According to the legendary Keralolpathi, Parasurama sanctioned festivals like Kaliyattam, Puravela and Daivattam or Theyyattam to the people of the Malabar region. He also assigned the responsibility of performing the Theyyam dance to the indigenous tribal communities like Malayar, Panan, Vannan and Velan. "There can be no doubt", say Bridget and Raymond Alchin, "that a very large part of this modern folk religion is extremely ancient and contains traits which originated ruing the earliest periods of Neolithic, Chalcolithic settlement and expression"Nambudiri Brahmins in temples. In fact, Theyyam was nearly always sponsored by members of the ruling class, such as Nair feudal chiefs, and achieved much prominence, therefore Theyyam festivals and Temple festivals were celebrated with equal vigour. 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 Classification of Sub Cults (The Birth of Indian Civilization 1968 p. 3039, and indeed, Theyyam is representative of a form of Hinduism (albeit non-Brahminical) having been practiced by tribal communities since time immemorial. This form of worship, often involving liquor and meat as offerings to Bhagawathi, Shiva, Vishnu, co-existed with the Sattvic rituals practiced by
It can be said that all the prominent characteristics of primitive, tribal, religious worship had widened the stream of Theyyam cult and made it a deep-rooted folk religion of millions. For instance, the cult of Bhagawathi, the Mother Goddesses had and still has an important place in Theyyam. Besides this, the practices like spirit-worship, ancestor-worship, hero-worship, masathi-worship, tree-worship, animal worship, serpent-worship, the worship of the Goddesses of disease and the worship of Graamadevataa (Village-Deity) etc. are included in the main stream of the Theyyam cult. Along with these Gods and Goddesses there exist innumerable folk Gods and Goddesses. Most of these Goddesses are known as Bhagavathy (the Mother-Goddess that is the Divine and United form of the three principal Goddesses namely, Brahmani (Saraswati), Vaishnavi (Lakshmi), and Shivani (Durga)).
Different branches of mainstream Hindu religion such as Shaktism, Vaishnavism and ShaivismHinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. In such centers, separate places outside the precincts of the shrine are selected for blood offering and for the preparation of the traditional Kalam known as Vatakkanvathil. The Theyyam deities propitiated through cock-sacrifice will not enter such shrines. now dominate the cult of Theyyam. However, the forms of propitiation and other rituals are continuations of a very ancient tradition. In several cult-centers, blood offering is seen, despite being forbidden in sattvic
On account of the supposedly late revival of the Vaishnavism movement in Kerala, it does not have a deep impact on the Theyyam cult. Only a few deities are available under this category. Two major Theyyam deities of Vaishnavism are Vishnumoorthi and Daivathar. Vaishnavism was very popular in the Tuluva region in the 13th century when it came under the rule of Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala dynasty. He was a great champion of Vaishnavism. Most probably he was initially deified as Vishnumoorthi and incorporated into the Bhoota cult of the Tuluvas and then further incorporated as a prominent folk deity into the Theyyam cult as well. To some, the legend of Vishnumoorthi is symbolizes the God's migration from Tulu Nadu to Kolathunadu.
All other categories of Theyyam deities can be classified under Shaivism or Shaktism. Even spirits, ancestors, heroes, animals etc. are deified and included in those categories. Briefly, Theyyam provides a good example for the religious evolution of, and the subsequent different stages in modern Hinduism.
The ruling landlord communities like the Nambiars and the Thiyya(ezhava) community were patrons of Theyyam, and it was not uncommon for every Tharavadu to have its own Theyyam. However, the Nairs, like Brahmins, did not have the right to directly take part in the performance of Theyyam, as this privilege belonged only to the tribal communities. Despite this, out of devotion, ruling clans established their own shrines and Kavus for Theyyam deities where non-sattvic rituals and customs are observed. The Goddesses like Rakteshwari, Chamundi, Someshwari, Kurathi, and the Gods like Vishnumoorthi are propitiated in these house-hold shrines. There, the Theyyam dancers appear during the annual festivals of Gods and Goddesses. The rituals in such shrines are different from those of the Brahminical temples. The impact of this cultural fusion could be traced to the social organization based on the caste system and in the agrarian relations. Once the cult was patronized by the Brahmins, the intermediate and lower castes also took it as a major religious practice. In fact the cult has become the religion of the masses.
