Kaikotti Kali

Kaikotti Kali which literally means play / dance by clapping hands is also called ‘Thiruvathira Kali’ which means the dance of Thiruvathira. In this dance women of Kerala perform an elegant and aesthetic dance routine around a lighted lamp in synch to the beats of the song. Though earlier it was performed for ‘Thiruvathira’ and marriages or any auspicious occasions in Namboodiri – Malayalam Brahmin families, nowadays it is commonly performed everywhere. The songs used are either special songs tuned for the ‘Thiruvathira Kali’ or some apt Kathakali Padams / songs. 


The songs usually describe the devotion of Goddess Parvathy to Lord Shiva, Damayanti’s love for Nala, and such other marital couples. The steps are often hand gestures with the body turning as per the beats of the song and occasional clapping. Traditionally the dancers themselves sing, with one of them leading and the others repeating in chorus. The Kali starts the Ganapathi Sthuthi and ends with Mangalam. The attire is usually Mundum randam mundum (set of mundu – dhotis, the traditional wear of Kerala women) for women and Pavada(long skirts) and blouse for young girls. The Thiruvathira after a girl attains puberty is called ‘Poothiruvathira’ and the one after marriage is called ‘Puthenthiruvathira’. Both are celebrated with great enthusiasm.


Thiruvathira is the name of a star, one of the 28 stars in a month as per the Malayalam calendar, it is also Lord Shiva’s star. Thiruvathira of the month of ‘Dhanu’ (mid December to mid January) is celebrated as the festival Thiruvathira. This festival is especially for women and is celebrated with much vigour and fun. The legend says that Goddess Parvathy did penances and fasted to attain Lord Shiva’s blessings and her wish was granted on the Thiruvathira day of Dhanu. On this day Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvathy. The other part of the legend also commemorates this day to be the dstrongy when Kamadeva – the God of love, was resurrected after he was burnt to ashes by Lord Shiva. 

It was foretold that the offspring of Lord Shiva and Shakthi – Goddess Parvathy would end the terror reign of an Asura named Taraka. Kamadeva sent the arrow of love to ignite love between Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy, but having been disturbed from his meditation Lord Shiva opened his third eye and burnt Kamadeva to ashes. Kamadeva’s wife Rathi , Goddess Parvathy and other Gods prayed for Lord Shiva’s benevolence and prayed Kamadeva to be resurrected. Later Lord Subramanya was born out the wedlock of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy who went on to vanquish Tarakasur.

For the ‘Thiruvathira’ festival women fast by avoiding food made of rice. The fasting starts from the day before i.e. on the star Makiram. The fasting on Makiram is believed to be for the ‘Makkal’ – children. On the evening of the Makiram women roast 8 types of tuber / root. This ritual is called the ‘Ettangadi Chudal’. On Thiruvathira day the main food would be the ‘Thiruvathira Puzhukku’ which would be a dish made up of the Ettangadi ,Pulses like green gram , and spiced with ground chilly-coconut, Koova Payasam – desert made of arrowroot , jiggery, coconut, dry fruits etc., Pazaham – yellow plantain, and cooked broken wheat. Women apply henna on their hands, eat betel leafs (108 of them), play on the swings and spend the day in merriment.


The women are not supposed to be sleeping on Thiruvathira so they play the Thiruvathira Kali throughout the night to keep themselves awake. There is the ritual of Pathirapoochodal which means wearing flowers at midnight. There is a special flower called Pathirapoo (flowers of Chethi Koduveli – Red leadwort) which the women wear in their hairs at midnight of Thiruvathira. Also the Dashapushpam (bunch of 10 flowers – all are medicinal) is used on Thiruvathira and other auspicious occasions by women in Kerala. Later as the day ends and the dawn comes the women go to the pond and sing and play ‘Thudikottu’ – beat the surface of water in rhythm and create the beat for songs. The festivities continue till the next day of Punartham. The fasting on Punartham is for brothers.