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Art & Culture

Folklore

Kerala has a folklore which is unique in its richness and variety. Innumerable are the traditions which are current in Kerala. There are traditions about the origin of the State, religious, festivals, temples, etc. The Parasurama legend relating to the origin of Kerala, the St. Thomas tradition relating to the origin of Christianity and the Mahabali legend relating to the origin of Onam have the pride of place among these traditions. Each temple in Kerala has a Sthalapurana which throws light on some aspect or other of early Kerala culture.

Kerala has its own folk tales which deal with certain interesting personalities and their lives. A famous character who figures as the hero of a typical folk tale is Naranath Bhrandan (the eccentric Naranath) whose man pastime was to roll heavy stones upto the top of the hill and then roll them down in order to emphasise the truth that it is not easy for man to reach the top but not at all difficult to lose the position. It is worth mentioning in this connection that the Aithihyamala by Kottarathil Sankunni is a treasure house of folklore and legends current in different parts of Kerala.

The people of Kerala belonging to all castes and communities have their rich collection of folk songs which deal with a variety of themes. They mirror the joys and sorrows and the hopes and aspirations of the common people. The Vanchipattukal or boat songs sung by those who row the boats either during boat festivals or ordinary trips deal with diverse themes of human interest to the common man. The labouring classes who earn by the sweat of their brow have their own characteristic songs which inspire them to put in their best by singing them in chorus. Special mention may be made in this context of the Vadakkan Pattukal (Northern Ballads), the Tekkan Pattukal (Southern Ballads) the Palli pattukal and the Mappila Pattukal. The Vadakkan Pattukal and the Thekkan Pattukal deal with the exploits of the heroes and heroines of old. The Pallipattukal composed by Christians for being sung on marriage occasions contain a large admixture of Syriac, Latin and Tamil words. Many of them deal with Church history and lives of Saints. The Mappila Pattukal are the folk songs of the Mappilas (Muslim) of Malabar composed in colloquial Malayalam and sung in a distinctive tune. They are composed in a mixture of Malayalam and Arabic and have a special charm of their own. They deal with diverse themes such as religion, love satire, heroism, etc. The Mailanchi Pattu, the Oppana Pattu and the Ammayi Pattu belong to the category of Mappila Pattukal dealing with love and marriage and they were sung in chorus in connection with marriage festivals till recently. The Mappila songs of various types form part of the heritage of Malayalam today.

Source: IT Department, Government of Kerala