What’s the story of origin of Kummatti Kali?

Kummatti Kali – one of the delightful treats of Onam Celebrations. This art form is believed to be originated 150 years ago, and a Devi temple at Palakkad is cited to be its place of origin. What are the stories behind its origin? Any idea? Though a part of Onam celebrations, Kummattis are believed to be ‘Bhoot Gan’ of Lord Siva. They visit subjects of Emperor Maveli just before Thiruvonam, to know about their whereabouts. Kummatti Kali is quite popular in Thrissur, Palakkad and Malabar (North Kerala). Through this article I would like to add a few stories behind Kummatti.  

Thalla of Kummattikali

The popular legend: 

It’s linked to great epic Mahabharata. Everyone is familiar with Arjuna’s deep penance in woods to secure Pasupathastra from Lord Siva. So Siva decided to test him. He along with goddess Parvathy disguised as tribal couple and disturbed Arjun’s tapas. In anger Arjuna had a fight with Lord Siva, and very soon he realized that he is not an ordinary tribal man. Arjuna fell at the feet of the tribal couple and he was blessed by Lord Siva and Parvathy. Extremely pleased Lord asked his Bhoot Gana to celebrate the event by singing and dancing, and they came to be known as Kummattis.

Kummatti people arrive as a group

As Mahabali was an ardent devotee of Lord Siva, Kummattis got associated with Onam celebrations. It’s also believed that Siva instructed his Bhoothaganam to welcome their banished King Maveli with special dance, resembling tribal art forms. But definitely Kummatti Kali is not a tribal art form, and celebrated by all people. Kummattikali became an integral part of Thrissur’s culture as Thrissur is the holy abode of Lord Siva. Vadakkumnatha temple in the heart of Thrissur town is dedicated to Lord Siva and also a pilgrimage for Siva devotees. 

Kummattikali in Thrissur


An asura Kummatti

Now every year, as a part of Onam celebrations, Kummattis are arranged by different residential associations to give a visual treat to Thrissur people and tourists as well. Thekkumuri (South) and Vadakkumuri (North) are the major groups, and different desams associated with it include – Nallankara, Kizhakkumpatukara, Chelakkotukara, Chembukavu and Mukkatukara. The Vettakkaran (hunter) deity representing Lord Siva is worshipped just before commence of Kummatti celebrations at Thrissur by Kizhakkumpattukara association. The famous pond attached to Thaikkattu Mana is also culturally linked to this celebration. Kummattikali is normally conducted one day after Thiruvonam, and different associations may conduct the event in different days. Very often inauguration is done by well-known personalities. Kummatti Pradarshanam is also a highlight of the festival eve, where different items used for the performance are arranged and displayed. 

Popular Kathakali face associated with Kerala culture

Wearing masks of characters related to Hindu mythology, it also symbolizes Deva – Asura wars of Hindu mythology. The popular mask faces include Hanuman, Lord Krishna, Kathakali, Ganapathi, Vishnu, Narada, Siva, Garuda, Narasimha etc. Characters of Ramayana are most frequently used, apart from demons of epics like Darakan, Kirathan etc. Only males perform as Kummattis and mostly toothless masks are preferred. The festival gives messages of unity and integrity, as people irrespective of caste and creed are associated with the event, and no formal training is required. Performers often add spicy stories of re-arrival of Maveli through Kummati songs and performances.

Bad guys also as Kummatti

To read more about Kummattis, go through my articles.
Go through image gallery here 
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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