Padayani

Padayani is an ancient ritual art form traditionally performed in Bhagavati (Goddess) temples predominantly in central Kerala. It is believed that Padayani was practiced even before the advent of Brahmanism in Kerala. It is regarded as a remnant of the Dravidian culture. Padayani derived from Padeni which means military formation in Malayalam is conducted as a part of worship of Kali (Bhadrakali). It is also believed to be a modern form of Kolam Thullal which means dancing with Kolam (decorative headgear). Kolam Thullal was part of the exorcism practiced by the Ganaka community who were the medicine men. This was done to cure psychological illnesses and was considered as a form of spiritual ritual.

Padayani
Padayani

Like many other traditional art forms Padayani also has a legend about its origin. Even after killing the demon Daruka Kali’s anger was not spent and she still was enraged and furious. It was in this state that she went to Mount Kalias – her father Lord Shiva’s abode. There the Bhootha Ganas, followers of Lord Shiva wore masks and colourful costumes made of leaves, fronds etc tried entertaining her to appease her. But she was not pacified. And then she saw her fearsome form drawn and was amused by it. 

This drawing of her fearsome form became the beginning of Kalamezhuthu and wearing masks and costumes evolved into Padayani. Or it could be that Ganaka who were the community which practiced martial arts developed this art as a tool to frighten the enemy troops. Some postures and steps used in Padayani are similar to those used in martial arts. The responsibility of Padayani is with different communities. The Nairs perform the Padayani and Kaniyars pen the lyrics, create the elaborate costumes. The instruments mainly used to accompany the Padayani is the Patayani Thappu.

The performance starts with the tuning of the Thappu which is called Thappu Choodakkal ( heating of the Thappu). The Thappu is tuned by turning its face towards the fire. And then the performance starts. There are different types of Kolams(headgears) that are used for different dances in Padayani . The head gear is called Kolam as also the dance is called Kolam. Some of them are Madan, Marutha, Bhairavi, Kalan, Pakshi, Yakshi etc. madam is believed to be the protector God of cattle. Also he is believed to be able to kill a person using his shadow. One of the Madans, the Kalamadan is supposed to be the supreme of Kalan (time). Marutha is the Goddess of smallpox. Appeasing Marutha eradicates small pox wheras angering Marutha brings in many illness to the sinner. When Kali killed Darika, his wife Mandodiri cursed Kali and sowed seeds of small pox on Kali’s body. Mandodiri is considered Marutha and is one of the frequent Kolams in Padayani. The main Kolam is the Bhairavi Kolam which is the Kolam of the Goddess Kali in her fierce form. .

Padayani

This Kolam comes to perform after all other Kolams have finished the performance. The Kolam (headgear) for this is made up of 101 leaves of Areca nut. Kalan is the time / God of death, Pakshi is the bird whose cries brings illness to the children, Yakshi is the demigoddess who can be a good yakshi or an evil one

Apart from these serious Kolams there are some more simple characters which add the entertainment value to the Padayani. They are the Manushya(human) Kolams like Paradesi (foreigners) Kolam. Some famous practice of Padayani are Kurampala padayani, Kallooppara Padayani, Kunnamthanam padayani etc. The beats of Padayani are different and unique in its rhythm. Some of the traditional ragas used in Padayani are ‘Marma’ ‘Valiya Lakshmi’ ‘Cheriya Lakshmi’, ‘Champa’, ‘Kaarika’, ‘Kumba’, ‘Adantha’ etc. .