padayani) observe padayani in their own way. In different aspect such as observation of rituals, order of performance and span of Padayani days difference noticed is of course very huge.

Padayani is celebrated during the months of Kumbham, Meenam, Medam ( Approximately February, March and April) Kolamezhuthu, Kolamthullal, Kolappattu, Thappumelam, Vinodam (satire) are the essential parts of Padayani. Kolams are folk deities drawn on well processed green areca leaf sheath with natural colours. Kolappattu (lyrics) includes prayers, admirations and requests to deities. Thappu is the ‘Asuravadya’ made by covering round frame of Jacktree hardwood with buffalohide. Kolamthullal is the rhythmic footsteps and dances that a performer makes in tune with Kolappattu and Thappumelam. Vinodam includes satire and protest targeting social evils and vanities. Bearing Palakkolam singing Kolappatu, dancing with the thalam of thappu , the whole villagers pray to God to bring in prosperity, to eradicate the ill effects of wicked deities, to ensure goodies from crops and so on. It is a way of worship with no intermediary between man and God. Further, we find true man leading eco-friendly life, worshipping nature disregard of the philosophy of exploitation

Padayani in Mythology

According to Hindu mythology, evolution of Padayani is as follows: Asura Darika delighted Lord Brahma through his hard practice of penance and gained blessings from him. According to this blessing, he would be killed only by a women. Darika went on with his atrocities. Failing to defend the wickedness of Darika, Devas approched Lord Shiva with their complaints. Hearing the wickedness of Darika, Lord shiva kindled with anger and opened his third eye bursting out fire. It is from this third eye, that kaali took her birth. Accepting the request of ‘Devas’ and obeying the instruction of her own father Shiva, Kaali left for the abode of Darika mounting herself on Vethal accompanied by ‘Koolee Ganam’. Fight between Darika and Kaali was really frightening . In the end Kaali cut off his head. Holding head in her hand and with overwhelming anger she returned to Kailasam. To pacify her and to satisfy her lust for blood, Devas consulting lord Shiva performed variety entertainments like dances, mimicry, dialogues, comedies etc. But all their attempts were in vain. As she was going to the inner apartment through the Gopura paused a while seeing the painting depicted angry Kaali. A smile appeared on her face. She asked her father "who drew this?". Shiva answered, This was drawn by Kurup’ (Kurupu Kurichu"). She glanced at the Kalam(Painting) once more and burst into laughter. Attempts made by Lord Shiva and his Bhoothagana to pacify and delight kaali are imitated as such in Padayani celebration. Even today kalamezhuthum Pattum is strictly conducted in Kaali temples with it own ritualistic originality. Kurup (a caste) draws the kalam even now.

As the people promised to offer their own blood, kaali became quiet and delighted. Padayani is celebrated annually for the protection and prosperity of both village and villagers.

Introductory steps of Padayani

Kalamezhuthum Pattum

Kalamezhuthum Pattum is nothing but a Dravidian way of worship. It is believed that lord subrahmanya drew the most fearful form of kaali for the first time. ‘who did draw this ? Kaali asked lord Siva. Siva answered Kurup drew this. Even today Bhadrakaali form is drawn using ‘Panchavarnappodi’ (five types of natural colour powders) by members of the race kurup. Kaali figure thus drawn has sword, Sharp knife, Arrow, bow, Chakram and gada in hands. Number of hands vary as four, eight, sixteen, thirty two, sixty four and so on. Eighteen colour shades are applied in kalamezhuthu, using panchavarnapodi and their combinations. Red colour can be created by mixing equal quantities of lime powder and turmeric powder. Rice powder, Vakayila powder, charcoal are used to prepare white, green and black colours respectively. There are folk techniques and calculations for the preparation of these colour powders, maintaining right proportion in colour combination and for deciding the quantity of colour powders to be taken for each Kalam in accordance with their size. With thumb and forefinger powder is taken and is then made fall through finger spaces to draw figures in the Kalam.

Kalamezhuthu, Pattu and Kuruthy are the introductory steps of padayani. Kalamezhuthu is done on Tuesday or Friday just prior to the village visit (Paraykkezhunnallipp) of Devi. Paraykkezhunnallippu generally commences on Aswathy, Bharani or Karthika day customarily. A ritualistic function Kuruthy is there seen associated with Kalamezhuthu. In olden days blood was offered in Kuruthy. After Aryanization, instead blood Aratham red coloured solution consisting lime and turmeric, is seen offered in kuruthy. Offerings of velichappadu, mouth piece of Devi, is an important ritual in kuruthy. In some places Oorali, person belonging to Kurava race, performs this pooja in place of velichappadu. In some places Oorali thullal ( a certain type of footsteps by oorali) is regarded as the first step of padayani.


