Kummatti kali of Malabar during Onam celebrations

I have heard about Kummatti of Malabar from my childhood. When I came to Thrissur last year, I happened to hear about Kummattikali related to Onam celebrations of cultural capital of Kerala. It was from my new neighbour that I came to know that Kummatti kali is a part of middle Kerala too. She also told that Kummattis visit their homes too, and collect rice and coins from the people. It is a folk dance form and the people who perform Kummatti kali are known as Kummattis. It is a traditional art form without any strict rules or formal training. It’s merely meant for entertaining crowds, similar to Kaduvakali of cultural capital.

Pleasant Kummatti faces – Vishnu and Devi

Kummattis use mask of characters related to Hindu mythology to play Kummattikali. Krishna, Rama, Ganapathi, Siva, Garuda, Narada, Narasimha, Hanuman and Sita are most popular. Very often, story of Kiratha and Dharaka are selected for the play. The body will be covered using ‘Kummatti’ grass – hence the dance form got the name Kummattikali. Their hands are also covered with this green grass to get a bushy and tribal experience. While choosing masks, toothless ones are preferred. 

As Onam is the state festival of Kerala, people belonging to all religions participate in it irrespective of castes and creed, though Hindu stories are told during the play. The main performer of the dance is ‘thalla’ or ‘thamma’, who is disguised as an old woman. Whole group revolves around her. She is the main entertainer of the group and the rhythm of their steps is given by an instrument, Onavillu. All performers including thamma who performs with brinjal ears, are men.

Thalla – The real star of Kummatti Kali

Kummattikali was originated 150 years ago, to add a tribal look to Onam celebrations. Kummattis are believed to be the representatives of Maveli and their duty is to visit all homes of native place to know if subjects are happy, before the arrival of Maveli on Thiruvonam day. Though it resembles tribal art forms, it is just a folk dance to make everyone knew commence of Onam season.

Fierce faces also form a part of the festival

To read about another cultural event – Kaduvakali of Onam season: Pulikali of Thrissur

All images self and can’t be used without the permission of the author.


Go through the gallery to read a few more interesting articles on fun, recreation, myths and traditions associated with Onam season. Here is the page link. Click on the images to read.
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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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