A young Kattai kooth performer during his make-up session at the Mylapore festival in Chennai

A young Kattai koothu performer | Mylapore festival, Mylapore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Kattai koothu is a form of folk dance that has its origins in Tamil Nadu. This rural art form is distinguished by their use of ‘kattai’ or wooden ornaments that are worn by the male characters on their shoulders; ‘koothu’ means dance accompanied with music, or to extend the meaning, a theatrical performance. Kattai koothu performances are traditionally held during the night and they go on till early morning. The kattai ornaments and the elaborate makeup involved in staging the show set it apart from other folk arts. The performances are vigorous spectacles of the lives of mythological characters and they seldom need to use a microphone to make themselves audible to the farthest audience.