Though Velakali performed with rhythm and gaiety on temple precincts is ritualistic in nature, it is in reality a martial dance form of Kerala. Depicting the ancient heroic deeds and memories of Kerala, the art form requires that the performers have undergone considerable physical training and should know how to wield arms. It is believed that the famous Ambalapuzha Velakali originated in the erstwhile Champakassery princely state. Amabalapuzha was the capital of Champakassery. This must have started coinciding with the festival at the Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Swamy Temple. In Thiruvananthapuram, Velakali is performed along with the festival at Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
There are two viewpoints regarding Velakali. While to some it is in remembrance of the battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas, to others it is memory of Devasura war.
A unique art form of Kerala, in Velakali the performer dressed in soldier’s attire wield swords and shields. Performed on ground it is referred to as Karavela, and in water it is Kulathilvela. When the idol in mounted along the temple elephant the performers stand in a line and present what is humor as Tirumunpilvela.
Three types of fencing are performed in Velakali-Kudipayattu, Pidichukali and Padakali. The instruments played are below pipe, kettle drum, shudha maddalam, ilathalam, kombu.