Thiruvathirakali or Kaikottikaliis a unique dance performed in Kerala on the auspicious day of Thiruvathira, the birthday of Lord Shiva. It is performed by women who seek blessings for eternal marital bliss. It falls in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December-January). As per Hindu mythology, this dance is what brought Kamadeva (God of Love) back to life when he had been burnt to ashes by Lord Shiva’s fury.
The performers circle around a Vilakku and follow a circular movement while dancing. They clap their hands and sing the Thiruvathira pattu while dancing. The leader in the group sing the first line of the song and the rest of the members repeat it as a chorus. Thiruvathirakali is also called as Kaikottikali. The dance has become popular for all seasons especially during the festival Onam. For Onam, the dancers circle around the floral carpet. This dance is also performed on stage as well as in competitions.
The women perform this dance mainly to attain marital gladness. It is the women who organize these dances and is performed to celebrate marital duties and female energy. Women of all ages perform this dance. It was believed that it was this dance that bought the God of Love named as Kamadeva back to life after he was burnt to ashes by Lord Shiva. On the day of the performance, the women stay awake at night as they believe that Lord Shiva arrives on that day. The women wear typical Kerala sari which is a white sari bordered with golden colour. It may be either two-piece cloth called mundu and neriyathu or as a sari. Mundu is the dress that is worn around the waist and the Neriyathu is worn over the blouse. They neatly tie their hair and decorate it with jasmine flowers.
The songs sung during Thiruvathira may be either based on mythology or from folk tales. At times devotional songs are also sung. However, as Thiruvathirakali is performed during Onam, the songs sung are mainly about King Mahabali.