Calicut - Art Forms - Theyyam
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Theyyam
Oppana

 
Theyyam or Theyyaattam is a pattern of hero worship performed in Kolathunaad, a territory comprising the present Cannanore District and Badagara Taluk of Kerala State. It is a ritual and a folk-dance form supported by a vast literature of folk songs. Theyyam is a corruption for Deyvam ‘God’. 'Aattam' means dance. Thus 'Theyyaattam' means the God’s Dance.
In Kolathunaad and other places (Southern portion of Kolathunaad), Theyyam is known as Thira or Thirayaattam. There, the performance is conducted on a masonry stage called Thara and the word Tharayaattam was probably changed into Thirayaattam in course of time. The term Thirayaattam itself may mean beautiful dance. There are about four hundred different kinds of Theyyams. Theyyam  offers a fascinating and novel experience  to any visitor to Kannur. 
    The person who plays and personifies the deity is generally called ‘Kolam’. The word Kolam means figure or shape or make-up in  Tamil and Malayalam. In Tulunad, north of Kolathunaad, the custom of Kolam dance is widely prevalent as a form of worship of the Bhootas or spirits. There, the dance was conducted before the sthaanams, where the Bhoothas or the spirits used to reside.

Velan is one of the castes that performs Thirayaattam or Theyyaattam in Kolathunaad. The term Vellaattam which denotes the introductory performance of the deity in the evening without ceremonial make-up and dress, represents the combination of the words Velan and Attam. Thus Velan is a noted authority of this folk dance. In Kolathunaad and other areas the Velan is known by the term Munnutton and northern areas of Kolathunaad by the term Anjutton.

The other communities which perform Theyyaattams are Mavilan, Vettuvan, Pulayan and Koppalan. These tribes used to perform Theyyaattams in memory of their deceased ancestors. But these Theyyaattams are not so colourful and artistic in comparison to those of other castes like Velan, Vannaan and Malayan. The Theyyaattam by Pulayar and Vettuvar remain good examples of the spirit worship done by these tribal people.

The player prays for the appearance of the particular deity. The prayer or murmuring is called orayal or prophecy. He recites a few lines and requests for the presence of the deity, which is called Varavili. Each Theyyam has its own separate varavili or praising the deity. On concluding the Varavili, the player begins the dance with its several attractive kalaasams.

At the end of the performance the devotees donate coins to the shrine. Finally the musical instruments are played once again and the devotees throw rice towards the Theyyam and he casts off the crown in front of the shrine.
 
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