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Tourism gives a new lease of life to Theyyam

The North Kerala districts of Kasargod and Kannur is now reverberating in full swing with the ritualistic performance of Theyyam or Kaliyattam. The annual session has already started from the Malayalam month of Thulam( October- November) and would go on till the end of Medam( mid of May) 

What is Theyyam

Theyyam is a fascinating as well as a colourful ritualistic performance which were primarily held at various places of worship like kaavu(sacred grove), Kazhakam, Mundya, Kottam or even at family houses. This is a festival where there is participation of entire villages.
Theyyam is basically a corrupt form of Deivam (God) with more than 400 forms according to local variations.
Theyyam is a centuries old traditional dance form confined to the erstwhile Kolathunadu of northern Kerala. The programs are performed generally during the nights. The performers are known by the name of Kolam represent the deities. They look quite unique, with colourful costumes, headgear and body and facial makeup.
The Theyyam performance lasts for hours together and during this time the performers (Kolam) get transformed into the deities and remain in a state of trance. 

Socio religious value of Theyyam

The various local deities come to life through the medium of Theyyam performers. The deities come to life and are known to bestow divine powers. They not only invoke blessings but pronounce judgments on worldly affairs too. Thus they play a pivotal role in maintaining social order and justice. 

Revival in fortunes

During the days gone it was customary for all the families in the region to have a Theyyam performance once in a year. This practice faded in face of breakdown of joint families into nuclear ones.
Of late there is once again revival in falling fortune of Theyyam. Theyyam is moving beyond north Kerala to be accepted as an universal folk dance form. Some attributes like larger than life images along with the attendant musical elements is making it part of every tourism packages and made it move beyond only the sacred spots.
However the modern day performances under the glow of tube lights are not able to bring out the same divine appeal of the past. It was an altogether divine experience to watch the performances held under the light generated by burning the coconut leaf bundles, oil lamps or by cloths dipped in oil tied round the tip of a stick made of wood. 

Prominent Theyyam Festivals

You could find several hundred festival spots strewn across Kannur and Kasargod districts and the performances can be of one, five and even a week long.
According to the annual calendar of the Payyanur Municipality there are around 80 Theyyam festivals in and around the area.
There are some places where the Theyyam performance takes place once in 12, 14 or 21 years. It is then called as Perumkaliyattam. One such place is the Karamel Muchilodu very close to Payannur in Kannur district some 100 odd kms from Kasargod.
The Theyyam festival is an annual festival at the Koodali Thaazhathu Veedu near Kannur. It is a family affair consisting of a trust with 130 members. 

Information about Theyyam

A detailed information about Theyyam festivals are available with District tourism promotion councils as also the hotels of Kasargod and Kannur.

Acknowledgement: The Hindu
Updated on November 2008