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Theyyam - Centuries Old Cultural Performing Art | Theyyams of Kerala | Theyyams of Malabar

Updated on December 19, 2011

Arts and artists are always get respect when they become Popular. So many performing arts are well known through out the world. Now I am going to discuss here is a performing art that is higly involved in culture. Have you ever heard about Theyyam? Majority of the answers will be NO.

Theyyam is a centuries old ritual that takes place only in small villages in the northern part of the Kerala, i.e. Kasargod, Kannur, Waynad and Calicut which were form part of Malabar districts of former Madras Presidency. It is one of the most outstanding ancient dance forms of Kerala. It is a very fascinating ritual practiced for centuries by certain lower caste people of northern Kerala. This folk art form is also called as Thirayattom which is performed in Kavus or village temples. The theyyam or kolam (a form or shape) represent mythological divine or heroic characters. There are nearly 400 theyyams in northern Kerala.

Theyyam is performed by male members of particular castes only. Theyyam performers are from exclusively ex-untouchables castes like Malayan, Pulayan, Vannan, Anjootan, Munnutton, Velan, Chungathan, Koppalan, and Maylion. During the performance, however a low caste performer becomes God and hence could interact with and have power over the high-ranking priests and leaders of the village. In this way theyyam represent a complete reversal of the social caste structure.

Theyyam dance has its roots in ancient tribal culture of Kerala dating back to the Dravidian age. It lays great importance to worship heroes and ancestral sprits. Theyyam is a wonderful amalgamation of dance, mime and music. Chenda, Veekku, Elathalam, and Kurumkuzhal (Bugle) are the musical instruments used in theyyam.

Season of theyyam continues for six months beginning from the Malayalam month of Thulam (October-November) and continues till Edavam (May-June). Most of the theyyams are held in between Korapuzha of Calicut district and Chandragiripuzha of Kasargod district of northern Kerala.

Still now theyyam is a popular performing art. It is rich in culture and is essentially a dance festival. It has its roots in the area of north Kerala and even in Karnataka. There are numbers of studies conducted in relation to theyyam. But there are no such attempts were made to study theyyam in the perspective of tourism. So it has got great importance to view how theyyam closely interconnected with tourism. If we correlate theyyam with tourism it is will be an acclaimed initiation for the development of tourism in north Kerala.

Amazing Performing Art embeded in Culture


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    • Rmnathan profile image

      Rmnathan 9 years ago from Sharjah

      A good one Sukrita. Nice photographs and informative texts. I know Kathakali and Mohini Attam as Keralas art forms. I came to know about Teyyam only recently through SunSeven's Hubpage on this topic. Yours is the second. Thanks.

    • sukritha profile image

      sukritha 9 years ago from Cochin

      Thanks Ramanathan

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      Manu 8 years ago

      good one... me, a resident of calicut and am aware of these. Thira is popular in my area (south calicut) and i never miss it inspite of my busy office schedules in bangalore....

    • jagz033 profile image

      jagz033 7 years ago from India

      Hi it is a great article.

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      whores 7 years ago

      hi thats really colour...which state does this art form belong to?

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      Mathiazhagan 7 years ago

      Recently during a trip to Kannur I came across Theyyam rituals. As far as my knowledge is concerned, these art is performed in North Malabar and not North Kerala. North Kerala is entire Malabar region but Theyyam is ritual is performed only at Kannur & Kasaragode Districts and Vadakara Taluk of Calicut and Manathwady Taluk of Wayanad. Even Palakkad and Malappuram is also part of North Kerala or Malabar. Paradoxically, I saw a Theyyam art performed by female artisit at Cheruthazham of Kannur District. Theyyam art has many similarities with many rituals and arts of Karnataka especially of Dakshin Kannada and Coorg. I also heard that at Parassinikadav (The temple where Non-Veg Hindus must go) also Theyyam art is performed daily. Thank you for the information.

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      ratheesh vadakaracalicut 6 years ago

      very goodsukritha

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      vivek payyanur 5 years ago

      i like these above sukritha

    • profile image

      Abdul Khader 5 years ago

      Nice and informative

    • profile image

      anamika 4 years ago

      really informative

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