A confluence of theatre, satire, music, painting and dance, Padayani is an art form performed in Pathanamthitta, Central Travancore. A part of an ancient ritual, this dance is performed in Bhagavati temples, located on the banks of the Pampa river, in honour of Goddess Bhadrakali. The dancers wear elaborate masks and perform this vigorous dance. Kolam thullal is the best-known mask that is made by drawing patterns on leaves of areca nut. These masks are believed to be a representation of divine characters and spiritual forces.

Legend has it that this dance commemorates that of Lord Shiva and other gods, who danced to appease Goddess Durga. The word 'Padayani' means a row of warriors. Padayani is to central Tranvancore what Theyyam is to north Kerala.