On our first night in Kerala we went to a Kathakali performance. This is a highly stylized classical Indian dance noted for the make-up of its characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and body movements. It originated in Kerala during the 17th century. We were able to turn up an hour before the performance to look at the artists putting on their make-up.
Kathakali is usually performed in front of the huge lamp with a thick wick sunk till the neck in coconut oil. Traditionally, this lamp used to provide only light when the plays used to be performed inside temples, palaces or houses.
A distinguishing characteristic of this art form is that the actors never speak but use hand gestures, expressions and rhythmic dancing instead of dialogue. A Kathakali actor trains for about 8 - 10 years. The entire story is acted purely by the movement of the hands (mudras) and facial expressions (rasas).