Vela Kali

Velakali is a ritual art (dance) of Kerala a small state in south India, mainly performed at temples in the festival time.The performers, clad in the traditional clothes and colourful headgear of the medieval Nair soldiers, engage in vigorous movements and dexterous sword play, to the accompaniment of an orchestra comprising the maddalam, ilathalam, kombu and kuzhal. Velakali originated in Ambalappuzha where Mathoor Panicker, chief of the Chempakasserri army, promoted it to boost the martial spirit of the people. The dance form is a regular feature of the annual festivities at the Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna temple in Alappuzha district.

Extreme dedication and continuous practice are essential for this form of art.Many of the body postures, choreography and foot work of the Velakali characters are taken directly from Kalarippayattu.mong the martial folk arts, this is one of the most spectacular and extremely vigorous dances performed in Kerala. Originating among the Nairs, the traditional warriors of Kerala, this dance is now presented by other Hindu sects also.

It is begun with the deity taken out in a procession on an elephant. This is called Thirumumbil Vela which literally means that the performance is in front of the deity. If this ritual is performed near the temple pond, it is called Kulathilvela.   In some places, the 50 odd dancers are joined by flag-waving local people who group behind them and chant words signifying the particular dance-step in progress. In some others, dancers known as Velamudikkaars wearing masks of tigers and bears provide some kind of fun to the spectators.   The dancers are in fabulous attire with a conical head-dress, with the cone pointing to one side and beading of jari work at the lower edge. Their chests are covered with beads and other types of garlands. Armlets are also used. In some regions dancers wearing masks of tigers and bears, known as Velamudikaars, dance with grotesque gestures, among the dancers.   It is believed that this perfomance has reference to the war between the Kauravars and Pandavas or the war between Devas and Asuras from the Hindu epics.   This art form took shape at Ambalapuzha under the dispensation of the local Raja, Mathur Panicker family and they form a Velakali troupe.