Theyyam...

      This is highly ritualistic dance, well preserved with its rare and grotesque make-up and costume, lively footwork and gymnastic fervor. It represents a glorious period of folk-life in Kannur as well as In Kerala.
The gods and goddesses are supposed to come in our mist through the medium of the possessed dancers and converse with us on matters of even contemporary significance. It is some times found that Theyyams pronounce judgments on temporary matters and give blessing to the believers. The performers belong to “Vannan” “Velan” “Malayan” and "Munnottan" Communities. They were patronized by the feudal chiefs of Ezhinadu, Puzhinade and such other places. Were ever the Dravidian culture was maintaining its supremacy.

 


         The Theyyam dance is performed during the festivals of the shrines known by names like Kavu, Palliyara Mundya,Tanam,Kottam,Madhappura etc. It had grown through centuries to its present form.

       Theyyam is essentially a human creation; it has an absolute relationship with man in giving vent to his strong feelings against injustice and wickedness and his desire to maintain the well-being of the society.
        The head gear or the mask, made of locally available materials from nature and painted with natural colors, assumes a grotesque and archetypal image with the blending of highly artistic and emotive display.
The folk singer, while he sings out in a loud voice, accompany Theyyam or along with his own dancing steps, uses simple, but effective language and straight, but thought, provoking, images.
The rudiments of the dance music which later developed and evolved in to the art of “Krishnanattam” and “Kathakali” can be clearly found in Theyyam music. Theyyam songs belongs to a literary tradition of the farthest past which had not evolved through any conscious process of sophistication , but saved as a life- giving vehicle of the feeling of village communities

         The Theyyam dance is generally performed in front of the village shrines.and Tharavadu House, (Joint family House) as ancestor worship with elaborate rites and rituals. There is no stage or curtain and it is performed in an open theatre. A performance of a particular deity according to its significance and hierarchy in the shrine continues for 12 to 24 hours with intervals. The Chief dancer who propitiates the central deity of the shrine has to reside in the the aniyara( green room) and observe vegetarianism, fasting etc. as a part of rituals. Further, after the sunset, this particular dancer would not eat anything as a legacy of Jainism. His make up is done by specialist and others. First part of the performance is usually known as `Thottam’ or `Vellattam’. It is performed in the night without proper make up or decorative costume. Only a small red head dress is worn on this occasion. The dancer along with the drummers recites the particular ritual song which describes the myths and legends of the particular deity. After finishing this primary ritualistic part of the invocation., the dancer returns to the Aniyara( green room). After the interval, he appears with proper make up and costumes and with face painting. There are different types of face painting for which primarily and secondary colours are used. It had effected certain stylization also. Then the dancer comes in front of the shrine or sthanam, and gradually metamorphises’ as the particular deity of shine. After observation of certain rituals, the helpers places the head dress on his head and then dances. In the background folk musical instruments like chenda, Tuti, Kuzhal and Veekni are played with rhythm. All dancers take a shield and sword in their hands as continuation of the cult of weapon. Then the dancer circumambulates the shrine, runs in the courtyard and dances. The Theyyam dance has different steps known as “Kalasams”. Each Kalasam is repeated systematically from first to eight system of footwork. A performance is a combination of plying of musical instruments, vocal recitation, dance and strange make up and costumes. The stage practice of Theyyam and its ritualistic observations make it one of the fascination theatrical arts of India especially in northern Kerala.