Devi, the village deity, visits the houses in a procession, seating herself on a Jeevatha accompanied by beating of Chenda and multicoloured decorated umbrellas. Thus she observes both the prosperity and poverty of her off springs. Villagers receive Devi with Nirapara or Anpoli. In some houses, people accompanying Devi will be properly entertained with feasts or sweets. Showering graces on villagers, taking steps with Pancharimelam, Devi finds her way back to the temple finishing Paraykkezhunnallippu extending several days.

Choottu Veyppu

This is the first step of Padayani. Each Padayanikkarappuram has its own traditional way of Choottuveyppu. Choottu lighted from the lamp in the Sreekovil by the Poojari (temple priest) is handed over to the Oorazhmakkaran. People with Kurava and arppuvili accompany him. After Performing Pradakshinam, this lighted Choottu will be placed at the Meenathemoola (South western corner) of the temple. Tail end of coconut leaves(Thunchani) made in to a bundle is called choottu. After choottuveypu masters of Padayani (Padayani Ashanmar) beat Ganapathy and padivattam on warmed Thappu. There will be frequent Kathinavedi in the course of Thappu beating. Padayani calls out Devi with loud ‘Eee-hoo’ sounds. This is actually an invitation to Devi to witness Padyani. This function is called Vilichirakkal, Kottivilikkal or Pachathappum Kaimaniyum in certain places. After 3 hours since sunset. Veekan chenda is beaten in a particular rhythm and a howling sound is made around the kavu. Awaking Pishachu (Pishachine Unarthal) is the name given to this step of Padayani.


Thappumelam, Valyamelam, Kappoli

After certain days since Choottuveypu, Padayani commences. In some places Padayani begins with Thappumelam but in some other places is with Valyamelam. The system of valyamelam is very rare now. Kappoli is at the climax kalayam of melam. Padayanikkalam is situated at the very front of Kshethranada (temple entrance). Men holding leafy twigs and sounding aarpuvili leap forward to the kalam from either sides and perform dances. At the same time already prepared Kolams are brought in procession to the Kalam in the light of lighted choottu kattas, accompanied by chendamelam and arppuvili. This is called eduthuvaravu, In tune with this melam, kolam performs kappoli. There will be Kathinavedi very frequently during Eduthuvaravu. After Ganapathi and Padivattom kolams go round the temple and finally come to the Kalam. Then the kolam artists place kolams there in the Padayanikkalam.


Footsteps taken with expertise in body movement following the rhythm of melam. Hand movements or gestures have no much importance in Thavadi. The main performer moves in front taking steps and sounding kaimani. Others follow him dancing in three folds.


On either side of the Thavadi dancers, people appear with false face masks holding models of chenda, Thappu and kaimani and take comic steps defectively imitating thavadi dancers. This performance is called Pannathavadi. It is regarded as a protest of people who were expelled from padayani consequent on their failure in attaining the artistic standard or real thavadi.


After thavadi, Velichappadu, a comedy form makes its appearance. In certain padayani grounds Velichappadu appears even before Thavadi. Next performance is Paradeshi, In an age lacking press or electronic media news were brought to the villages through ‘Paradeshis’. Comedy items enjoy more importance in Kurampala Padayani than that in other places. After the comedy items Kolams occupy the kalam. Kuthira, Ganapathi, Ganapathi Pishachu, Marutha, Madan, Yekshi, Kalan, Bhairavi. This is the order of performance generally. One important kolam each comes to the kalam each day. But in many places, system of Koottakkolam (Conducting the performance of a group of kolams in a might) is seen followed.


Adavi is the most important ritualistic function of Padayani which runs for several days. Routine ritualistic performances will be there on adavi day too. In addition, comedy forms such as Seethankan thullal and Vairavi and special ritualistic functions such as Panayadi, Chat will be there. Adavi is generally on the third, sixth or the ninth day since the commencement of Ezhuthi thullal. There will be a special panthal (stage with roof) for adavi. Triangular shaped Adavikkodu are made with ‘Palakkampu’ (Stick cut taken from a tree named paala) and leafy twigs. In front of each koodu, there will be a wooden block. A person stands near the Panayorukku(Things arranged for Pana) with a Panakkutty one side of which is made hollow. Velan begins Parakottichattu. The atmosphere is made uproarious with Aarpuvili and Kathinavedi. The person holding Panakkutty gets possessed and walks round the Panayorukku. After making three such rounds he calls out aloud standing at the temple entrance. At this time another possessed person making roaring sound reaches Adavikkalam with quick running steps. The person who prepares himself with Katina Vratha (hard fast routines imposed on the self) to perform Panayadi will surely reach Adavipanthal for the purpose even if he is buried under ground, putting huge stones on flat wood block placing on the earth above him.

