Theyyam: Interesting facts

Every one knows Kerala’s popular colorful  ritual is  Theyyam. There are so many informations and photos out there over the internet which can be referred for details. I had a very short trip to Sree Andalurkavu  to witness this event . There are some very interesting facts about  this ritual which I gathered from various sources.

  1. Theyyam or Theyyatam is derived from two Malayalam words “Deyvam” ( god ) and “Aattam” ( dance).
  2. Theyyam along with  Aati kalenja, Bhutada Kola, Yakshagana and  Kathakali are similar in style and share same type of geography which is now divided between Karnataka and Kerala. Aati kalenja, Bhutada Kola, Yakshagana  are seen in south most part of Karnataka ( mainly called Tulu region) and Theyyam and  Kathakali are in observance in   North Malabar in Kerala state.
  3. History of Theyyam goes back to 2000 years and it is a pure tribal form of ritual that came a long way .
  4. Theyyam is a art of dance and  a visual art to some. There are no formal training and it is learnt by observation and imitation in the families. But some steps are learnt formally as well. Best example is ‘Kalari’ theyyam.
  5. Each Theyyam has its own dance patterns and rituals . The performer is not supposed to break or improve it. He might change the rhythm though.
  6. There are more than 450 types of Theyyams dances but only 50-60 are in practice nowadays. Complete names of the 400 odd theyyam’s can be seen here .
  7. Theyyam dances are performed in the months of October to June. Click here to checkout a very good site giving the calendar of Theyyam here.
  8. Costumes need 10-36 Hrs of work to prepare. And the body makeup requires 2-5 hrs .
  9. All the makeup are done using organic materials no chemicals are allowed.
  10. Some theyyams head gears will be 10 feet long.
  11. Music and light are also the elements of Theyyam. Drum, Cymbal, Kuzhal, Perumbara, Conch, Cherututi, Utukku and Chermangalam are some of the music instruments that used in Theyyams. ‘Olachuttu’ (bundle of dr%ed coconut-leaves) are the main source of light which is used in the theyyams.
  12. Most of the theyyams are performed by Male only but there are certain theyyams performed by women also
  13. There are certain Theyyams which are performed only in certain places and nowhere else can be seen or not supposed to be performed in other places.
  14.  There are thirteen main castes who perform theyyams and each caste has theyyam that belongs to them. Which family will perform what theyyam is regulated by heads of the caste and families
  15. Theyyam is the worship where both upper caste people and lower caste people  of the region share important responsibilities. This shows the history of  harmony and dependency between different caste systems contradicting present theory or situation of casteism in India.
  16. There is also a Muslim Theyyam performed in Kasargodu of Kerala. Not sure  currently it is performed or not.

Please leave your special fact about Theyyam in comment list. I will add them in the list with due credit !

And here is the gallery of Photos I shot during Theyyam.


9 thoughts on “Theyyam: Interesting facts

  1. really great! Dinesh! fantastic photography and superb info. there is one more art form called as Aatikalanja in northern part of kerala. this ritual happens in the month of aati- somewhere in june -july. that dance form and the way they dress with the coconut palm leaves is also very beautiful. we are missing all these. love India for all such beautiful rituals and traditions

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