Theyyams wake up in N Kerala

via published on October 27, 2008

Kasargod: After a gap of four months, the Theyyam festival season in northern Kerala started on Sunday. The temples and Kaavus (groves) would now become loud with the drum-beats and twinkling of the anklets worn by Theyyam artistes.

The Theyyam season in Malabar, which comes to a close by the start of rains in June, gets lively from the tenth day of the month of Thulam of Malayalm calendar. Theyyam season ends with the Kalasam festival at the Mandampurathu Kaavu of Neeleswaram in the month of Edavam.

The end of Theyyam season is the star of season of hardships for Theyyam artists. As Theyyam performance calls for a lot of physical energy and mental concentration and the stipulated periods of penance, most Theyyam artistes cannot do any other work to earn their bread and butter. For most of them, Theyyam is life and profession.

The life of the Theyyam artistes and their families is dependent on the small remuneration they get from this and the offerings made by the devotees. Otherwise, it is penury and starvation for these great performers who are trying their level best to keep alive a great artistic and mystical tradition.

Artistes have already polished and mended the ornaments and costumes for the Theyyam performance for the new season. They say that it costs a lot to arrange the elaborate ornaments and costumes to be worn by the Theyyam performer. The costumes constitute a long list with Pakkappambu, Ezhu Tharam, Chendath Thangi, Thazha, Thalappali, etc.

The preparation of the colours to be worn also is an arduous task. The basic ingredients for the preparation of these colours are Vattarakku, Bhoothachora and Chayilyam. The expenses for the costumes, ornaments and colours for a season per Theyyam could come to around Rs 100,000.

The biggest of the Theyyam events is said to be the six-day Perunkaliyattam held at Neeleswaram in Kasaragod in February, which has found a prominent place in the programmes listed by the Kerala Tourism.

Although Theyyam, one of the most outstanding folk arts of Kerala, is organised in Kannur and Kasaragod districts from October end to June first week every year, this art form and festivities that accompany it have not been made famous to the outside world. Perunkaliyattam is aimed at highlighting the magnificence of the village festivals.

Theyyam represents a mythological, divine, ancestral, animal, serpent or heroic character, each with its distinct shape, form and story of origin. The hood, head, dress, face painting, breast plate, bracelets, garlands and fabric of attire in each Theyyam are distinct and meticulously crafted according to the character presented.

The performers are mainly from the Vannan, Malayan, Velan, Pulayan, Mavilan and Koppalan communities. Theyyam stands as a symbol of good will, prosperity and also to ward off evil spirit, poverty and illness.

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