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Kalanjali: an offering of art at Kartavya Path

May 27, 2023 to May 28, 2023

Theyyam is among pan-India's highly prominent and colourful ritual and folk-art traditions. Originating in the northern districts of Kerala, the form and the performance are known as Theyyam. The performers hail from the lower strata of society, who are ordinary labourers in their everyday life. And while they are performing at the estate of their masters, the latter bows before them with folded hands and gets reprimanded for any wrongdoing. What a charm of an ancestral social custom cycle!

Aesthetically, ritually and theatrically, Theyyam is not second to any other mainstream artistic practice. The alluring facial-body drawings with intricate and subtle nuances and the colour-rich paraphernalia, including various headgear in different shapes, are fascinating. Another beauty of Theyyam is its unpolished rhythm and vividness in worship with multiple concepts, such as Mother, Nature, Fertility and Agriculture, Spirit and Ghosts, Ancestors, Animal, Reptiles and Warrior. While the men from a few particular communities hereditarily perform, most Theyyams are women in the Mother Goddess concept. Any devotee, irrespective of religion or caste, can touch God and directly interact without intermediaries such as priests. Everyone can feel the Theyyam, and the Theyyam can also touch everyone. What's more, one needs to get besotted by Theyyam!

Theyyam is, in other words, the celebration of an agrarian society. Of the hundreds of forms of Theyyam, agricultural-related ones such as Valiyavalappil Chamundi, Kurathi, Kaalichan (traditionally two identical Theyyams perform together), and Gulikan performs in the rhythm of the traditional ensemble of a few Chenta (percussion) and Ilathaalam (cymbals). x

Janbhagidari : 2000