Discover Theyyam, the art form that originated in Kerala

Did you ever see a dance festival with the traditions dating past to several thousand years old?

Not many know but Theyyam is a very popular and traditional form of dance worship in Kerala originating mostly in the northern part of the state. The name Theyyam came from adding two words ‘Deivam and Aattam’, which is translated as god and dance. Most of the artists need to practice traditional martial art (Kalary) as this dance form needs great flexibility. The performance is accompanied by a chorus of musical instruments as Chenda, Elathalam, Kurumkuzal and Veekkuchenda. WayanaduKulavan, MuchilottuBhagavathi, RakthaChamundi, Gulikaan and Pottan, these are the most prominent theyyam and there are 400 in total. Let’s talk a bit about the nuances of this dance form…

  1. Costumes and makeup – There are many categories of Theyyam and they all have different costumes and makeup as well. It differs according to the role and the myth behind the form. Mostly all the costume of Theyyam is made from coconut trees and the preparation of the costume is done by artist themselves. In this dance form, the makeup is very important and it takes hours to do this makeup because of the different combinations of colors used.
  2. Belief behind Theyyam – Theyyam is a divine dance festival; people believe the main performer invokes the power of god or goddess at the time of performance. They also believe that they will be blessed from the god through the performer when they watch any Theyyam act being performed.
  3. Types of Theyyam – There are more than 400 Theyyakkalams and all of them have their own mythology and traditions that they are inspired from. Here are some most popular forms you can see, Vishnumoorthy, SreeMuthappanTheyyam, Guligan, PadikuttiAmma, ManakkottAmma, Kuttichathan, KathivanurVeeran, PadamadakkiBhagavathy.
  4. Character dedication – The artist who plays the characters should have high physical and mental dedication for getting the perfection of the character in all means and this needs to be kept in practice till the artists’ lifetime.
  5. Social aspects of Theyyam – The ideology behind Theyyam was to raise the voice of the poor or make people aware of the politics and injustices inflicted on them by the upper and higher castes. Theyyam practitioners, in the beginning used to belong to the different communities of untouchables that have existed as part of Kerala’s caste structure.

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