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Kaikottikali Dance – History and Importance in Kerala – Especially During Onam

Kaikottikali literally means clap dance. It is a folk dance form performed in Kerala especially during the Onam festival (August – September). The origin of the dance form is unknown but when we delve in history, we realize that it is one of the most ancient forms of dance in the region. It is of more importance in the northern parts of Kerala.

When is the Kaikottikali Dance Performed?

  • During Onam festival mostly in North Kerala.
  • Kettukalyanam – a girl’s symbolic marriage ritual (now not so common)
  • Tirantu Kalyanam – on a girl’s first menustration.
  • On birthdays of elderly people (now very rare)
  • During college and school cultural festivals

How is Kaikottikali Performed?

A group of women or teenage girls dances around a traditional Kerala lamp to the rhythm of the songs they sing.

Traditional Kerala Kasavu sari is worn on the occasion. Hair is adorned with jasmine flowers.

Today, there are several changes to the dance form. A major change is that women dance to music provided separately. Earlier they used to sing and dance.

The dance involves slow rhythmic steps.

Kaikottikali Songs

The theme of the songs is stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas.

Kaikottikali songs are based on mohana raga and adi tala. Other ragas and talas are also employed.
The authorship of the older songs is unknown.

Macchat Elayat (1749 – 1842 AD) who was a poet in the court of Shaktan Tampuran, ruler of Cochin, write about 20 poems based on Puranas and Epics.

Kathakali songs of Unnayi Variyar and Irayimman Thampi are used in Kaikottikali.

Some of the popular songs are based on Gajendra Moksham, Shakuntalam, Parvati Swayamvaram, Sita Swayamvaram and Sri Krishna Vastrapaharanam.

Kaikottikali Influence

The dance has direct influence on Kummi – a folk dance performed by pair of dancers.

Mullapoochutal in Krishnanattam is another dance form that has influence of Kaikottikali.


Thiruvathirakali performed in Dhanu month (December – January) is quite similar to Kaikottikkali. The  main difference is that the songs are based on Shiva and Goddess Parvati.