This person walks around panayorukku and receives himself the Panakkutty while making each round, he breaks one tender coconut each hitting on the wooden block. A single hitting is allowed for each coconut. If the coconut is not broken in a single hitting, it is regarded as an ill omen. In his way, he should break all the tender coconuts placed in the panthal.

Adavi at Kurampala

Adavi at Kurampala Devi Temple is performed once in five years. Adavi performed here has some special features. Adavi performance is on the ninth day of padayani. In the morning villagers reach the temple and make round with uprooted coconut palm, Areca palm, Thorny cane etc. This ritualistic observation is called ‘Thengu, Pana, chooral Kalippikkal’. Padayani begins at seven in the evening. Seethankan thullal, Vairavi etc. are staged. By midnight Velichappadu, honorably titled here Valiyachan, begins Pana beating . Velan begins Parachattu at the Moolasthanam.. After Panabeating, Valiyachan gives holly ashes to devotees. Devotees thus received holly ashes travel to far off places and bring thorny canes uprooted. Rolling themselves in the thorny canes the devotees traverse the whole path around the temple. Finally the devotee rolled in cane will be lifted and removed from the Kalam. Cane covering his body will be cut removed. The blood from the wounds is supposed to have offered to kaali. This ancient way of worship resembles ‘Narabali’ (human sacrifice) in its spirit. Temple premises will be empty on the following day. Temple ground is supposed to be the playground of wicked deities on that day.

Azhiyazhikkal, Adavi Uyarthal (in Kottangal)

As the flame rises in the ‘Aazhikkalam’ and sound of conch rises three times amidst Adavi vili villagers rush to the kalam with Karimpana, Areca Palm, Bamboo, Banana, Mango tree etc. to extinguish the flame. After doing this trees are planted there. Then the ground resembles a small forest. People climb up these trees and break the branches including small twigs. At the same time a huge flame is made burning bundles of dry coconut leaves. As the fire extinguishes, plants are felled down and removed from the Kalam thus adavi comes to an end.

Valiya Padayani

Vallya Padayani is conducted on the day which is regarded by the villagers as the dearest one for the most helpful animal for people enraged in farming activities is bullock. Models of bullocks created and are Devi brought everywhere in the village in procession. Neighboring villagers are duly received and honoured. Thus are some common observations related to Vallya padayani.


This is to eradicate Gandharva badha from virgin girls. Dance of Gandharvan Kolam is seen staged in some places. Piniyal holds the Arecanut inflorescence, Maranpattu is sung. The whole observation is done in an atmosphere of aarpu, kurava etc. Comedy item, Kaniyan Purappadu is also performed along with pooppada.

Nayattum Padayum

It is performed on the day following Adavi. Animals rushing to the cultivated field were once driven away with the help of dog and by lighting flames. Nayattum Padayum (Hunting and army) can be considered as the imitation of this practice. Ayyappa charitham ( story of Lord ayyappa) is sung in Nayattum Padayum. Pulikkolam(tiger), naykkolam (dog), Karadikkolam (bear) etc. are associated with this item.


Mangalakkolam comes on Vallya Padayani day which is otherwise called Nirthu Padeni. When all kolam finish their performance on Vallya padeni day, it will be day break. Mangalakkolam beg pardon kavilamma for the faults and foibles that might have happened while staging padayani. Bhairavi and Kanjiramala are often regarded as Mangalakolam. Dance of Mangalakkolam comes to an end only after day break. After that samarppana gadyam is chanted and kolam mask is removed.

In Kurampala Padayani, after the performance of Bhairavi, all the wicked deities are attracted and favoured showing a black hen. Then they are led to the chiramudi along with the kolam. Chiramudi is a place with a plenty of pineapple plants, Ilanji trees, Yakshippana, Pala trees etc. Karinkozhi (black hen) is offered in bali cutting by its neck. Mannan performs some magic rituals. Then the kolam is hung on a Palamaram. Without looking back, all leave chiramudi.

