Karala’s most popular ritualistic art form, theyyam, is believed to predate Hinduism and to have developed from folk dances performed in the kavus that are abundant throughout northern  Kerala.

Theyam refers to both the form of shape of the deity or hero portrayed, and to he ritual. There are around 450 different theyyams , each with a distinct costume, Face paint, bracelets, breastplates, skirts, garlands and especially headdresses are exuberant, intricately crafted and sometimes huge . today’s theyyam performances have morphed to incorporate popular Hindu deities and even Muslim characters.
The performer prepares for the ritual with a period of abstinence , fasting and mediation, which extends into the laborious make-up  and costume session. During the performance, the performer loses his physical identity and speaks, moves and blesses the devotees as if he were the deity. There is frenzied dancing and wild drumming, and a surreal, otherwouldly atmosphere is created, the kind of atmosphere in which a deity indeed might, If it so desired, manifest itself in human form.

The theyyam season is October to May, during which time there will be an annual ritual at each kavu. Theyyams are also often held to bring good fortune to important events, such as marriages and house warmings. See above for details on how to find one.


Kerala Theyyam

Theyyam Kerala Cultural Art

Theyyam Kerala Cultural Art