Padayani is a modern form of Kolam Thullal, a ritual dance, which had been performed by the magico-medicine men of Kerala ( The Tinta endogamous section of Ganaka community).In olden days, this elaborate and expensive event was carried out to heal illnesses of deep psychological dysfunctions without any identifiable serious physical cause, and cases that seemed to be not amenable to medical modalities of intervention . This form of psychic or spiritual healing other wise known as Kolam Thullal, was solely designed, controlled and performed by the Tinta sub sect of the Ganaka community, as a method of exorcism. The folk art, Padayani made its development from this dance performance, as a divine ritual tradition in association with festival occasions of Bhagavathy (Bhadrakaali) temples of Kerala.
Another version of its origin is related to the practice of ancient martial arts training in Kerala. Ever since the period of the Samgham age, the Ganaka people were regarded by the society, as traditional preceptors (Sanskrit: Acharya) of martial arts and letters . Since the origin of term padayani relates to military parade or rows of army,it is generally believed that it is evolved from a symbolic past reminiscent of the fencing march of the martial art (Kalari) by the Nair trainees (fighters) and their Preceptors –KalariAsans (Kaniyar Panicker) to frighten the enemy troop and to show their might. Eventually the responsibilities of various functions related to this dance were divided and assigned among people of different communities. So the Nair folk became the performers of the modern form of Padayani art, but the right of writing lyrics, the design and making of elaborate costumes was vested with the local Kaniyar people. Nowadays the modern form of Padayani is performed at many Devi temples in the southern region of Kerala, particularly in Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Alappuzha and Kollam Districts.
Padayani is very popular in Kerala, India, as a means, used to worship goddess Kali. The story line comes as after killing Daruka, an Asura, the goddess was very angry. The bhoothagana, servants of lord Siva, danced in front of her to reduce her anger, else her anger would result in the destruction of the whole world. In memory of this incident, the participants wear masks (kolam) made of lathes of the areca tree using one to hundreds. The colours used to make the kolam are purely natural. They are made of the green of the lath itself (kamukin pacha), kari (carbon), manjalpodi, sindooram, etc.