Theyyam-- folk art of Kerala

     Theyyam, also known as Kaliyattom, is a ritualistic folk dance of Kerala (India), dating back to centuries. It flourished in North Kerala and assumed the characteristics of a socio-religious ceremony.

      The root of the art form is in divine and hero worship. The sacred dance is methodically carried out to ensure safety and well being of the families and the community.

      Villages were duty bound to organise it to propitiate the gods and goddesses and the spirits of departed heroes. Hence, it was also called Thirayattom, which means dance of the village or village dance.

      The ritual used to be performed at the sacred groves, shrines that were common property of the villages. Performances were conducted also before other places of worship and courtyards of influential families. The season for the performance is between December and May (summer).

      Each manifestation of Thirayattom is known as a kolam, which means a shape or form. They represent different aspects of various manifestations of goddess kali or other heroes and heroines. Many kolam of heroes and heroines have development over the years.

      Each Kolam will have a different dress, hood and ornaments that bring forth their heroic aspects. Elaborately furnished crowns, head dress, breast places, garlands,  bangles and arm ornaments and garments are used for this purpose. The make up of some kolams would take hours to complete.

      The dance is performed at night in the light of cloth and leaf torches (theevetties,  panthoms and chootes). The red high contrast light emphasises the colours of attire and adds to the aura of the kolams.

      The appearance of the kolam will be preceded by a song about the strength and holy aspects of the kolam to the accompaniment of percussion instruments, chenda and elathalam.

      The kolam performs various types dancing and it is believed that the spirit of the god, goddess, hero or heroine migrates into the person. The dance may take slow or fast pace depending upon his character. Sometimes even weapons are used.

Vettackoru Makan