The word 'Thullal' means dance and it emerged in the eighteenth century. Thullal is a solo performance combining the dance and recitation of stories in verse.it was founded by Kunchan Nambiar to represent the accumulated aesthetic experience of all sections of the society. Staged during temple festivals, the performer explicates the verses through expressive gestures. The themes are based on mythology. This satiric art form was introduced in the18th century.
Humour, satire and social criticism are the hallmarks of Thullal. The make up, though simple, is very much akin to that of Kathakali. The full painting of the face is retained for the expressive advantage. The costume is picturesque. Based on different styles of narrative singing, rhythms of dancing, foot work and make-up of the dancer, three varieties of Thullal that were evolved in course of time are Ottan Thullal, the most popular one, Seethankan Thullal and Parayan Thullal.
The Thullal dancer is supported by a singer who repeats the verses and is accompanied by an orchestra of mridangam or thoppi maddalam (percussions) and cymbals. There are three related forms of Thullal - Ottanthullal , Seethankanthullal and Parayanthullal - of which the first is the most popular. The three are distinguished by the costumes worn and the metre of the verses.
Thullal is usually performed in the premises of temples during festivals and provides for thought and entertainment to the thousands of people who gather at these events.