Kerala, teeming with coconut trees, is famed for its coir, coconut
shell products, carvings, cast bell metal work, jewellery, granite
idols, pillars, carvings in wood, especially rose wood or sandal
wood, snake boat models and other figurines.The traditional arts
and crafts of Kerala include Mural Paintings and the Paintings by
the great artists like Raja Ravi Verma and Handicrafts items.
Kerala's rich tradition of painting has it's roots in the magnificent
Frescoes and Mural found
in the temples and the churches here.
Certain rituals like Kalamezhuthu also reveal this tradition of
painting. Before the advent of paper and ink, natives used the Palmyra
leaf for inscriptions and pictorial representations.
In modern times, Kerala's paintings attained international repute
with the works of Raja Ravi Varma, who has been described as a 'Prince'
among painters. Prominent among those who influenced the growth
of modern art, were K. Madhava Menon and K.C.S. Panicker.
There are two major institutions of Kerala where painting is taught
as a subject, namely, the college of fine arts, Thiruvananthapuram
and Ravi Varma School Of Fine Arts, Mavelikkara.
The Murals of Kerala bear the stamp of uniqueness in aesthetic composition
and technique. Murals came into vogue in Kerala as early as the
8th century AD.
The most antique Murals of Kerala are found in the Thirunandikkara
Cave Temple in Thiruvananthapuram district, now a part of Kanya
Kumari district of the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. The temple
and palace Murals of Kerala are invariably sagas of Hindu gods and
goddesses and visual poems of their heroic deeds.
The Murals in Padmanabhapuram Palace offer a feast of colours and
motifs for the connoisseur of art. The triple storeyed 'Uppirikka
Malika' houses the retiring chamber of the king and the heir apparent.
The main chamber has its inner walls decorated with fine Murals
of gods and goddesses. The central motif is Anathapadmanabha, the
chief deity of the erstwhile Travancore Maharajas.
The Murals of Krishnapuram Palace near Kayamkulam are visual wonders
of artistic perfection. Gajendra Moksham, the largest mural panel
in Kerala is a major attraction. The Murals of Mattancherry Palace
are dramatic picturisations of the Ramayana and the Bhagvatha.
The Murals of the Shiva Temple in Ettumanoor provide an insight
into the earliest forms of the Dravidian mural art. The
mural of Shiva as Nataraja, symbolic of the eternal cosmic dance,
is the most outstanding Mural here.
Coconut Shell Craft
Coconut shell craft is a popular craft in Kerala as coconut trees
are found in abundance here. A high degree of skill is required
for carving coconut shell as it is hard. The main centre for coconut
shell craft is Calicut district in Kerala. The common products are
cups, flower vases, snuff boxes, sugar basins, nut bowls, powder
boxes and spoons etc and also products decorated with brass, which
are in great demand.
Making of coir and its products one of the main village industry
of Kerala. Coir is extracted from the protective husk of the Coconut.
Coir is used to make a range of floor coverings, door mats, floor
Mattings and rugs, crush-proof pile carpets, Flowered Mourzouks
etc. The mats come in a range of colours and intricate designs.
Besides that rubberised coir, a blend of coir and latex, is also
used to make mattresses and cushioning. The husks separated from
the nuts, are retted in lagoons upto ten months. The retted husks
are then beaten with wooden mallets manually to produce the golden
fibre. The fibre is later spun into yarn on traditional spinning
wheels called "Ratts", ready for dyeing and weaving into
myriad shades of floor coverings. Some of the main centres for coir
products are Alleppey, Kollam and Calicut. The products are exported
on a large scale to other countries.
Kerala has one of the richest traditions in wood carving. Temples
and palaces are the best preservers of the wood-carving styles of
Kerala. Doors, windows and ceilings of most of the ancient houses
are testimonial of the high level of craftsmanship and tradition
of wood carving. Carvings aremade on rosewood, sandalwood, cedar
wood and teak. Life-size wood carved figures which are highly stylised
with exaggerated features, gestures and postures like the characters
of Kathakali dance drama, mythological and religious figures were
produced. Now items also include intricately carved Elephants in
different postures, other animal figures, paper weights, lamp stands,
Jewellery Boxes like Nettoor jewellery boxes in its unique conical
shape, with brass edgings at the corners, decorative furniture etc.
Kerala style of work on sandalwood and rosewood is quite distinct
from that prevalent elsewhere.
Metal Inlaid Wood Craft
The main centre for the craft is Ernakulam district in Kerala. Rose
wood and white wood pieces are cut into required sizes and pasted
on a plywood base according to the particular design and polished.
The brass metal pieces are fixed in different designs to make the
final product. The product include Dancing Lady, Peacock, Candle
Stand, Star Wheel, Kathakali Heads, Key Stand and Butterflies etc.
Screw Pine Products
Screw pine mat weaving is an ancient craft and one of the major
cottage industries in Kerala. Three types of mats are woven with
Screw pine leaves. The main centres of this craft in Kerala are
Karunagapalli Taluk of Kollam Dist, Mavelikkara and Karthikapalli
Taluks of Alappuzha dist. Thazava, Vachrai and Vallikunnam Panchayaths,
some villages in Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam Districts. Screw
pine leaves are also woven, hand embroidered and shaped into products
like household linen, straw hats, and carry bags.
Horn carving is an ancient craft practiced mainly by artisans belonging
to Viswakarma Community in hiruvananthapuram. A wide range of products
like flower set, birds, animals, combs , cigarette cases, lamps
etc. are made out of horn.
Bamboo Mat Paintings
Bamboo mat painting is one of the major craft in Kerala. The artisans
initially make mats of required size as canvas and paint on it.
Painting on the mat requires more concentration than ordinary painting.
Most of the paintings are human and religious figures, animals,
birds, scenery etc. in different size and in attractive colours.
The products looks beautiful with bamboo reed frames at the top
Metal work is an ancient art of Kerala. The production of Temple
bells and lamps have been in existence from very early times. Kerala
is a home of bell-metals. Gleaming bell metal alloyed from a mixture
of brass, tin and copper provide the raw substance for making tower-like
lamps. Different types of cooking vessels, like the magnificent
'Varpu', tumblers for drinking etc are some of the other bell metal
items. Trivandrum, Irinjalakuda and Kasargod are the main centers
of bell-metal. The religious icons from Kerala has a wonderful directness,
devotion and serenity associated with them like the unusual icon
of the tandava dance, known as gaja tandava or gajasamhara, where
Shiva is crushing the demon in an elephant form. The chief centres
in Kerala for icons are Trivandrum, Payyanur is Cannanore district,
and Angadipuram in Palghat district. A special and famed product
of Aramula, a village near Chengannur in Kerala is the metal mirror
made out of an alloy of copper and tin and its polished face resembling
glass because of its wonderful reflecting quality.
Papier-Mache Masks - Papier -Mache masks of Kerala dancers in different
poses are available. Kathakali faces are one of the common subject
matter of Papier-Mache. Banana Plant fibre, Cora grass, Rice straw
etc are used to make various products. Banana fibre is woven into
floor coverings, each a square foot in size, are then stitched together
according to the size desired, Rice straw is used to form a silken
collage of native scenery on black silk and Cora grass is used to
make mats are best examples for the above.
Information on Traditional Crafts, arts, handicrafts of Kerala - India