Kerala’s Theyyam Festival

Seeing online the colourful photographs of Theyyam festival that happens during winter months in Kerala, a few of my friends and I decided to travel there.

Called “Dance of Gods”, the Theyyam celebrations mainly happen in the Northern Malabar regions of Kerala (Kasargod, Kannur Districts) across thousands of Temple in the area and beyond. The folk culture of Theyyam is believed to be over 800 years old. The musical dance act is performed with elaborate Headdresses, make-up, masks and accompanied by musical instruments include Chenda — parade celebrations bringing their offerings to the Goddess — and barefoot ritual fire walking.

We travelled from Chennai by air to Mangalore, from where we hired a taxi to Bekal. We stayed for two days in Bekal and travelled in the morning and evening to the nearby temple of Pulikunnu Shree Ivar Bhagavathi temple, Kasaragod. The temple was recommended by a local resident who we had befriended through Facebook. Not knowing much about the festival and the local practice, we approached the temple authorities for help who were more than happy to assist the visitors from their neighbouring state (Tamil Nadu). They even assigned one of the devotees to be our “unofficial” guide who acted as our host for next two days. Spending several hours in the Temple, watching the celebrations one after the other, we had a great time and loads of blessings from the Goddess.

As you enter Kerala you are sure to be greeted by them - Seen here Krishna & Bhima kathakali dolls
As you enter Kerala you are sure to be greeted by them — Seen here Krishna & Bhima kathakali dolls
A poster on Kaliyattam Maha utsavum at Pulikkunnu, 22-27 February 2018
A poster on Kaliyattam Maha utsavum at Pulikkunnu, 22–27 February 2018
View of the sanctum sanctorum at the Pulikunnu Shree Ivar Bhagavathi temple, Kasaragod
View of the sanctum sanctorum at the Pulikunnu Shree Ivar Bhagavathi temple, Kasaragod
Neatly arranged chairs in the viewing gallery - There are no stage or curtains for Theyyam performances
Neatly arranged chairs in the viewing gallery — There are no stage or curtains for Theyyam performances
Vellattam
Vellattam
The Theyyam artist coming back after offering his prayers to the Goddess
The Theyyam artist coming back after offering his prayers to the Goddess
My friend Pravin Shekar attracting quite a lot of young admirers for his moustache
Chenda melam performance at Pulikunnu Shree Ivar Bhagavathi temple , Kasaragod.
Chenda melam performance at Pulikunnu Shree Ivar Bhagavathi temple, Kasaragod
Residents dressed as Gods & Goddesses in traditional attire coming on a parade
Residents dressed as Gods & Goddesses in traditional attire coming on a parade
Elaborately decorated umberallas brought as offerings to the Goddess
It seems the Empire had sent its stormtroopers to monitor the locals - The AR Picture was taken with my Google Pixel 2 #NotTrue
It seems the Empire had sent its stormtroopers to monitor the locals — The AR Picture was taken with my Google Pixel 2
Vellattam performer coming around the temple with the devotees behind carrying their offerings to the Goddess
Local school kids showing their traditional self-defence art with lighted sticks
Local school kids showing their traditional self-defence art with lighted sticks
Theyyam performer with his breathtaking costume and large headdress
Theyyam performer with his breath taking costume and large headdress
Going on a possession around the temple on a "Tiger"
Going on a possession around the temple on a “Tiger”
Miming the mythological stories
Miming the mythological stories

Originally published at Venkatarangan’s blog.