It came to me as a surprise when my sister asked me whether I wanted to see Mudiyettu on a weary Friday? I stared at her face trying to recall what that is for two seconds after which I gave up and said no and went back to my work.

I knew she wasn’t asking because she enjoyed my company or because she wanted to spend some time with me. She just wanted a ride and I could give her that ride.

I didn’t have any plans for that Friday night, so when my mom asked me whether I’m going with her a couple of more times, I half-heartedly changed the no to a yes.

Now you know how I ended up watching Mudiyettu. The reason I shared this visibly colorless story is to let you know that the experience I had was compelling enough to be written about.

If I have you intrigued, let’s get going then.

Table of Contents

Mudiyettu introduction

Of the various art forms in Kerala like classical art, folk art, and ritual art, Mudiyettu belongs to the ritual art and is also performance art.

I was surprised to see how old Mudiyettu as an art form is, roughly tracing back to the 9th or 10th century AD. Mudiyettu is a theatrical form of Dravidian worshiping style.

The popularity of Mudiyettu is concentrated in the central Kerala districts like Kottayam, Thrissur, Idukki, and Palakkad. Mudiyettu is performed in Bhagavathy temples or kaave which worships goddess Durga also known as the Kali or Bhadrakali.

The part that got my attention was that Mudiyettu was inscribed in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, second after Koodiyattam from Kerala.

Mudiyettu literary means ‘Crown upliftment’. The word breakdown is Mudi which means crown and ettuka which means to lift. So Mudiyettu implies the transformation to goddess Kali.

The mythological background of Mudiyettu

Understanding the mythology of Mudiyettu is very critical if you want to make sense of what is happening in Mudiyettu. So pay attention to this part.

In Dwaparayuga (just think that it’s a long time back), After Asuras lost the battle to Lord Vishnu and fled to Netherworld. Two asura women, Darumathy and Danamathy performed tapasya and pleased Bramha who granted them their wish to have two powerful sons. These two sons were named Darikan and Danavendran.

The two sons grow up and did tapasya to please Bramha. When Bramha appeared, they asked for a boon that no man in this world could kill them. They gained immortality and became arrogant in their power. They began waging wars and started conquering the 14 worlds.

Naarada after witnessing their brutality went to Shiva and spoke of all the misdeeds of Darikan and Danavendran with a hint of calumny.

Shiva decided to end all these atrocities and created Kali from his third eye as a man couldn’t kill them but a woman can.

Kali fought with the Darikan and Danavendran and emerged victoriously and presented Darikan’s head to Lord Shiva.

Cultural Significance of Mudiyettu

Being a really old art form, Mudiyettu carries a lot of cultural significance. All ritual art forms are a celebration of the coexistence of nature and humans. It promotes an idea of togetherness among all humans and eliminates the mental stigma of alienating our fellow human beings.

Mudiyettu is performed right after the harvesting season in Kali temples and it is done for the prosperity and protection of the land from all calamities and sickness by appealing to the goddess.

When you break down Mudiyettu, you can see a lot of cultural elements in it. Music is an integral part of Mudiyettu and the musicians in Mudiyettu are experts in Sopana sangeet which is considered being the mother of Carnatic music.

Music is accompanied in all stages of Mudiyettu, whether it is the Kalampattu accompanying Kalamezhuthu or Kelikotte accompanying the aranguvazhthal. The raudra rasa in Mudiyette is brought out by the intensity of the music.

When considering the different characteristics of Mudiyettu whether it is the Chitra vadivu (pictorial perfection) in Kalamezhuthe or Shilapa vadivu (sculptural perfection) in the makeup and costumes or Bootha vadivu (spiritual perfection) in the performances, you can trace back cultural reference to these characteristics.

Breaking down Mudiyettu

Characters in Mudiyettu

  • Kali
  • Darikan
  • Danavendran
  • Shiva
  • Naarada
  • Kooli
  • Koyikkal padanayakan (Koyimbada nair)

Mudiyettu Sequence


Kalamezhuthu is the artistic drawing of the goddess Bhadra kali with colors made from natural pigments. The burnt husk of paddy is used for black, rice powder for white, turmeric powder for yellow, and a mixture of turmeric powder and quick lime for red.

The picture is a portrait of Kali after the defeat of Darikan with his head held in Kali’s hand on the temple floor.

Kalam Paattu

This is the music that accompanies the Kalamezhuthu process. Kalam Paattu is a devotional song that describes the Bhadra kali from head to toe.

After Kalam paattu, the kalamezhuthu is wiped off in the belief that the spirit of Kaali has been imbibed.


