The Folk games in kerala - A Socio-Cultural Study

Submitted by:
Dr. Philip John
Dep. of Malayalam
Deva Matha College, Kuravilangad P.O.
Kottayam District, Kerala State
Outlay: 100000

Project F.No. - MRP(H)-1706/11-12/KLMG023/UGC-SWRO.

 Dated 03-11-2011





I express my sincere gratitude to the Principal, Devamatha Colege, Kuravilangad and the Management for allowing me to do the project titled ‘The Folk Games in Kerala – a socio-cultural study’

I am thankful to various clubs of Nadan kali who have helped me in carrying out the project. I extent my sincere thanks to the different Librarians who helped me to get access to various reference. I also express my gratitude to  Darsana Computer Centre, Kuravilangad who have typed and printed the project report.

Above all I express my sincere gratitude to the UGC for giving me financial aids to carry out the project.




Dr.Philip John






Summary of Findings

The findings of the study on the folk games of Kerala can be summed up as follows.

The term ‘Nadan kalikal’ refers to various entertainments which are cultural transmitters of a folk society. The word ‘Nadankalikal’ is formed by the association of two different terms –‘Nadan’ and ‘Kali’.(Kalikal is the plural form of the word Kali.) Here the former word ‘Nadan’ bears different meanings  such as farmer, villager, native, barbaric (savage)etc. The later word ‘Kali’ also is riched with myriad meanings. Certain dance items, classical art forms and staged items come under this term. But the word ‘Kali’ stands for a universal meaning- entertainment. In short ‘Nadankali’ is the entertainment of a folk fraternity.

In present day Kerala, the affinity to folk games is generally on the decline.  In this regard, children and grown ups have no difference.  This trend can be interpreted as the result of changing times.  It may also be a special feature of the lifestyle of the new generation.

The weather conditions of Kerala, from one end of the state to the other, are more or less homogeneous.  As a result, all regions have the same sowing time, the same harvesting time, the same schedule for schools to close and reopen, etc.  For children, vacation is the time for games and merry walking.  So they engage in various games suited to the weather of the vacation days.  As for grown ups, their traditional games and enjoyments are connected with agriculture, festivals and holidays.  Therefore folk games show remarkable similarities through out Kerala.

A close scrutiny of the fellow games of the northern cultural and southern regions of Kerala reveals certain special features.  Several games which still persist have the same names from the north to the far south of the state.  But some games have different names in different areas.  Similarly, some games are played in slightly different styles at different places.  But a common feature of all folk games is their wide popular acceptance all over the state.

Regional differences in the names of certain games can be the result of regional variation of language because of social influences.  In the same way, semblances can sometimes be seen between games of different regions.

An important feature of folk games is that they are usually played by people of the same age group.  People of different age groups seldom can together to play a game.  In Kerala there is a maxim that one should play with one’s peers only.  Naturally, the rules of a game are forwarded to suit the age group that plays it.

Every folk game has a specific social goal may be to foster faith in God, to teach some moral or ethical lessons and to promote hygiene and health, to develop social sense, to engender love of traditional values, to promote intellectual development, to encourage curiosity, to promote good habits, to develop practical wisdom, to provide entertainment, and so on.

Every society has its own needs.  The games that originate and spread in a society are shaped by the varying needs of that society.

Some folk games are related to specific occupations.  These games originated and spread in times when certain occupations were identified with a particular social group or caste or tribe.  Such games contain things that children of that group saw and heard, things that they learnt, and things that they had to learn.

Some of Kerala’s folk games are meant to equip people for self defence.  Such games reveal a strong influence of Kerala’s Kalari tradition.

Some folk games are connected directly or indirectly, with local history and tradition.  These games enable people to have a broad outlook and this promote social harmony.

Folk games serve as an ideal means to reduce the gap between the haves and have nots.  They also transmit our rich traditions from generation to generation.