Vellinezhi is one of the most significant spots on Kerala’s cultural heritage map and was declared as the “Kalagramam” (art village) by the government in 2013. The village is significant for many reasons like the presence of around 45 art forms including the world-famous Kathakali, being the birthplace of various renowned artists, and for being the place where Kathakali Koppu (headgear and ornaments) are produced. The State Government combined eight villages in Vellinezhi and granted it the title of “Kalagramam” to protect and encourage the traditional art forms of Kerala. And this recognition is well deserved too, for Vellinezhi has played a significant role in shaping up the face of art forms in Kerala.
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Olappamanna Mana is a famous historical place and is situated in Vellinezhi. Olappamanna is an iconic institution from where a new style of Kathakali was invented. The Mana was the Kathakali school to many renowned Kathakali artists. Ravunni Menon, a prominent figure in Kathakali history, learned Kathakali from Olappamanna Mana under Kalluvazhi Kuyilthodi Ittirarissa Menon. After his master’s demise, Ravunni became the chief Kathakali tutor in Olappamanna Mana. He then remoulded the old style of Kathakali into the new style that is followed by Kathakali artists today.
As Olappamanna Mana gave birth to so many renowned Kathakali artists, Kathakali became an integral part of the residents of Vellinezhi. As costumes and makeup are integral to Kathakali, the availability of the best ornaments was of great importance to Kathakali artists. Handcrafted headgear and ornaments, elaborate makeup, and expressions enhance the elegance and aesthetics of the Kathakali performance. And so, Vellinezhi is also famous for the production of Kathakali equipment. For the artisans in Vellinezhi, the craft of Kathakali Koppu (Kathakali ornament) making has been passed on from one generation to the next.
It takes about 1-2 months to make the Kathakali headgear and ornaments. All of them are made from the wood of the Kumizh tree. The legendary Kothavil family of carpenters from Vellinezhi are renowned for making the traditional Kathakali Koppu. The Kathakali Koppu produced by the Kothavil family is headgears and ornaments. There are four types of headgears in Kathakali which include Aadhyavasanam, Edatharam, Kutti Chamaram, and Kutti Tharam. It takes a month to forge the Aadhyavasanam headgear. Mirrors and other decorations are placed after the ornament is carved out from wood. Besides Kathakali gear, they produce ornaments like bangles, Hasthakadakam (bracelet), Thol Poottu (shoulder wear), Kuralaram (chest plate), and Kazhutharam (neckband consisting of necklaces). Besides Kathakali Koppu, equipment for Koodiyattam, and Krishnanattam are produced too.
The village is also considered to be the home of many other Kathakali-related ornaments. Apart from the glory of Kathakali, Vellinezhi is blessed with more than 45 artforms such as Koodiyattam, Chakyarkoothu, Ottamthullal, Krishnanattam, Tholppavakoothu, Panchavadhyam, Poothan Thira, Nandhuni Pattu, Kalamezhuthu Pattu, and so on.
If you’re someone who is fascinated by the heritage of Kerala’s art forms, Vellinezhi is a place you must visit. The breeze of Vellinezhi smells the fragrance of Kerala’s art forms and it is sure to satisfy the art lover in you.