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A ritualistic dance form of Kerala

Theyyam is a ritualistic dance of north Kerala, with spectacular makeup, exceptional costume, and vigorous movement. It is said to represent the souls of the dead heroes of the land, Gods, and Goddesses, who come lively through the medium of the possessed dancers, blesses the believers, and sometimes even advise on matters of contemporary significance. Theyyam has been traditionally performed by the Mannan, Velan, and Malayan communities.

the subject of Theyyam performances is based on the victory of the goddess over the demon Daruka and other evil characters. This dance is played by men who also perform female roles wearing special makeup. The headgear or the mask of the Theyyam dancer is made of materials from nature and painted with natural colors. The dance is accompanied by full-throated singing of tottam songs. The dancer has to prepare his mind and body to entertain the Theyyam within himself. During the period of austerity in preparation for the performance, the dancer concentrates on his favorite deity with extreme devotion.

In the worship of certain Theyyams, intoxicant liquor as an offering is not forbidden. Kuttichattan and Khantakarnan are among the deities of the tamasic (demonic, or dark group), for whom liquor is very essential. To other godheads like 'Daivattar', liquor is strictly prohibited and the artists who impersonate such powers also regard liquor as taboo in their lives.

Theyyam must have had a cleansing effect in ancient society. It had absolute relationship with man in giving vent to his strong feelings against injustice and wickedness, and his desire to maintain the well-being of society.

Updated on 24th June, 2014

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