Ottan Thullal


The word Thullal belongs to the Dravidian family of languages and literally means jumping, this however can be extended to mean to ‘to leap about’ or to ‘cut a caper’. Among the classical performing arts of Kerala, Thullal is distinct with its simplicity of presentation and its frank, outspoken wit and humour.

Three forms of Thullal: Ottan Thullal, Parayan Thullal and Seethankan Thullal, evolved in course of time. The three forms are differentiated on the basis of make-up, styles of narrative singing, rhythms of dancing and foot work. Of the three Ottan Thullal is the most popular.


Its origin is attributed to Kunchan Nambiar, a veritable genius and one of the foremost poets of Kerala in mid eighteenth century. OTTAN TULLAL , iterally Ottan Tullal means 'running and jumping' which is a sole performance.

Being an art of commucation, Thullal too, makes use of the gesture –language. Hand gestures are employed to support facial expression, and though these follow the traditions of Koodiyaattam and Kathakali, they appear in a very elementary and sketchy manner.

A solo performance, thullal is a tale narrated in verse. The thullal performer sings and he is supported by another singer who repeats the verses and is accompanied by an orchestra of mridangam, harmonium and cymbals. The performer through the classical acting techniques, portrays the various characters in an episode and does the narration.

The make-up, though simple, is very much similar to that of Kathakali. The face is painted with yellow arsenic mixed with blue. The eyes are blackened and lips reddened. The full painting of the face is retained for the expressive advantage. The dancer wears a breast-plate adorned with golden pearls, necklaces and colorful tassels. The white waist clothes resemble skirts. The head-gear is small, made of light wood, studded with bright stones and decorated with golden paper. The bracelets, amulets and waistlets.

The instruments used in Thullal are the Mrudangam, Edakka and the cymbals. The cymbal player who tunes the rhythm, also assists the actor dancer (Thullakaran) in singing.