Context: The mothers’ grouping of the Thrissur Archdiocese performed ‘Kolkali, a folk art’, on the Lour des Metropolitan Cathedral premises in remembrance of St. Thomas’ arrival in India.
About Kolkali Art:
- Having a historical lineage of approximately two centuries, Kolkali emerged as a folk art performed in the North Malabar region of Kerala, with influences drawn from Kalaripayattu, a martial art tradition prevalent in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
- In the realm of Kolkali, each participant holds a stick, executing circular movements, striking a rhythmic chord that resonates with the accompanying music.
- Typically, a group of 12 to 24 dancers move rhythmically in a circle around a ceremonial lamp named ‘Nilavilakkua,’ synchronizing foot taps with the manipulation of lengthy wooden sticks in their hands.
- On occasions, this dance unfolds on a specially constructed on a wooden stage, thus it is also called, ‘Thattinmelkalia.’
- The songs interwoven into Kolkali performance narrate devotional stories depicting regional deities, with the primary musical accompaniment emanating from the rhythmic sounds of the sticks.
- The dance is enhanced by musical instruments such as Chenda, Elathalam, Mathalam, and Chengala.
- Traditionally an annual post-harvest celebration, Kolkali united villagers across caste and creed. However, in contemporary times, the dance has transcended its seasonal roots, finding a place in various tribal festivals and celebratory events, including wedding ceremonies.
- The influence of Kolkali extends beyond Kerala’s borders, influencing folk dance forms in Bengal, Gujarat, Punjab, and Maharashtra. In Tamil Nadu, it is recognized as Kolattam, while in Andhra Pradesh, it goes by the name Kolamu.
- Currently, Kolkali enjoys widespread popularity and has become a prominent feature in the Kerala School Youth Festival, lauded as one of the largest cultural events in Asia.
- This evolution underscores the enduring allure and cultural resonance that Kolkali brings to the forefront of artistic expression in the region.
Arrival of St. Thomas in India:
- During his initial mission, St. Thomas arrived at the capital of Parthian King Gondophares (c. 19 – c. 46), who governed the regions of Afghanistan and Punjab, with Takshasila as the capital.
- Accompanying him was the trader Abbanes. On his subsequent mission, St. Thomas journeyed to a kingdom in South India, ruled by a dynasty from the 1st Century.
- According to tradition, St. Thomas preached in this region before crossing over to the Coromandel Coast in Southeast India.
- Unfortunately, he was killed while fulfilling his mission at Mylapore near Madras.