Arjuna, the outstanding warrior, was also a master in dance and music. Arjuna Nritham is devoted to Arjuna, the diligent student of Guru Dhronacharya, whose power of concentration is well-known. Arjuna appeased Goddess Bhadrakali (the Hindu Goddess of Eternal Energy) through a devotional dance presentation and it is believed that this dance form was Arjuna Nritham.
Arjuna Nritham is also known as Mayilpeeli Nritham. The costume of this dance form is made up of Mayilpeeli or peacock feathers for which Lord Krishna has a special penchant, thereby symbolizing one of the facets of the relationship between Krishna and Arjuna. This ritual art form is performed throughout the night in the Bhagavathy temples of mainly Kollam and Alappuzha.
The makeup and costume of Arjuna Nritham are similar to those of Kathakali makeup. Kathakali ‘Uduthukettu’ with Mayilpeeli lends elegance to this art form.
The rudiments of the songs of Arjuna Nritham are based on different themes in the Puranas. The rhythm-based songs are called ‘Kavithangal’. Every Kavitham has its own rhythm and the performer explains the rhythm used in the Kavitham before each song is sung. Ekatala, Roop Tala, Charpata Tala and Panchari Tala are some of the talas used in Arjuna Nritham. The movements are similar to Kalaripayattu. Chenda, Tala Chenda, llathalam and maddalam are the instrument used in this art form.