Originating from the Latin word “murus”, meaning wall, Mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly onto a wall, roof, ceiling or other larger permanent surfaces. The most recognisable representation of the culture and aesthetic traditions of Kerala continues to be its mural paintings. The Jataka Tales inscribed on the walls of the Ajanta caves may be the first example of Indian "drawing" culture. From there, it was spread by Buddhist monks to many regions of the world, where it underwent a fusion of cultural influences to develop. The mural art traditions of Kerala date back to the eighth century AD.
The murals in the Tirunandikara cave temple are thought to be the first murals in Kerala. The majority of Kerala’s mural paintings date from the 14th century. In Kerala, there are more than 150 temples with historical mural art. The landscape and nature of Kerala were the inspiration for the early paintings. Later, the painters were also inspired by the cultural world and the Bhakti movements. With the introduction of the Ravi Varma school of thought in the 16th century, a significant change was observed. Early aesthetic approaches involved using the body as a canvas. These included body painting, face painting, and vintage tattoo designs. For each clan in tribal societies, there were distinctive tattoos. Drawings on the ground started to appear after it, and the Onam flower designs are a result of this. The ceremonial ground markings known as "kalamezhuthu" that were made to appease the gods also appeared. Murals most likely developed from similar representations.
The murals demonstrate regional variations. The women portrayed in the south Travancore Padmanabhapuram palace murals have long faces and lean bodies. Women are heavy and have round faces in the Mattancherry palace drawings. The feminine characteristics given to male gods and vice versa is another characteristic of murals. Only a few historical people had moustaches, including Parasuraman, Vettakorumakan, saints, and monarchs. The muralist was greatly influenced by the arts of Koodiyattom, Theyyam, Tholpavakoothu, and Kathakali. The stances taken by figures in mural paintings are comparable to the mudras used in Kathakali. The male costume in Kathakali is comparable to the upper garment worn by men in murals, known as the "kavacham." Thin lines indicate distance; thick lines indicate proximity; and flowing lines indicate rotation. All of these combined give depth.