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India boasts many traditional regional dance forms, but kathakali, with its elaborate, colorful costumes and masks is undoubtedly one of the most distinctive. With roots going back to ancient Hindu temple plays (some think as far back as the 2nd century), kathakali, now the state dance of Kerala, evolved into its current dance-drama format in the 17th century, under the direction of the Rajah of Kottarakkara, who took the performances out of the temples and palaces and directly to the villages. Founded in 1990, this noted center honors kathakali—as well as Indian classical music, and other traditional arts—with nightly performances, 365 days a year. The kathakali shows are usually about 90 minutes, and include a informative demonstration; come an hour early to watch the actors undergo the elaborate makeup and costuming process.


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