There are admirable arrays of cultural expressions in different form of art that is unique to different regions across the globe. Dance, music, and art not only give a unique identity to each region, but also captivate the attention and great appreciation from the audience.
‘Mangalamkali’, originating from Kerala, South India, is a traditional tribal ritual dance form. It is performed by Pulayas (a tribal community in Kerala). Traditionally, Mangalamkali is performed as a ritual related to marriage functions. It is considered as a part of the entertainment for the marriage party.
Manglamkali is performed at a very fast pace. Certain specific musical instruments such as Para and kannupara are used to accompany the dance. Mangalam, the first part of the word refers to auspicious occasion, in this case, the marriage. The second part of the word, kali (not the Goddess), probably refers to glee or enjoyment. The dance from derives its word from these 2 parts. Mangalamkali is prevalent among the Mavila-Vettuva tribes.
Mangalamkali is performed before the senior members of the community. There is a group of around 30 persons who form a circle. They keep dancing and singing to the music. The musical instrument, known as ‘thudi’, is predominantly used. Thudi is made from the jack wood tree. As the performance switches from one song to the next, the rhythm variation in thudi comes alive and is extremely captivating and catchy.
The themes for the songs and the music are relevant to old rituals and habits, such as cooli, hunting, etc. with the songs describing the hardships encountered to earn and make a living. Mangalamkali is performed through the entire night. It starts in the night and goes on till the early hours of the morning.
The marriage ceremony among Pulaya tribe used to solemnized in the house of the bride. On the day of the marriage, the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends and relatives, goes to the bride’s place singing songs to the rhythm of thudi, the community’s most important percussion instrument. When the bridegroom’s party reaches near the bride’s place, they request for permission to enter the bride’s place. Interestingly, this request is not made verbally – it is made through a rhythmic pattern of thudi. The permission for entering is also given through the rhythmic pattern of thudi.
The stage is now set for the Mangalamkali to begin. It is performed before the senior members in the community. A group of 30 persons form a circle and start singing and dancing to the rhythmic music. The bride is introduced to the bridegroom’s party. Finally, ‘theyyam’, the God of the tribe enters blessing the bride and the bridegroom and the gathering.