There is no stage or curtain or other such arrangements for the performance. The devotees would be standing or some of them would be sitting on a sacred tree in front of the shrine. In short, it is 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 rituals. This may be due to the influence of Jainism and Buddhism. Further, after the sun sets, this particular dancer would not eat anything for the remainder of that day (again possibly on account of a legacy of Jainism). His make-up is done by specialists and other dancers. The first part of the performance is usually known as Vellattam or Thottam. It is performed without proper make-up or any decorative costume. Only a small, red headdress is worn on this occasion.
The dancer along with the drummers recites the particular ritual song, which describes the myths and legends, of the deity of the shrine or the folk deity to be propitiated. This is accompanied by the playing of folk musical instruments. After finishing this primary ritualistic part of the invocation, the dancer returns to the green room. Again after a short interval he appears with proper make-up and costumes. There are different patterns of face-painting. Some of these patterns are called vairadelam, kattaram, kozhipuspam, kotumpurikam, and prakkezhuthu. Mostly primary and secondary colours are applied with contrast for face painting. It helps in effecting certain stylization in the dances. Then the dancer comes in front of the shrine and gradually “metamorphoses” into the particular deity of the shrine. He, after observation of certain rituals places the head-dress on his head and starts dancing. In the background, folk musical instruments like chenda, tuti, kuzhal and veekni are played in a certain rhythm. All the dancers take a shield and kadthala (sword) in their hands as continuation of the cult of weapons. Then the dancer circumambulates the shrine, runs in the courtyard and continues dancing there. The Theyyam dance has different steps known as Kalaasams. Each Kalaasam is repeated systematically from the first to the eighth step of footwork. A performance is a combination of playing of musical instruments, vocal recitations, dance, and peculiar makeup and costumes. The stage-practices of Theyyam and its ritualistic observations make it one of the most fascinating theatrical arts of India.
Guligan Theyyam is worshipped as the Lord Shiva. In every Kaliyattam, the performance of Guligan Theyyam is inevitable. Among the Guligan Kavus, the most famous and most powerful one is situated at Nileshwar popularly known as the Benkanakavu [Venganakavu]. This Benganakavu is situated at the nerve centre of Nileshwar.
The 'Kanhiram' tree with the supposed weapons of Guligan and Padinhare Chamundeswari, in the premises of Benkanakavu, is believed to shower blessings on thousands of devotees in and around Kasaragod district. Devotees from Tulunadu to the Valapattanam river pay their respects to the Kavu for its immense power. The mysterious lamp of the Kanhiram tree that surrounds the tree is brightly lit up on every Tuesday and Friday after 10 pm. The prosperity of the people in the neighboring places is believed to be on account of the presence of the God Guligan in Benkanakavu. The adjacent Koroth Nair Tharavadu, Kazhakakkar, and Kolakkar, together organize the Theyyam festival in the Benganakavu once every two years.
An inevitable constituent in a majority of the Kaliyattams is the performance of the Vishnumoorthi Theyyam. And its performance includes complicated rites and rituals. The peculiar drum-beats can be heard up to a distance of 2 km from where the performance of the Vishnumoorthi Theyyam takes place. The enactment involving the Narasimha Avatara of Lord Vishnu by the Koladhari especially thrills the devotees and the spectators as a result of the body movements involved in it.
The most popular part of the Vaishnava Theyyam is the depiction of Vishnumoorthi. It is associated with Nileshwar and Mangalore. It tells the story of Palanthai Kannan, a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Palanthai Kannan, a native of Nileshwar in his boyhood, tried to pick mangoes from a mango tree owned by Kuruvat Nair. Without considering his age or the thirst for food, Kuruvat Nair and his bodyguards beat him and drove away from Nileshwar. After that incident, Palanthai Kannan went to Mangalore and took shelter in a Vishnu temple there. When there, he obtained the blessings of Lord Vishnu and years later, he returned to his homeland, Nileshwar. On the way, Palanthai Kannan stayed one day in Moolapally in the house of a blak smith [now near the railway line] and took rest in the Kanakkappalli Anikkil Tharavadu [situated near the Nileshwar bus stand, on the Koroth - N.H Road, and once up on a time famous as a center of martial arts and education]. Then he proceeded to Kundon Kadavu and leaving his Olakkuda[umbrella] and Churika[shield], went to Kadalikulam [a pond near Nileshwar Market junction] for taking bath. Within a short time the news of the arrival of Palanthai Kannan spread in the all across Nileshwar. Hearing the news, Kuruvat Nair and his men came to the Kadalikulam and killed Palanthai Kannan. The God Vishnu who accompanied his ardent devotee Palanthai Kannan was provoked and destroyed the Kuruvat tharavad. That time onwards, he became known as the Vishnumoorthi and began to reside in Vaikundeswara Temple, Kottappuram, Nileshwar. And this Theyyakolam is dancing all major maniyani (Yadava's Tharavadu, Theeyya (Ezhava) and Nair Tharavadu). This kolam was worn by Malayan in special community. This Theyyakolam is dancing EDAKKAD Nadal, the temple name known as chalil vishnu moorthy temple, Nambiar familly Chalil Veluva is following the same Theyakollam in Chalil vishnumoorthy in Edakkad, Nadal for every year February..
