Theyyam – A thousand year old ritualistic festival celebrated in the northern part of Kerala, India. Unlike other festivals in India where idols are worshipped, here people embody a deity and perform in front of an audience, often village people.
The word Theyyam derives from the word “Deivam”, the Sanskrit word for ‘God’. Some believe that Theyyam is a rare survival of some pre-Aryan and non-Brahminical Dravidian religious system that was later absorbed into Hinduism’s capacious embrace. Others argue that Theyyam were tolerated as an acceptable safety valve to allow complaints against the misdeeds of the feudal to be expressed in a ritualized and non-violent manner.
Today it is social ritual of every one in the area where social norms of the people are inverted and for a short period the position and power are miraculously transferred to the insignificant and deprived. The performers of Theyyam embody the Gods by narrating stories through songs, music and dance. Villagers gather to witness, get advice on their problems and seek blessing from the Theyyam.