The art of colorful mural paintings, done on the walls of temples, churches and palaces in Kerala, dates back to the 9th century. Its roots lie in the ancient Dravidian art of Kalamezhuthu.
Kerala has the second largest collection of mural sites in India, with the largest being in Rajasthan. The oldest murals in Kerala were discovered in the rock-cut cave temple of Thirunandikkara (now in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu). Only sketchy outlines remain though. The largest mural panel in Kerala is at Krishnapuram Palace near Kayamkulam in Alleppey district. Extensive murals depicting scenes from the Hindu epics are preserved at Mattancherry Palace in Kochi. The murals of the Shiva Temple in Ettumanoor provide insight into the earliest forms of Dravidian mural art. Other famous mural paintings can be found at the Padmanabha temple in Trivandrum and Vadakkumnatha temple in Thrissur.
Mural paintings are the valued treasures of Kerala. These fresco paintings are classified as 'Frecco-secco'. The paintings are done on walls that are completely dry and a lime medium is used. It originated from the Dravidian art of Kalamezhuthu. This traditional painting has a history back from 9th to 12th century A.D.
White, yellow, black, red are the pure colors to be used as per 'Shilparatna'. Ocher yellow, Ocher red, white, bluish green and pure green are the primary colors in Murals.
A fine coating of resin is done after the painting in order to make a shining appearance. Flat, medium and fine types of brushes are used to paint the colors. The colors are mixed in wooden utensils. The foundation is done with dung cryons and then the paintings are done.
Hindu temples also hold murals on the themes derived from the religious texts. The Kanthaloor temple and the Trivikramapuram at Thiruvananthapuram, Ajanad at Idukki have the oldest frescos in Kerala. some other places with murals are- Thiruvanchikulam (Kerala's own tradition of murals), temples at Vaikom, Ettumanoor, Thrikkodithaanam and Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple Thiruvananthapuram.
The churches in Kerala also display many murals on Christian themes. Some of them are churches at Mulanthuruthy, Chepad, Edappalli and Vechur.
The unique works of Kerala frescos provide an excellent architectural style. The deep study of it will provide one with valuable information about the art and culture of Kerala. The murals that concentrate only on icons give an incomparable beauty to it.