"MUDRAPEDIA" - A free encyclopedia of Kathakali hand gestures


The "MUDRAPEDIA" project (http://www.kathakali.info/mudrapedia) by kathakali.info in association with Thiranottam, Dubai, will be the first in its series of presenting the grammar and theatrical techniques of Kathakali to the global audience. The sign language used in Kathakali is one of the initial road blocks faced by someone who starts watching it, and attempts to appreciate it. The project attempts to make the Kathakali hand gestures very easily accessible to anyone who wishes to enjoy the art form.

The main features of the project can be summarized thus :

  1. Complete and exhaustive, covering all Kathakali Mudras currently prevalent, which comes to around 700 in number.

  2. Covering the 2 major schools of Kathakali, the Southern and Northern schools, as taught in Kalamandalam. The differences between the 2 schools will be highlighted, and clearly identifiable.

  3. Multimedia enabled - Each Mudra will be accompanied by its meaning, a detailed description, a specially shot video clip elaborating its enactment, sample live Kathakali video clips, and other ancillary details.

  4. Available in both English and Malayalam languages. By making the content available in internet in both the languages, the project aims to popularize the Kathakali sign language globally.

  5. Designed and scrutinized by senior Kathakali artists - The project will be designed and conducted by prominent Kathakali artists. The finished content will be scrutinized, and corrected if required, by senior Acharyas of Kathakali.

  6. The encyclopedia will be available under CC-BY-SA license. (Creative Commons Share Alike license). This means You are free: to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the encyclopedia. to Remix — to adapt the work

    without paying any fees/price to kathakali.info or Kunchu Nair Trust. It is the license used by WIKIPEDIA community.

Chief benefits

The need for such an encyclopedia cannot be over-emphasized. Currently there is no such medium where someone can go for an easy reference of Kathakali mudras. The chief benefits of this initiative can be listed as follows:

  1. As mentioned earlier, the project shall make the Kathakali hand gestures very easily accessible to anyone in the world, who wishes to understand and appreciate the art form.

  2. The encyclopedia is not just meant for the normal Kathakali viewer or a beginner, it can also act as a ready reference for seasoned connoisseurs and Kathakali artists themselves.

  3. The information presented in the encyclopedia will be well connected to other pages of the kathakali.info website through hyper links, enabling easy lookup of Mudras and the occasions in which they are used, etc.

  4. Once the encyclopedia is available in the kathakali.info database, it can be presented to the user in different ways. Different types of content, like interactive tutorials, presentations, demos etc. can be built on top of this encyclopedia.

  5. The encyclopedia empowers a normal person to conduct demonstrations of Kathakali in remote locations, without the presence of artists themselves. Thus, it adds significant value to the infrastructure required for popularization of Kathakali.

Plan of execution

The main tasks involved in the project are:

  1. Design, conceptualization, and gathering the raw information on Kathakali Mudras.

  2. Video shooting of the Mudras by prominent Kathakali artists

  3. Preparing the textual descriptions of the Mudras

  4. Scrutiny/correction of the encyclopedia content by senior Kathakali Acharyas

  5. Designing the presentation of the content in kathakali.info website

  6. Making the encyclopedia available in kathakali.info website

The video shooting of Kathakali Mudras is planned to be conducted on 21, 22, 23 Dec. 2011, at Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair Memorial Hall, Karalmanna. In this 3 day session, we plan to cover all the mudras of Southern and Northern schools of Kathakali as taught in Kalamandalam.

The team would consist of 8 Kathakali artists headed by prominent Kathakali actor Sri Ettumanoor P Kannan. The entire encyclopedia would be scrutinized by 2 senior artists, each belonging to Southern and Northern schools of Kathakali respectively.

"MUDRAPEDIA" would be available to the general public my March 2012 via a public function, where it would be inaugurated by a prominent personality.


The major expenses of the "MUDRAPEDIA" project includes initial design and research expenses, artists remuneration, video/sound/light expenses, food, accommodation and other charges for all the 3 days. The estimated amount will come to around 1,10,000 Rupees.


"MUDRAPEDIA" aims to be a very useful project for Kathakali lovers all over the world. It has diverse use cases, which includes the popularization and better appreciation of Kathakali. We expect your kind co-operation to make this initiative a grand success.