Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

Arjuna Nritham (The dance of Arjuna)

The Arjuna Nirtham also known as Mayilpeeli Thookam, is a ritual art of Kerala performed in the Bhagavati temples of south Kerala, mainly at Kollam, Alappuzha and Kottayam.

Arjuna Nritham or the ‘dance of Arjuna’ is supposed to have evolved from Arya – Dravidian culture. The belief is that soon after the Kurukshetra war, Arjuna danced before Bhadrakaali in order to appease her. This ritual art form is performed by men of Vilkurup and Ezhava communities. It is staged at night.

The dance is performed in front of a lighted traditional lamp. The characters wear special garments. The face is painted green and all the performers wear distinctive headgears. This Nritham (dance) came to be known as Mayilpeeli Thookam probably because the costume includes a characteristic garment made of Mayilpeeli (peacock feathers). The garment is worn around the waist. The dress is red in colour. The performers also wear ornaments like kadakam and anklets. And, the performers wield Arjuna’s weapons like bow and arrow.

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