In Ottakolams, [meaning only one Theyyam] Vishnumoorthi Theyyam enters into the pyre and returns amongst the midst of the devotees [known as Agnipravesam]. It is repeated several times and its is believed that performing this act 104 times helped the Koladhari to became a Panikker. In April 2008, Ottakkolam was performed in a grand manner in Velu Vayal Ottakkuthiru, Nileshwar with the presence of thousands of devotees after a gap of 47 years. It is associated with Veethuveppu [a rite related to agriculture]. Four people take kayar [rope] from Vishnumoorthi and become Kayattukar. Their duty is to protect agricultural land from cattle. With the kayar [rope] and vadi [rod] they roam the area from Karyamkode to Thalachai and catch them with the kayar or drive them away using the vadi.
Edus are semi-circular built mud platforms. An example of an Edu is in the East of N.H 17 near the Kovval bus stop in Cheruvathur. It is associated with ambeythu [archery]. It served as the target for shooting arrows and this place was a training ground or competition ground for men skilled in archery. Edus are seen in Nileshwar Eduvinkal, Elambachi near Payyannur, Kalanad near Kasargod, at Mannanpurath Kavu, Nileshwar, etc. Vishnumoorthi Theyyam [Ottakkolams] are performed in most of the Edus.courtesy Vishnumoorthi
Visnumoorthi is very important Theyyam in most of the Kaliyattams. Kottappuram Sree Vaikundeswara Temple is the most famous among all Vishnumoorthi temples. This temple is considered as the seat of Vishnumoorthi. Every year, in the Malayalam month of Medam, 12 Vishnumoorthi Theyyams are performed in the Kottappuram Sree Vaikunda Temple in the presence of thousands of devotees. Vishnumoorthi Theyyam has become an inevitable Theyyam in most of the Kaliyattams. Another important Vishnumoorthi temple is in Cheemeni near Cheruvathur. Here the temple was installed by the famous Koroth Namboothiri [priests associated with the famous Koroth Naga Bhagavathy Temple and now residing in Chovva, Kannur]. People from several parts of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu attend the festival [Kaliyattam] of this temple regularly held in the Malayalam month of Medam. In the Koroth Tharavadu, the Vishnumoorthi Theyyam has been traditionally performed by the famous Kothorman.
Vishnumoorthi became a theyyam after the assassination of Palanthai Kannan. Vishnumoorthi [god vishnu] came to Nileshwar with Palanthai Kannan. The death of his ardent devotee provoked Vishnumoorthi and destroyed the tharavad of the assassin. Then came in to reside in Kottappuram Vaikunda Kshetram. In this famous temple Palanthai kannan also got a seat and worshipped as god. The dead body of Palanthai Kannan buried near this temple [ about 600 meter south-east of Kottapuram vaikundanatha temple. Every year from malayalam month medam 12 to 17 [April last week] palanthai kannan theyyam performed by the famous theyyam artist Karnamoorthi in the temple. Palanthai Kannan theyyam blessed palai parappen the koladhari of Vishnumoorthi. Nearly a lakh people paid visit to the temple in the last day of the kaliyattam.
While other Theyyams are seasonal (the season lasting October to May), the Muthappan Theyyam is performed round the year. Muthappan temples are present in hundreds of places in North Malabar. Each of them tells a story of its own. Among the Muthappan temples, Kunnathur Padi and Parassini Kadavu have attained the most fame.
