Fostered by centuries of royal patronage, ritual theatre remains in Kerala far more than mere entertainment. In the best-known form, Kathakali, actors dressed in striking costumes and make-up enact scenes from the great epics. Performances frequently last all night, but you can enjoy shorter versions in specially tailored tourist shows staged in hotels, alongside the state’s seductive classical dance form, Mohinattyam, and demonstrations of Kerala’s acrobatic martial arts form, Kalarippayattu.

Further north, the beaches south of Kannur serve as leisurely bases for anyone wishing to experience Theyyam, a wilder, more intense ritual form in which extravagantly costumed dancers embody local deities during night-long performances – one of the south’s truly authentic, and most other-worldly, experiences.

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