Theyyam is a dance festival that is considered as ‘God’ Dance’. This dance form is derived from the combination of two words – ‘Deivam’ and ‘Aattam’. The word ‘Deivam’ means God and ‘Aattam’ means dance. This folk dance is also known by the name of Kaliyattam or Thriayattam. This is really a brilliant and amazing dance form that is performed ritually to please the Goddess Kaali. Previously, this form of dance was performed by the priests of temple in different villages and is known as ‘Thira’.

Theyyam Dance

Theyyam is the popular ritual dance in Kerala and is also known as Kaliyattam. Theyyam incorporates a dance and music with mime. It saints the elements of ancient tribal cultures that are attached to worship the spirits of ancestors. Theyyams can be classified into 400 forms, where the most prominent ones are the Pottan, Gulikan, Bhagavati, Kari Chamundi, Raktha Chamundi, etc. These are performed by artists belonging to Malayan, Vannan and other castes. Thottam and Thudangal are the basic dance rituals of Theyyam. These are known in south Malabar. The unique things about the theyyam dance are the ornamental decorations, size and appearance. Theyyam is performed in various places by North Malabar annually from December to April. Some of the places include–Karivallor, Kurumathoor, Nileswaram, Ezhom, Cherukunnu, etc. Theyyam is performed on all days at parassini kadava Sri Muthappan Temple, Kannur.

This dance from dates back to Dravidian age and has its roots in the ancient tribal culture of Kerala. This dance gives a great importance to the heroes and ancestral spirits. One can find a wonderful combination of dance with music and mine in this dance form. Some of the musical instruments used in this dance include - Chenda, Elathalam, Veekkuchenda, Kurumkuzal etc. As said before, one can find nearly 450 forms of Theyyam, each having its unique style, make-up, costumes, songs, choreography etc. Some of the common forms of Theyyam performed in today’s time include - Rakthachamundi, PuliyoruKannan, Makkappothi, KathivanurVeeran, Pottan, PalothuDaivam, MuchhilottuBhagavathi, Puthiya Bhagavathi, Vishnumurthy, Wichita, VayanattuKulavan, Gulikan, Mutiappan, Nagakanni, Veerali, Panchuruli, Puliyoru Kali, Kuttissasthav etc.

Costume and Make-up

Main feature of theyyam is the makeup and costumes. The makeup is very accurate and is a face painting that is done in different styles, designs and patterns. In short, the make-up of theyyam dance involves in decorating the body with bright colors. The power structure of Goddesses, Gods, spirits, heroes, demons and other mythological characters is personified by the acts. There isn’t any major variation in the makeup and costumes of theyyams, still the categories are different from each other. The distinctive garment of heroes available in Kathivanur Veeran is made made with ties of bamboos and is draped by a red cloth.

In the theyyams: Pottan Theyyam, Uchitta and Theechamundi, the dress is made of leaves from coconut as they jump into the fire. The naked body above the waist dress is colored with various colors. Each thyyam has different style of body painting. Velltam’s body of is daubed in a paste consisting of turmeric and rice. There are certain systems adopted to color the faces of performers. The headwear or ‘Mudi’ too varies with each theyyam. Headdresses are made using bamboo ties and wooden boards which are decorated with coconut leaves and flowers. In certain circumstances, feathers of peacock are also used.

The Kshethrapalan theyyam and sum Bhagavathies use approximately 50-60 feet high crowns made with bamboo splices and areca trees. Several other people are needed to hold these crowns up on the heads of the perforners. As per the traditions these crown are either draped in colorful cloth or covered with leaves of coconut. A few Theyyams also wear a small serpent head made of silver adorned with flowers of red color. Sometimes a collor is made with wood and is fitted with various gems is worn as well. A wooden breast with various ornaments is worn by the female deities. Masks made up of acrea nut leaf and wood is used in the pottan theyyam. In a few theyyams like Pottan Theyyam mask made out of the leaf sheaths of areca nut tree and wooden planks are used. Fancy jewelries and ornaments adorn the breast of the Goddess.

Regions where the Theyyam Dance Festival is Celebrated are:

    • Kanathoor Nalvar Bhoothashanam
    • Perumthitta Tharavad Kottamkuzhy

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