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noun (pl) -lis
a form of dance drama of S India using mime and based on Hindu literature
Word Origin
from Malayalam, from katha story + kali play
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
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Encyclopedia Article for kathakali

one of the main forms of classical dance-drama of India, other major ones being bharata-natya, kathak, manipuri, kuchipudi, and orissi. It is indigenous to southwestern India (Kerala) and is a dance-drama based on subject matter from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and stories from Saiva literature. Enacted outdoors, the presentation is an all-night function. During the action, voices chant the story as mimed by dancers; incidental dances, accompanied by ear-splitting drumbeats, enrich the performance. Traditionally, kathakali is performed exclusively by men and young boys who play the parts of both males and females. The dancers are dedicated to its practice throughout their lives.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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