Culture of Kerala
The culture of Kerala is a synthesis of Aryan and Dravidian cultures, developed and mixed for centuries, under influences from other parts of India and abroad. It is defined by its antiquity and the organic continuity sustained by the Malayali people. Modern Kerala society took shape owing to migrations from different parts of India throughout Classical Antiquity. Kerala trace its non-prehistoric cultural genesis to its membership (around the 3rd century CE) in a vaguely defined historical region known as Thamizhagom — a land defined by a common Tamil culture and encompassing the Chera, Chola, and Pandya kingdoms. At that time, the music, dance, language (first Dravida Bhasha — "Dravidian language" — then Tamil), and Sangam (a vast corpus of Tamil literature composed between 1,500–2,000 years ago) found in Kerala were all similar to that found in the rest of Thamizhagom (today's Tamil Nadu). The culture of Kerala evolved through the Sanskritization of Dravidian ethos, revivalism of religious movements and reform movements against caste discrimination. Kerala showcases a culture unique to itself developed through accommodation, acculturation and assimilation of various faculties of civilized lifestyle.
Native traditions of classical performing arts include koodiyattom, a form of Sanskrit drama or theatre and a UNESCO-designated Human Heritage Art. katakhalei (from katerumbu' ("story") and kali ("performance")) is a 500-year-old form of dance-drama that interprets ancient epics; a popularized offshoot of kathakali is Kerala natanam (developed in the 20th century by dancer Guru Gopinath). Meanwhile, koothu is a more light-hearted performance mode, akin to modern stand-up comedy; an ancient art originally confined to temple sanctuaries, it was later popularized by Mani Madhava Chakyar. Other Keralite performing arts include mohiniyaattam ("dance of the enchantress"), which is a type of graceful choreographed dance performed by women and accompanied by musical vocalizations. Thullal, padayani, and theyyam are other important Keralite arts.
Kerala also has several tribal and folk art forms. For example, Kummattikali is the famous colorful mask-dance of South Malabar, performed during the festival of Onam. The Kannyar Kali dances (also known as Desathukali) are fast moving, militant dances attuned to rhythmic devotional folk songs and asuravadyas. Also important are various performance genres that are Islam- or Christianity-themed. These include oppana, which is widely popular among Keralite Muslims and is native to Malabar. Oppana incorporates group dance accompanied by the beat of rhythmic hand clapping and ishal vocalizations.
However, many of these native art forms largely play to tourists or at youth festivals, and are not as popular among ordinary Keralites. Thus, more contemporary forms — including those heavily based on the use of often risqué and politically incorrect mimicry and parody — have gained considerable mass appeal in recent years. Indeed, contemporary artists often use such modes to mock socioeconomic elites. In recent decades, Malayalam cinema, yet another mode of widely popular artistic expression, have provided a distinct and indigenous Keralite alternative to both Bollywood and Hollywood.
The ragas and talas of lyrical and devotional carnatic music — another native product of South India — dominates Keralite classical musical genres. Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma, a 19th-century king of Travancore and patron and composer of music, was instrumental in popularising carnatic music in early Kerala. Additionally, Kerala has its own native music system, sopanam, which is a lugubrious and step-by-step rendition of raga-based songs. It is sopanam, for example, that provides the background music used in kathakali. The wider traditional music of Kerala also includes melam (including the paandi and panchari variants), as style of percussive music performed at temple-centered festivals using an instrument known as the chenda. Up to 150 musicians may comprise the ensembles staging a given performance; each performance, in turn, may last up to four hours. Panchavadyam is a differing type of percussion ensemble consisting of five types of percussion instruments; these can be utilised by up to one hundred artists in certain major festivals. In addition to these, percussive music is also associated with various uniquely Keralite folk arts forms. Lastly, the popular music of Kerala — as in the rest of India — is dominated by the filmi music of Indian cinema. The most remembered name in kerala music culture is of Great Indian musician Sri K. J. Yesudas.
