Steps of worship


Paanakali is a ritualistic art form that is performed to propitiate Kali.

Paanakali, a ritual dance tradition, confined to a few areas in North Kerala, is performed annually to propitiate the Goddess Kali. Paanakali symbolically narrates the slaying of the demon Darika by Kali.

Sankunni Nair has been supervising the conduct of the ritual dance every year in connection with the Mangot Bhagavathy temple near Vellinezhi for the last 30 years. “Before 1984-85, the dance tradition was preserved by a Nair family called Changalot. It was after 1989 that it began to be conducted as Desappana,” says P.S. Gopakumar, who donned the role of the main performer (Poojakkaran) in this year’s Paana. He and two others were trained by Sankunni Nair.

Paanakali is now sponsored by one of the Nair families as an offering to the Bhagavathy of Mangottu Kavu. The venue of Paanakali performance, thus, is the courtyard of the sponsor.

“It is after the conclusion of the Paana that the Vadakkanvela procession from Vellinezhi, comprising Thira, Poothan, Karivela and percussion, begins,” says C. Balasubramanian, a member of the Changalot family.


“It requires a lot of training as the rituals connected to Paanakali have to be performed for nearly two hours without a break. One must also have a sense of rhythm to do the steps gracefully,” says Gopakumar. Although the ‘Poojakkaran’ is the central character of Paanakali, a total of 16 other performers are required for the ritual art form.

The performers’ steps are in harmony with the continuous and varying rhythmic patterns provided by the percussionists.

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