The Kathakali artist is committed to his master at a very early age. He starts his training by learning salutations. Kaal saadhakangal (feet exercises), the Meyyurappadavu (Meyyu = body, urappadavu = fixation exercises), Chuzhippukal Thodayam, Purappadu, Kalashangal, Padangal and Attakkadhakal are other exercises with their own terminology.

The Mudras

There are twenty four basic Mudras drawn from the text of ‘Hasthalakshanadeepika’. Mudras are used to transmit legends through signs. A Kathakali artist has to acquire a good mastery of these Mudras. He first learns to perform the basic Mudras by using his fingers. Then he takes the next step: expressing words and sentences.

Eye exercises

Eyes and the gestures with eyes are a very important part of Kathakali. Within the series of eye movements, eight kinds of movements are important: after each exercise, the eye focuses on one point, cutting itself off the environment. Over time, the calm interval gradually turns into a means of meditation.


In appropriate ways, Kathakali makes use of the Navarasas (nine moods) and their respective Sthayibhavas (permanent states of mind) together with the Sancharibhava (transitory moods). The actors' faces reflect their feelings distinctly, as does a mirror. This produces similar feelings and emotions in the mind of the spectators.


The cholliyattam is the rehearsal, without costumes or make-up, of the minor roles (Kuttitharam), the intermediate roles (Idatharam) and the principal roles (Adhyasthanam), accompanied by singing and percussion (chenda and maddhalam). During the cholliyatam the 6 types of rhythm of the Kathakali are explored.

Professional training in Kathakali

This is a unique programme for professionals in music, literature, painting, sculpture, dance, percussion, theatre and mime. The aim of this professional training programme is to get to the heart of Kathakali and refine one's own discipline through the power of this art form.

Programme content (extracts) :

• Practice, theory and philosophy of Kathakali
• Explanation and practice of movements
• Explanation and practice of concentration
• Work on depth of artistic emotion

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