Several Muthappan Temples are seen in different parts of Kannur and Kasaragod districts. This shows the popularity of the God in the minds of the people of North Malabar. The Sree Muthappan Temple near National Highway No 17 in Nileshwar has a rich heritage. It seems to convey the philosophical, devotional and educational importance of Nileshwar. There is an interesting story regarding the construction of this Muthappan Temple. It is related to a certain Koroth Raman Nair, famous as Ezuthachan (expert in teaching). He had a practice of drinking Madhu (taken from coconut tree with out mixing any intoxicant, fresh and good for health popularly called as 'neera'). Before drinking it, he would pour some drops of in front of a jack fruit tree by saying it is for God Muthappan. After his death, the natives faced a lot of disturbances. They obtained the services of an astrologer on the issue. He concluded that as a result of the regular practice of giving madhu to Muthappan the God had started residing there and demanded the continued offer of liquor. The death of Sree Raman Nair had resulted in liquor not being served anymore to the God and this had provoked Him to create trouble. So a temple was erected at the spot by the local people. This temple developed as a famous pilgrim center, and daily hundreds of people visit it. There is a strong belief that the God will cure all diseases and will give prosperity to His devotees. The devotees get Payakutti from the temple and it continues to develop as a great pilgrim center like the Sree Muthappan temple at Parassini Kadavu. Around 100 Muthappan Vellattams are held each year in the Madappura as offerings from the devotees.
Padikuttiyamma is believed to be the mother of God Muthappan and supposedly took care of Him for several years. After Muthappan came to be considered a God, Padikutti Amma has been worshiped as a Goddess. The Theyyam Padikutti Amma has been performed in the famous Palaprath Temple, at Kodallur. Kodallur is a place near Parassini Kadavu that attained fame as a result of the performances of the Padikutti Amma Theyyam in the Malayalam month of Meenam every year. There is a famous temple for Padikutti Amma at Eruvessi, named known as Sree Padikkutti Mahadevi Temple. Eruvessi is 10 kilometers away from Sreekandapuram in Kannur District.
Muthappan Anthithira is performed only once in all the Muthappan temples of North Malabar. The decoration of Muthappan Anthithira resembles that of Vettakorumakan from the front and that of Muthappan from the back. In July 2008, Muthappan Anthithira was performed in front of thousands of devotees in the famous Muthappan Madappura Temple, Nileshwar.
Worshipped in several Kavus as a mighty Goddess. This Theyyam was last performed in the Nileshwar Ankakalari Padarkulangara Bhagavathy Temple on the 23rd of December, 2008. The lengthy crown and ornaments of the Bhagavathy seem to add to her divine appearance.In the famous Koroth tharavad in Nileshwar the Padarkulangara Bagavathi theyyam has been performed every year by the famous theyyam artist Suresh Babu Anjoottan.
The Same has been performed in Muchilott Kavu, in Payyanur.
Performed in Karakkakavu, near Cheruvathur every three years. It is also performed in kunathur maadam near to udinur. In all muchilotu kavu this kolam is performed with kannangattu bhagavathy and muchilottu bhagavathy. Thekkum kara karnamoorthy performs this kolam in kunathoor maadam, which is the places for payyadakkathu tharavadu(kanichiveetil,pariyarath etc.....). This goddess is believed to be the daughter of pullikarim kali.
Pullikarimkali is performed in Karakkakavu, near Cheruvathur once every three years and at Koovapratthu Kavu Kavinisseri (in Cherukunnu) every two years. The Theyyam here is worshiped as the Goddess Parvathi. This theyyam is also performed in koormba bhagavathi kavu, kandoth and Sri udayapuram kavu, paravanthatta, payyanur.
pullikaringali is a goddess which is worshipped in kasaragod and kannur district. It is the avathara of parvathi. She originated to kill kalakandasura. Ayirathiri is the important function related to pullikaringali, we can see pullikaringali amma in major aivar paradevatha sthanangal of malabar. periya sree pulibhootha devasthanam, kizhakkam kara pullikkaringali devasthanam, kasaragod pulikkunnu, kodavanchi kulathur, etc. are the important temples where pullikaringali amma is.
Marapuli Theyyam is considered the son of Pulikandan and Pullikarimkali.
Pulimaruthan Theyyam is considered the son of Pulikandan and Pullikarimkali. One among the Iver Theyyams, Pulimaruthan is worshiped in different Kavus[temples] by the devotees.
This Theyyam is associated with the Pulidaivangal.
this kavu has a history of more than five hundred years.It belongs to Edakalavan Koroth family . Kaliyattam performs vrichikam 27 every year.
