Sunday, April 15, 2007

Theyyam -- The Dravidian Resistance

About Theyyam, a temple ritual of the Dravidians

(After clicking the play button, please wait a bit for the audio file to load; or 'pause' right after you click 'play' and then wait for the audio to load and then click again on 'play' to stream the audio)

Duration: 16m 13s

I had a trip to North Kerala to blogger Thulasi's homeland Kakkaatt, in Kasaragod district. It was to see Theyyams in its pure form. The ones you see in the television or in other towns in Kerala would be for the political processions or some cultural presentation packs offered to foreigners.

Theyyam is an artform of the Dravidians. And it has a revolutionary concept behind it since the Theyyam artists are from low-caste communities like Malayan, Vannaan etc. Even the high-caste people will have to worship the Gods come in the form of Theyyam, so we can say it was against the then caste-system in Kerala. But I cannot say it is completely free of caste system, because in the blessings time, Theyyam give special blessings to the people from the high-caste families and even call out their family names and Theyyam goes to them to give blessings. Anyways, it can be considered as the Dravidian/Tribal resistance against the Brahmin rule in Hinduism.

The costume is so colorful and I could see many theyyams like Vishnumurthy (Narasimham), Kaara Gulikan (Sivan), Chamundi, Attakkaatt Bhagavathy, Poomaaran etc. I also had the prasaadam oottu and it was so different and fun out there.

Theyyam is performed in Kavu (the small shrines) and the interesting thing I found was there is no idol in these kavus, but only a lamp lighted during the Theyyam season. In other times, there is no daily ritual happening here. In Kakkaatt, Theyyam is peformed once in every three years.

People seem to have less belief in Theyyam as God when I observed the crowd. Just like how you see in the Catholic churches. How many of the Catholics truly believe or respect the God that comes in the form of bread and wine? The one similarity I could see in Theyyam and Catholicism is this. Theyyam is the God that comes to earth and bless his/her devotees just like Catholics believe in Holy Communion.

Thanks to Blogger Thulasi for helping with the interview.

Please let us know your suggestions and comments. Email me at jocalling(at)gmail(dot)com.

No comments: