The festival of Onam is celebrated for a period of 10 days; the first day is called Atham and the final day is called Thiruvonam. During the festivities which continue for ten days, the best dances of Kerala can be witnessed along with the celebrations. Several forms of dances which are exhibited during Onam, attracts a large number of dance lovers from across the world. There are many remarkable dance forms such as Thumbi Thullal, Kaikottikali and Kathakali, which can be seen and performed during the celebrations of Onam. Kumattikali and Pulikali are other colorful dances which are highly entertaining. Every dance form is unique in its own way with different costumes and dance steps.
Kummati kali is a famous dance of Kerala which is also known as " mask dance" . The masks are generally made of jack fruit tree, alstonia scholaris, saprophyte and hog plum tree. The artists performing this dance wear unique costumes and they move from house to house to collect gifts from people. The characters which the performers depict are Lord Ram, Krishna, Narada, demons or an old lady 'thamma' etc. They dance on the tunes of a musical instrument which is known as 'Onavillu'. People enjoy and get entertained by watching this dance which offers uniqueness every time it is performed.
Kaikottikali is a highly popular folk dance which is performed during Onam. It is also known as Thiruvathirakali and is full of elegance, poise and grace. Generally, the women perform this dance in a circular fashion around a rangoli. They wear traditional white sarees with golden borders while performing Kaikottikali. The song on which the dance is performed is sung by a group of singers on mike, but sometimes the performers themselves sing while dancing. As a ritual, married women perform this dance for the well being of their husbands while the unmarried women perform to get better husbands. Some of the ragas played during this dance are bhairavi, hussaini and kamboji.
One of the famous art form of Kerala, Kathakali is a unique dance which has a universal popularity. It comprises of dance, music and drama and has stories in it. In short it is 'a complete theatre'. The dance of Kathakali requires control over the movement of body, hands, eye-lids, eyes, eyebrows and neck. Several years of practice is required to gain perfection in this dance form. There are five basic elements of this dance - Sahithyam (literature), Nritham (dance), Sangeetham (music), Natyam (acting) and Chithram (painting). During the carnival of Onam, this unparalleled dance form is performed on several special shows hosted at different places in the state.
Thumbi Thullal is an all women dance form performed during the festival of Onam in Kerala. The men engage themselves in sports activities, while the women have their set of fun by performing this dance. About six to seven women take part in it by forming a circle and the women who is also the leader of the group stays in the center. The woman in the center is the lead singer who sings a couplet while the rest of the women follow her to sing and dance.
Pulikali also known as Kaduvakali is a recreational folk art performed by the trained artists on the occasion of Onam. Generally, it is performed on the fourth day of Onam festival which is known as Naalam Onam. During this folk form, the artists paint their bodies with designs of a tiger. It is mainly performed on the streets and large number of people gathers to enjoy it. The artists have to devote long hours to get their tiger looks and make up done in order to participate in the dance.