Kuthiyottam is a ritual art performed in Bhadrakali temples of Alappuzha, Kollam, and Thiruvananthapuram districts and is conducted in the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February/March).
The rituals of kuthiyottam begin with the raising of the pandal (temporary thatched shed) and Devi’s position (Devisthanam) is marked. The pandal is decorated with leaves of different trees like banyan, mango, areca and coconut. The children participating in Kuthiyottam are taught the dance steps in this pandal. Once the Goddess’ position is marked, nirapara and niranazhi are placed on a plantain leaf in front of Devisthanam. The offerings include coconut, kadhali pazham (a kind of banana), malar (roasted rice), aval (rice flakes), sarkara (jaggery) and kalkandam (rock sugar). Every day deeparadhana and pattu sadya are held at Devisthanams.
Chooralkuthulal is an important item of Kuthiyottam. On the kuthiyottam day, the Chooralkuthu is done in front of Devisthanam. After smearing both sides of the abdomen with ash, chooral (cane) is pierced under the skin by a well trained person. Today, instead of cane, gold or silver, coated thread is used. Chooralkuthal is done against the background of instrumental music and screaming. The boys are then taken in procession to the Bhadrakali temple. They reach the temple premise dancing and circumambulate the temple thrice. Coming before the Devi, the cane is removed and submitted before the Devi.
The songs of Kuthiyottam are unique and there are special singers for it.