Thullal literally means jumping or dancing / prance around in Malayalam. Though the term is used with many dance forms of Kerala, some such forms are be classified as Thullal in spirit. Few of them are


One of the interesting dance forms Ottamthullal (Ottam – Run, Thullal – dance) is an energetic show wherein the artiste himself sings and explains the context / story in the performance. Sometimes there would be an assistant who repeats what the artists sings. It is believed Ottamthullal was begun by Kalakkath Kunjan Nambiar in the 18th century. Once when Kunjan Nambiar was the Mizhavu (drum) player for a Chakyarkoothu in a temple he dozed off / got distracted during the performance. Noticing this the Chakyar made fun of Nambiar. Feeling insulted and upset he decided to create a dance form of is own and have his revenge.

Subsequently it is said that he set his stage near an Chakyarkoothu performance and started his own dance form. The audience who were till then watching the Chakyarkoothu left that and came to watch Kunjan Nambiar perform. Upset with Kunjan Nambiar’s actions it is said that the Chakyar went and complained to the King of Chembakasserry. The King then forbade Ottam Thullal performances inside the Ambalapuzha Temple. To this day the Ottam Thullal is banned inside the temple.

Ottamthullal costume

In Ottamthullal the tempo of the songs are fast and the dance itself is more of jumping and prancing around than the aesthetic graceful nature of a dance. The songs used are also more in Malayalam than in Sanskrit. In Ottamthullal too, like Chakyarkooth the artiste takes the liberty to joke on anybody and everybody.The attire of the an Ottamthullal artist would be long strip of cloth hanging in folds on the waist over the dhoti, green make-up on the face, eyes highlighted with black, a head gear, ornaments and sometimes bells on the ankles. The songs are accompanied by a Maddalam (drum) and cymbals. ing.

The performance begins with the invocation which is sung by the cymbal player. During this the ‘Thullal Karan’ (one who does the Thullal) pays obeisance to his associates in the orchestra. He then begins his performance with quick footwork and dance steps and starts singing. As his assistant usually the cymbal player repeats after him he emotes them with his expressions and gestures and his danced postures. The songs are in Malayalam and is well understood by the audience thus making it more entertain

There are variations of Ottamthullal in its mode of performance. They are Seethankan Thullal and Parayan Thullal. In the Seethankan Thullal attire is much more simplistic though the folds of strip of cloth is part of it. Instead of gold ornaments the artist has ornaments made of tender coconut fronds on his wrists, arms and ankles. The face doesn’t have much make-up except the highlighting of the eyes with black. There is no headgear in Seethankan Thullal instead a bunch of tender coconut fronds is pinned to the head. The songs and the tempo of the performance is slower than that of the Ottam Thullal. The third form Parayan Thullal is much different from the other two Thullals. Here the artist doesn’t dance / move much and the songs are much slower than the other two. The attire is also different as in the folds of strips of cloth is not used in this Thullal. Instead a bright red cloth is worn above the dhoti, the face is made-up in yellow colour, body is smeared with vibhuthi ( ash) heavy gold ornaments are used and a black cloth or sometimes a head gear is used in Parayan Thullal.


All these variations are much liked by the common people since the songs use the common life and the social issues as the context and theme. In general Parayan Thullals are performed during the mornings, While Seethankan Thullal is performed during afternoons and Ottam Thullal is done during the evenings.