Kaliyoottu is a ritual art form associated with Goddess Bhadrakali belief and is mainly popular in the temples of Thiruvananthapuram district. In Thiruvananthapuram, the kali temples are also known by the name of Mudipurakal, as its believed that Bhadrakali’s hair is retained in Mudipura. There is a legend which says that Goddess Bhadrakali was born from the hair of Lord Shiva.
The priest of Mudipura, known as Vathis, is the chief priest for Kaliyoottu. Donning the role of Bhadrakali, the Vathis performs a ritual known as kalamkaval. After kalamkaval and aniyarakettu (preparations for the performance), a ritual drama is played on the stage.
One of the main rituals of Kaliyoottu is the Thottampattu. It requires 48 days for singing the Bhadrakalithottampattu completely. But it varies according to the number of festival days.The thottampattu is sung inside the temple facing Bhadrakali’s hair. Kuzhithalam (a kind of cymbal) is the main accompanying instrument for thottampattu.
The most important function of Kaliyoottu is the Uchabali conducted for pleasing the Goddess. Having been possessed as the Devi, the priest dances in a frenzy sprinkling rice, areca flowers and ash. Sacrifice is also conducted following which a solider sent by Darikan (a demon king) destroys the Balikalam (ritual drawaing). Kali using her spear overpowers the soldier and he is rolled, covered in mat and is taken away. Thus uchabali comes to an end and what follows next is Dikkubali, which is similar to Uchabali. Bhadrakali goes in search of Darikan fromhouse to house and will not be able to find Darikan and in anger sits on a fast for 8 days.
Then follows the Paranettu, a fight between Darikan and Bhadrakali in the skies. After that, the battle takes place on the ground and after the seventh battle, Bhadrakali beheads Darikan. The performance comes to an end when Bhadrakali and Darikan return to Mudipura after the arattu (holy bath).
Kaaliyoottu is a powerful ritual art form, where the entire village turns out to be the stage of performance which blends the elements of drama and ritual.