Theyyam is performed by male members of particular castes
only. Malayan, Pulayan, Vannan, Anjoottan, Munnutton, Velan,
Chungathan, Koppalan and Mayilon are some of the castes who
Theyyam dance has its roots in the ancient tribal culture of
Kerala dating back to the Dravidian age. It lays great
importance to worship of heroes and ancestral spirits.
Theyyam sees a wonderful amalgamation of dance, mime and
music. Chenda, veekku chenda, elathalam and kurumkuzhal are
the musical instruments used in theyyatom.
There are about 450 known forms of "theyyams" and each has
got its own myth and style of costumes, make-up,
choreography and songs. Rakthachamundi, Makkappothi,
Puliyoru Kannan, Pottan, Kathivanur Veeran, Muchhilottu
Bhagavathi, Palothu Daivam, Vishnumurthy, Puthiya Bhagavathi,
Vayanattu Kulavan, Ucchitta, Gulikan, Nagakanni, Mutiappan,
Veerali, Puliyoru kali, Panchuruli, Kuttissasthav are some
of the theyyams performed even now.
Influence of prominent Hindu sects of Shakteyas (followers
of Mother Goddess Shakti), Vaishnavites (followers of Lord
Vishnu) and Shaivites (followers of Lord Shiva) is apparent
on Theyyam cult.
Theyyam is supported by a vast literature of folk songs.
Besides the theme of worshiping Mother Goddesses and
animals, Theyyam also narrates the tales and woes of people
who lost their lives in battlefield, pangs of women who
committed suicide or persons killed by the local chieftains.
Such people are honoured through theyyams performed in front
Theyyam is also known as Kaliyattom at some places.
Kaliyattom means 'a sacred dance performance for goddess
Kali. Some believe that Kaliyattom is sometimes called
Theyyattom because every 'thera' or village was duly bound
to perform it. There are two stages in theyyattom: Thottam,
the preliminary ritual and Theyyam. Some theyyams also has
another stage called Vellattom. The myth of the deity is
recited by thottam, through songs accompanied by a
orchestra. Theyyam is the second stage.
Costume and Make-up
To get the appearance of super-human, peculiar and colourful
costume and make-up are used in theyyam dances. Essential
componentc of the costume of theyyam dancer are the leaves
of coconut tree which are cut and made into different shapes
Headgear of the dancers is unique and special. Structure of
massive headgear and uduthukettu (waist-dress) is usually
prepared from arecanut tree and bamboo. Lighted wicks are
often fixed on the waist dress and are specific of
Mudi (face) is decorated with a red cloth and colored
papers. Red colored flowers are also used for an even more