In Kathakali, everything about the characters’ makeup--from colors employed to the attachment of beards, bulbous noses, bangles and adornments--is deeply symbolic. The makeup is designed to indicate the intrinsic nature of each character. And each character falls into one of six categories: Pacha, Kathi, Thadi, Kari, Minukku or Theppu. Thadi means beard, and whether beards are red, black or white, these hirsute characters denote a distinct type of wickedness. The red Thadi are the most wicked of all: they represent a destructive evil energy with virtually no thinking capacity. They can be rakshasas, or demons; or men like Veerabhadra born out of the fire of Shiva ‘the destroyer’ and therefore an agent of destruction and blind obedience.

Cherunthury, Kerala

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