At Kanathur near Kasaragod, the yearly Kuttikol Thamburatti Theyyam is celebrated by thousands of devotees. The venue is the Pazhayzparambath Puthiya Bhagavathy Kshethram, and the Theyyam is celebrated as a part of the Kaliyatta Maholsavam here. In 2008 it was organized on the April 16th, 17th and 18th. This Theyyam is also conducted at Kanhirathara, Chirakkal, Kannur District, and the deities in the Theyyam here are Paruthi Veeran, Veerali, Bhadrakali, Vishnumoorthi, Gulikan and Vairabhan Uchitta.
Celebrated yearly at Kanathur near Kasargod.
Muchilot Bhagavathy is one of the most popular local deities worshiped in North Kerala. There is a practice of supplying food to the thousands of devotees in connection with the Muchilot Bhagavathy Theyyam festival. The highly decorative figure of Muchilot Bhagavathy is very attractive in a very aesthetic way. Most famous among the performances is the one being held annually at Muchilottu Kavu in Korom Village near Payyanur City. In Cherukunnu and Kannapuram, Muchilot Bhagavathy Theyyam is performed every year. But in several other Kavus the Muchilot Bhagavathy Temple, the Theyyam is performed with gaps of 12 or more years, like the one at Kayyur [near Nileshwar] in January 2008 was performed after a gap of 47 years. Ramanthali [near Payyannur] also came into the fore in January 2008 as a result of the Muchilot Bhagavathy Perumkaliyattam. Perumkaliyattam at Muyyam near Taliparamba was a great experience to the devotees in December 2007. In January 2009, Perumkaliyattam will be celebrated in Korom Muchilot Kavu, near Payyannur and Vengara Muchilot Kavu near Payangadi. In Muchilot, the Perumkaliyattams feast was arranged in memory of the marriage of Muchilot Amma. Elaborate arrangements are made by the natives for the grand celebrations.
The story of Thiruvarkat Bhagavathy is associated with the Chirakkal Kovilakam, the Rajarajeswari Temple and Madayi Kavu.
Every year, Kannangat Bhagavathy Theyyam is performed in the Kannangat Bhagavathy Temple, Payyannur. In several Muchilot Kavus, the Kannangat Bhagavathy Theyyam was performed along with the Muchilot Bhagavathy Theyyam. There are 11 Kannangattu Temples in Kannur district, and they are all located in the Payyannur area :-
Performed once every two years in the main Kodoth Tharavadu house, Varikkulam, and every year in another Kodoth Tharavadu house. As per traditions, Chamundi Devi (an incarnation or form of Bhagavathy - the Supreme Goddess or the Mother Goddess) is accompanied by the first Kodoth Karanavar Chandrasekhara Gurukkal from Vanneri (near Guruvayur). Traditions hold that She helped him to defeat the Bellakka Dynasty in battle. After that, he constructed a new Sambradayam called 'Varikkulam', and the Goddess is believed to have asked him to build a Palliyara at Parakulangara, Varikkulam. This place was selected by the Goddess as per Thrikkannayalappan's (Lord Shiva) instructions. Gurukkal built the first Kodoth Tharavadu very near to Parakulangara, at Varikkulam which is known as the Moolasthanam of Kodoth Tharavadu, and then started celebrating Kaliyattam every year beginning from Medam 21. This is the first place where Goddess Chamundi is believed to have shown her presence, and later she is believed to have extended her presence to many other Nair Tharavadus, subsequently resulting in their starting to conduct Kaliyattam as well every year.
Agni Kandakarnan is a theyyam performed at Swmaimadam in Kannu Veedu Kapadapuarm, Valiyaparamapa Kasaragod in Kerala. It is different Theyyam having heavy torches around the waist of the Kolam. This Theyyam is performed in the early morning in the Temple.
The very name itself is indicative of the story behind the origin of Moovalamkuzhi Chamundi. Moovalam means - three men and Kuzhi means - well. So Moovalamkuzhi translates into a well with a depth of the height of three men. The God worshiped here is the main deity of the temples of the weaver caste of North Malabar. The Theyyam season here begins every year with the performance of Moovalam Kuzhi Chamundi and the associated Theyyams on the 10th and the 11th of the Malayalam month of Thulam [1st half of October] in the famous Anjoottabalam Verar Kavu, Nileshwar.