Kasavu Mundu and Neryathu
are extremely light pure cotton handlooms edged with golden thread. The golden edging is sometimes touched with contrasting bright colours. They are worn as traditional saris or used as dress material. A Malayalee (Keralite) woman wearing the mundu and neryathu, with her long black oiled hair tied loosely and strung with a garland of Jasmine, is the very picture of elegance. The men wear the mundu around the loin and the neryathu around the shoulders.
Kerala stands next to Rajasthan in having the largest collection of murals based on puranic (ancient Indian mythology) themes. The murals of Kerala bear the stamp of uniqueness in aesthetic composition and techniques. Most of these were painted between 15th and 19th centuries, many even date back to the 8th century AD.The temples and palaces of Kerala are invariable sagas of Hindu gods and goddesses and visual poems of their heroic deeds.
The Keralites' love for gold is reflected even in the manner they adorn their favorite beast. The elephant, which is an integral part of any celebration here, is turned out in full regal splendor for any pageant or procession. The nettippattom (the glittering ornament that adorns the forehead of the elephant) is crafted in with Three and a half kilograms of copper and three sovereigns (24 gms) of gold by a skilled clan of artisans. Nowhere in India is an elephant decorated so extravagantly.
The most famous bronze craft in India is the ancient statue of Nataraja (Lord Siva in dancing posture). But in Kerala bronze (bell metal or gun metal) popularly known as Odu is used for making small and big vessels, lamps etc. Huge wick lamps in different sizes and shapes like the Nilavilakku, Thookkuvilakku - hanging lamp, etc are widely used in each and every house. A variety of bronze (Vellodu) is often used for making this and it has more alloy content of lead.
The ethnic jewel box of the Kerala woman was once a mark of the influential families of the land. The casket (petti) originally designed in the Nettur region of Malabar is testimony of the patience and skill of the artisans who make it. The box usually made of rosewood is fully handcrafted. Every joint, every screw and lock is shaped and chiseled by the hand. The wooden box is first varnished and then fixed with brass frames.
Centuries ago the native craftsmen invented a mirror made of metal. The bronze (odu) workers of Aranmula (Pathanamthitta district) specialize in making the world famous cast metal mirrors with handles known as the Aranmula Kannadi, made from four metal alloys, viz. Copper, Silver, Bronze & Lead. This ornamental mirror is exceedingly rare. Only two master craftmen and their families still make them.
Irrespective of religion or caste, most women in Kerala wear gold ornaments and it forms an inevitable part of most religious and social occasions like marriages. The most outstanding piece of the Christian women's jewellery collection used to be the enormous ring worn on the upper ear lobe. Muslim women also have their distinctive ear rings, necklaces and elaborately designed articles for the waist (Odyanam).The popular traditional ornaments are, gold necklaces like Manonmani, ilakkathali, Poothali, Palaykkamala, Mangamala, Dalamini, Chuttiyum Chelum and Puliyamothiram. Ear studs like Jimikki, Kannuneerthulli, Thoda etc; Bangles like Kappu, stones, pearl and enamel painted bracelets etc. The ornament worn around the waist inside the dress is called Aranjanam which is usually a thin chain but those worn by the Muslim women like a 'belt' over their dress are called Odyanam.
The Payyannur Pavithra Mothiram is a uniquely crafted golden ring shaped like a knot and considered to be a sacred ornament. The sole right to make this holy ring was vested in the hands of a particular family at Payyannur in Kannur district. This ring is believed to be a luck and grace to anyone who wears it with devotion.
The Nilavilakku is integral to all the rituals and ceremonies in a Malayalee's (Keralite) life. As dusk creeps in, young girls of the family bring the lighted lamps (nilavilakku) to the verandah of the house. In the flickering light of the nilavilakku she is joined by the children and elders of the family, especially the grandparents, in chanting hymns and evening prayers. Lighting the nilavilakku on any occasion is believed to be auspicious.
The folk field has a variety of instruments like pulluvan veena, pulluvan kudom, udukku, tampattam, sooryappira, ampilivalayam etc, which are selectively used in non-Aryan temple rituals and in religious songs and dances and also in some social ceremonies. The traditional theatrical and ritualistic musical instruments include chenda, chengala, maddalam, thimila, edakka, maram etc. and they assist the ritualistic and festive music of the Aryan temples and traditional dance dramas like koothu, kathakali etc.
The Nalukettu is the traditional style of architecture of Kerala, wherein a house has a quadrangle in the centre. Originally the abode of the wealthy Brahmin and Nair families, this style of architecture has today become a status symbol among the well to do in Kerala. Nalukettu is evident in the traditional homes of the upper class homestead where customs and rituals were a part of life. The mansion is created using wood and tiles, central open courtyard and wondrous architecture.The interiors of the house are tastefully decorated with a wealth of antiques made from teak, sandalwood, mahogany etc. The Nalukettu is flanked by out houses and utility structures. The ‘Padippura’ (a gabled gateway) serves as the entrance to the walled compound. This pattern of architecture became a standard feature of feudal Kerala. The enclosed courtyard or ‘Ankanam’ is usually sunk, and therefore called Kuzhi (pit) Ankanam.
Astrology: or 'jyothisham' occupies a prominent place in the Vedangas, which is the most widely used knowledge base. It involves two parts viz: mathematics and prediction. The former involves astronomy and its calculations leading to the construction of a horoscope, which shows the relative planetary positions in the zodiac for any given time and place. The latter consists of making forecasts using the horoscope. The 'Nirayana' system is followed here. The commencement of the zodiac is at a fixed point which is about 180 degree from the star 'Chittira'. Indians have divided the zodiac into equal parts; each called a 'Rasi'. In another type of division, there are 27 equal parts with the 13 degree 20' called lunar mansions or Asterisms ('Nakshathram' or stars). Astrological interpretations are made on the basis of relative planetary positions resulting from the placement of a planet in a particular division. Natal astrology is the most widely practiced & is concerned largely with the destiny of human beings, and makes predictions on the basis of time and place of birth and the relative positions of planets. At the time when a query is posed to the astrologer, a horoscope is built on the basis of a random mechanism. Predictions are then made on the basis of this horoscope. An important aspect unique to Kerala astrology is the use of the 'Gulikan' in specific astrological