Aranguvazhthal is the performance of the orchestra to inform the audience that Mudiyettu is about to start.

This also sets the mood for Mediyettu and something for the audience to enjoy meanwhile.

Mudiyettu Scenes (Rangangal)

The scenes in Mudiyettu are by the mythological story, and you can easily connect the two.

Shiva and Naarada conversation (Shiva and Naarada samvadam)

The first scene of Mudiyettu is the conversation between Shiva and Naarada . The scene is in Kailasa where lord Shiva is sitting on top of Nandi, the sacred bull calf, gatekeeper of Kailasa.

In Mudiyettu, Nandi is shown as a wooden calf in the hands of Shiva. The scene is done in verses and dialogues.

The Naarada will read out from his Palm-leaf manuscripts all the details of the cruelties of Darikan and Dhaanavendran towards the gods, goddesses, and common people.

Entry of Darikan (Darikan Purappade)

The entry of Darikan is a scene filled with veera rasa.

The scene is the war cry of Darikan where he challenges everyone from all directions to a battle.

The fierceness of the scene is brought out by the musical intensity of the Panjari and Chemabada melam.


Entry of Kali (Kali Purappade)

The character Kali will emerge imbibing the spirit of goddess Kali from the temple premise to the performance area after hearing the war cry of the Darikan.

The scene starts with the audience welcoming the entry of Kali with applauds and noise.

Kali enters, accepting the challenge of Darikan to fight.


Kooli entry (Kooli Purappade)

Kooli is a comical character introduced to lighten the intense atmosphere created by the entry of Darikan and Kali and tries to offer the audience some comical relief.

This character is not derived from the mythological stories but introduced in the artform to introduce hasya rasa to the art form.

Being a product of the current social system, Kooli is used to make fun of the social absurdities around us

The humor by Kooli is mostly self improvised.

Koyimbada Nair

Like Kooli, Koyimbada Nair is again a character that has no mythological background. Koyimbada nair also known as Koyikkal padanaikan is a war hero and helps Kali to defeat Darikan.

The purpose of such a character is to criticize the current social system about its feudalism, poverty, and discrimination seem around us.

War (Koodiyattam)

This is the scene that reestablished the ferocity that was diluted with the entry of Kooli and Koyimbada Nair.

The war is the scene where Darikan and Danavendran collide with Kali. This scene shows some moves from the Kalarippayattu, which is a martial art that originated in Kerala.

Killing of Darikan (Darikan vadham)

Finally, kali defeats the asura brothers and chops off the head of Darikan, and presents it to Lord Shiva. This is the ending scene of Mudiyettu.

The scene shows Kali emerging out with the crown of Darikan in her hands inline with the mythology of Kali with the head of Darikan in her hand.

After presenting the crown to Lord Shiva, Kali uses the flambeau to offer blessings and Ixora flowers from her crown as a gracious gift to the audience.

This is the scene that signifies the victory of good over evil.

My experience of Mudiyettu

I remember running my fingers across the word Mudiyettu in my old school textbook but couldn’t pull anything out from the misty vagueness.

Mudiyettu was a blank canvas that I need to paint from what I saw and heard. I didn’t know what will happen or what to expect. I was intrigued by what this art form might be.

The Mudiyettu that I saw was a very stripped-down version with just 3 scenes without the Kalamezhuthu or kalam paatte.

When the kelikotte started I couldn’t understand what was happening. Why was there just music? All I could do was to enjoy it and that’s what I did and I think this is the first time I managed to enjoy classical instruments like chenda.

Soon after kelikotte, the first scene which is the conversation between Shiva and Naarada was performed. The way they dressed, the probes they used, the colors painted on their faces were nothing like the mythological descriptions that were familiar to me. It took thorough research to finally confirm who these characters are, and no way I would have predicted it from their look.

How I will remember it

My experience of Mudiyettu was like staring at a character jumped out of a history book with no descriptions or captions. The verses they cited or the conversation they made were foreign to me. The stories they carried were unknown to me. But I knew they were telling something, through their intense eyes, skillful hands, adorned bodies, and through the fierce music.

Most of it was missed out on me and all I could do was merely be fascinated by their ahary pushti (perfection in costumes), vachika pushti (perfection in dialogues and music), angika pushti (perfection in gestures), sathwika pushti (perfection in the emotional expression), nrita pushti (perfection in dance), ranga pushti (perfection in the theatrical display)

When I finally left the performance area and reached home, I knew that, without knowing the mythological history, without knowing the characters, without understanding the verses they uttered, without understanding their graceful gestures, without understanding Mudiyettu itself, I was still awestruck at the performance of something that I just knew was amazing.

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