Ottan Thullal

Ottan Thullal (or Ottamthullal) is a dance and poetic performance form of Kerala, India. It was introduced in the 18th century by Kunchan Nambiar,

one of the Prachina Kavithrayam (three famous Malayalam language poets). It is accompanied by a mridangam (a barrel shaped double headed drum) or an idakka (drum and cymbal).

Ottamthullal has its origins in the classical principles of Natya Shastra, a treatise on art originating in the 2nd century B.C. The word Thullal means to jump or leap about in the Tamil language. Tradition has it that Nambiar, the poet, fell asleep while playing the mizhavu for a Chakyar Koothu performance, inviting ridicule from the chakyar. In response, Nambiar developed Ottamthullal, which parodied prevalent sociopolitical questions and regional prejudices. The chakyar complained about Nambiar’s production to the king of Chembakassery. The king banned performances of Ottamthullal from the Ambalapuzha temple complex. Closely related art forms are Seethankan thullal and Parayan thullal. Mathur Panikkar popularized Ottamthullal for modern audiences. Ottamthullal competitions are held and the art form may be used to spread a social message.