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The Theyyam can be described as a performance that merges colour, dance, music, poetry and ceremonial rituals. Theyyams take place around the North Kerala district of Kannur.

Originally believed to have been a tribal folk art, the Theyyam has become an important part of the area’s religion – Hinduism.

A Theyyam performer or artist, as they are often referred to, begins by reciting the story of the particular Theyyam , which he is depicting (there are around 400 Theyyams).

After the recital the artist assumes a trance-like state, where he is no longer believed to be human, but a living incarnation of one of the many millions of Hindu Gods.

The performances vary from the artist slowly walking around a shrine to executing acrobatic moves and prancing around the temple grounds with great energy, it all depends on the God being invoked, each has his (or her) own story.

By the time they reach adulthood most Theyyam artists can depict a few dozen Gods. As they progress in their careers, that number increases.

Traditionally  Theyyam artists have always belonged to the lower castes on the Hindu social ladder.

While they work low paying, manual labour jobs throughout most of the year and are subjected to oppression by the higher castes…

The Theyyam season is a time when, for at least the duration of the performance even the highest members of the society bow down in front of the artists and ask for their blessings.


Source: Mitchell Kanashkevich



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