Martial arts and sports
Kerala also has its own indigenous form of martial art — Kalarippayattu, derived from the words kalari ("place", "threshing floor", or "battlefield") and payattu ("exercise" or "practice"). Influenced by both Kerala’s Brahminical past and Ayurvedic medicine, kalaripayattu is attributed by oral tradition to Parasurama. After some two centuries of suppression by British colonial authorities, it is now experiencing strong comeback among Keralites while also steadily gaining worldwide attention. Other popular ritual arts include theyyam and poorakkali — these originate from northern Malabar, which is the northernmost part of Kerala. Nevertheless, these have in modern times been largely supplanted by more popular sports such as cricket, kabaddi, soccer, badminton, and others. 'Kochi Tuskers Kerala' playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) is from Kerala. Kerala is home of the football clubs Viva Kerala and FC Kochin.it has also being liked by people from all over the world
Malayalam literature is ancient in origin, and includes such figures as the 14th century Niranam poets (Madhava Panikkar, Sankara Panikkar and Rama Panikkar), whose works mark the dawn of both modern Malayalam language and indigenous Keralite poetry. The Triumvirate of poets (Kavithrayam: Kumaran Asan, Vallathol Narayana Menon and Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer) are recognized for moving Keralite poetry away from archaic sophistry and metaphysics and towards a more lyrical mode. Later, such contemporary writers as Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy (whose 1996 semi-autobiographical bestseller The God of Small Things is set in the Kottayam town of Ayemenem) have garnered international recognition. From 1970 to early 1990s, a lot of Malayalam Novelists and story writers contributed to the Literature of Kerala. The contributions from OV Vijayan, CV Sriraman, T Padmanabhan, Sethu, Perumbatavam Sreedharan, Kovilan have been remarkable. Significant contributions from poets and song writers such as P. Bhaskaran and ONV Kurup have influenced contemporary literature. Critics such as M Krishnan Nair have added value by providing critical analysis on the books written during the recent past.
The folklore of Kerala includes elements from the traditional lifestyle of the people of Kerala. The traditional beliefs, customs,rituals etc. are reflected in the folkart and songs of Kerala.
The people of Kerala are very fond of politics. Majority of keralites belong to either one of the political parties namely United Democratic Front (UDF), Left Democratic Front (LDF), Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) etc. Religious leaders have high influence in Kerala political movements. For many Keralites it's nostalgic to remember the political discussions and debates they had done in the 'chaikadai'( a small tea shop) in their younger ages.
Kerala Modern Society
The highest literacy rate and education level changed the Kerala society in a greater way that they prefer to live in western standards . Keralites are open towards social and technological developments ; they have a mixed life with traditional values and advanced life style.
Kerala also has an indigenous ancient solar calendar — the Malayalam calendar — which is used in various communities primarily for timing agricultural and religious activities.
Elephants in Kerala culture
The elephants are an integral part of the daily life in Kerala. These Indian elephants are given a prestigious place in the state's culture. Elephants in Kerala are often referred to as the 'sons of the sahya'. The elephant is the state animal of Kerala and is featured on the emblem of the Government of Kerala.
Sarpa Kavu (Sacred Grove of the Serpent)
Sarpa Kavu (meaning Sacred Grove of the Serpent) is a typically small traditional grove of trees seen in the Kerala state of South India. These pristine groves usually have representations of several Naga Devatas (serpent gods), which were worshipped by the joint families or taravads. This was part of Nagaradhana (snake worship) which was prevalent among keralites during past centuries. It had been practised by Ezhavas, Nairs, Arayas and many other tribal, non-tribal and costal communities all over the Malabar Coast in south India.
Kerala has a large number of temples. The temples celebrate annual festivals which are not only unique to the region but sometimes have features that are unique to each temple. Each temple describes each interesting history behind its creation.
- Menon, A. Sreedhara (1978) Cultural heritage of Kerala: an introduction. East-West Publications
- (Bhagyalekshmy 2004, p. 7).
- Nayar, Balachandran (1974) In quest of Kerala
- Smith, Bardwell (1976) Religion and social conflict in South Asia, Brill Publishers
- (Bhagyalekshmy 2004, p. 6).
- Srinivas, Narasimhachar (1980) India: social structure. ISBN: 0-878-55415-7
- Filippo Osella, Caroline Osella (2000) Social mobility in Kerala: modernity and identity in conflict. Pluto Press
- University of Kerala. Dept. of History, University of Allahabad. Dept. of Modern Indian History, University of Travancore (1966) Journal of Indian history: Volume 44
- (Bhagyalekshmy 2004d, p. 29).
- (Bhagyalekshmy 2004d, p. 32).
- "Contribution of Travancore to Karnatic Music", Information & Public Relations Department — Thiruvananthapuram (Government of Kerala), 2004, retrieved January 12, 2006.
- Bhagyalekshmy, S (2004d), "Contribution of Travancore to Karnatic Music", Information & Public Relations Department — Thiruvananthapuram (Government of Kerala): 29–37, retrieved January 20, 2006
- Princeton.edu, more on the performing arts.
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