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Kathakali is a form of Indian dance drama. It originated in the Southern Indian state of Kerala during the late 16th century. The literal meaning of Kathakali is 'story dance'. It is believed that Kathakali originated from Krishnanaattam and Ramanattom. Subsequently, Kottayam Thampuran (ruler of Kottayam, once a province in Kerala) composed several plays on Mahabharata which led to the evolution of Kathakali. Ramanattom continued as a part of Kathakali.

Traditionally there are 101 classical Kathakali stories. A Kathakali performance is usually conducted at night and ends in early morning.
Kathakali employs the four abhinayas, i.e. Sattvika, expression of thoughts by the efforts of the mind (Bhaava and Rasa), Aangika, conveyance of ideas by the movements of the various parts of the body (gestures), Vaacika, spoken words, singing, shrieking, etc., and Aharya, the dress and deportment.

One of the most interesting aspects of Kathakali is its elaborate make-up code. Most often, the make-up can be classified into five basic sets namely Pacha, Kathi, Kari, Thaadi, and Minukku. The differences between these sets are the predominant colors that are applied on the face.
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