Chattathekkolam (at Othera Kolam on the frame)

This kolam comes after Mangalakkolam. This kolam, as its name suggests, is mounted on a chattam, a wooden platform on wheels. To each face of this kolam, there will be a lighted torch and a bell. This is otherwise called Ayiramaniyan Kolam (Kolam with thousand bells). This kolam is cut made from thousand areca leaf sheaths. Chattathekkolam is performed only associated with Othara Padayani.

Neelam Peroor Pooram Padayani

Pally Bhagavathi Temple, Neelamperoor has a history of about 1700 yrs and it is one of the few relics of the Buddhist culture in Kerala. The principal deity of the temple is Goddess VanadurgaThe festivals of the temple are two in number- the ten day festival in the solar month meenam with its ninth day falling on pooram and the pooram padayani which starts from the day next to Thiruvonam in Chingam ( the first solar month of the Keralite calendar ) and lasts till Pooram, the birth day of the deity

The festival Pooram Padayani of this temple is a rare and unparalleled phenomenon because it represents a synthesis of the Buddhist and Hindu cultures. It is strikingly similar to the Buddhist festival seen by Fahiyan, the Chinese traveler in Padaliputra (Patna in Bihar). It also resembles the ceremonies held in Sreemoolavarom which was once a budhist centre in Kerala,. The Pooram Padayani is characterised by the display of exquisitely decorated effigies of Swans, Bhima, Ravana, Yakshi,Elephant etc. These are offerings in gratitude by devotees for the fulfillment of their desires. Making of these effigies need consummate craftsmanship. About one lac rupees is needed for the construction of Big Swan. The cost of conducting a padayni is shooting up year by year and the organisers are facing huge problems in mobilising the required funds. Donations made by the local people and various organisations are the main source of receipts for meeting the expenditure.

Padayani begins at 10 p.m on the avittam day with prayers. Flames are received from the priest. With this flames devotees set fire to the bundles of coconut leaves. With these bundles in hand they move to the monument of Cheraman perumal at the western side. After receiving his symbolic sanction, they start padayani. This continues for the first four days. The next four days are characterised by Kudapadayani which consists of floral decorations on umbrella-shapes made from the stems of coconut leaves. From the eighth day to twelfth effigies made out of green leaves of jackfruit trees are offered. The effigies displayed for the twelfth day are made of the fibrous stem of plantains or slender leaves of coconut stems. The last two days are characterised by the display of swans (Annams) which are made of plantain stems and slender leaves of coconut trees with floral decorations. The highlight of the days is of course the offering of the big swan to propitiate the deity.

On the final day a smith breaks a coconut and turns it round. On the basis of this he makes some predictions. The temple closes at 10 P.M and then starts what is known as Kudampooja. The padayani is characterised by Thothakali, a rhythmic dance in accordance with songs from the folklore and the beating of the drums. Devotees arrange themselves round the big fire at the centre twirling small clothes in an artistic pattern and dance. Spectators from different parts of the country throng to the place to see this rare artistic form. The most spectacular of all is the display of the BIG SWAN which is about 45 feet high. Other swans and fully decorated effigies enhance the beauty of the seen.

When the padayani is over, people disperse in different directions. The gurusi offered by a specially chosen devotee who has undergone austeries for several days with penance and meditation (matter (neelamperoor) from Temple web)

Ponadu Choottu Padayani

This is the annual festival at the ancient Bhagavathy Temple in Meenachil taluk. Bunches of dry palm fronds (chootu) are lit and carried in procession around the temple before the performances. Padayani performers then hit each other with the burning chootu.

Padayani at each place has its own special features. Even the rituals vary much as we move from one village to the other. In places Velichappadu appears in the kalam after all ritualistic performances. In some places Kuruthy takes places after padayani. Appearance of Konan, a comedy character, after the Kalamozhiyal of kolam, the system of singing Devi worship songs by people in the tune of ‘Vanchippattu’, Pakal Padayani ( Padayani during day time) on Pathamudayam Day (Medam 10th) without kolam performance, Thattummekkali with songs of Lord Shiva staging on Kalatthattu Parayan thullal, Seethankan thullal, Aattakkoppu, Kalamezhuthu, Aapinteem Vilakkum, Sending back Devi after Padayani (Kottikkettal), Foretelling matter on the basis of the signs seen on cutting coconut and thus go on the variations in Padayani in various padayani villages. Above descriptions account for all such variations in additions to the common features of Padayani.

See also


  1. [1] Kerala-History
  2. Tourist Guide to Kerala By Motilal (UK) Books of India, Various, V. Subburaj

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