There are different kinds of make-up in Kathakali: pacha, kathi, thadi, kari and minukku, which embody the qualities of sattva (devotion), rajas (passion) and thamas (vice). The make-up uses the five natural colours: yellow, green, red, black and white. The power of colours applied on each part of the face and the use of each colour can be subjectively felt by the actor. This transforms him into his character and helps him to bring this character and his emotions up to a sublime level, and to transmit the same intensity to the audience.
The costume is the same for the four categories pacha, kathi, thadi, and kari. Yet the colour of the costume and the form of the crown – be it round (kesabharam) or long (mudi) – should be chosen according to the character’s nature. Even though female characters are similar from hip to neck, they do not have the same crown. They usually have the head covered with a cloth (urumal), like the veil worn by the Gopikas in Krishna - Gopika rasaleela - and by noble women in legends and epics. On the other hand, the male character’s costume minukku is quite simple.
The stage of Kathakali is a sacred place where the performed cosmic dance results in the merging of the body, senses, wisdom, mind and soul by an intense meditation and devotion called Kathakali. The most important element on the stage is an oil lamp with two flames placed at the centre of the stage. Behind the lamp, there is a five-colour portable curtain called maya (illusion). Singers and maddhalam and chenda players stand behind the curtain. All this set up a perfect Kathakali performance. The performance based on legends and epics starts with some initial rituals such as blowing a conch (samkha nadam), shudha madhalam, thodayam, purappadu, and melappadam.