Thousands years old & a Colourful Theyyam Tradition - An extremely popular ritual of Dance Worship in God's own country, Kerala state of Incredible India

The first Theyyam to perform was pulimaran, a reincarnation of Vishnu. This Theyyam had a large but manageable headdress, but looked fierce with his kohl-lined eyes that were like marbles in the sockets. Pulimaran danced and performed prayers at the main temple and then went around temple complex blessing people and distributing Prasadam.
A Theyyam blessing the priests. These performers are considered as God themselves once they don the Theyyam costume

A lot of people confuse Theyyams with Kathakali, and there are good reasons for that. There is considerable similarity in the makeup, getup and some dance moves. But the fact is that there are fundamental differences between both the art forms, in terms of both purpose and artists. 

While Kathakali has evolved as an art form and is often used to depict epics like Ramayan and Mahabharat, Theyyam is mostly used to propagate and sustain deity worship. Most of the performers in Kathakali are Brahmins, whereas most people who perform Theyyams belong to the castes that society terms as "low". 


It was Theyyams we were excited about when we were in Kerala in December 2014. We happened to be at Kannur at the right time. And if you are there close to Theyyam festival, make sure you pay them a visit. It will be worth it. The fact that two years later, I am writing a time-turner post about the entire festival from memory is an indication of how impactful it is.
Artist in the process of becoming Pulimaran


It was Theyyams we were excited about when we were in Kerala in December. We happened to be at Kannur at the right time. And if you are there close to Theyyam festival, make sure you pay them a visit. It will be worth it. 




The day started at 6am for us and we headed towards the beach, which was just 50 meters from our homestay in Kunnur. It was very peaceful at that time with some fishermen boats at the other end ready for the journey. There were few folks of birds playing with waves and waiting for their food to hit the beach. They were continuously looking for baby crabs and always trying to avoid the water to touch their feet.We had morning tea at the dining area. Our home stay didn’t serve anything in rooms, so if you need anything go to dining area and grab the stuff you want. You can’t really see the sea from dining area but listen to the sound created by sea waves.Came back to our room, packed our stuff for Theyyam Festival and got ready. Plan was to hire an auto and go for Theyyam festival happening in one the villages around Kannur. After breakfast, we left for the Theyyam. We realized that our host had arranged a tata nano instead of an auto. This turned out to be a big trouble later on, but let’s not go there right now. So we started our ride from home stay to the temple where Theyyam was happening. We were going through some narrow streets surrounded by beautiful houses with lots of coconut trees and backwater streams.The distance from our home stay to the temple where Theyyam was happening was just 15-20 kilometers away and after driving for 45 minutes our driver realized that he is completely on other route :). He made approximately 15 calls to other folks to find out the route and we took 1.5 hours to reach the place. Finally he had to ask an auto driver to come to a place and take us from there to the temple. Unfortunately we couldn’t understand any of the conversations he had with other folks on the phone, because they were all talking in local language.We left at 9:15 to ensure that we don’t miss the early part of the festival and also wanted to witness the preparations. But we couldn’t :(. I was pretty uncomfortable with the whole situation but my wife asked me to relax and enjoy rest of the day. Most of the Theyyams were ready by the time we reached there, but managed to find few who were still preparing. One temple priest helped in locating these folks. It was quite friendly environment at the temple. Many times, I am conservative in taking out my camera at temples or especially for such activities. Temple around a tourist place can be a bigger issue, but this was completely opposite. There were no restrictions on walking around the temple compound with your camera. I managed to catch the Theyyams from many angles and there were other people too with cameras doing the same. But even the photographers were very disciplined and were taking care not to come in the way of the festivities. Vibha made some friends there, who told about the Theyyam stories, different names of Theyyams & their character etc. I was busy clicking photographs and making videos of things happening there. I will be sharing some of the videos in a separate post.Every Theyyam has a different dress and varied methods of worships. Every Theyyam is accompanied by a priest who guides them through the worship areas and route they have to take inside temple compound. It was very interesting to see a detailed oriented approach in all these worships and Theyyam movements. After completion of the workshop, every Theyyam used to take a round and giving yellow rice powder to everyone. Folks were supposed to make tilak of this powder & put some of it in the mouth. The artists, once they wear the dress of a Theyyam, are considered Gods themselves. Some of these dresses were really uncomfortable and the artists had to wear them for around 2 hours each. Only unwavering faith and devotion can make them accomplish such a daunting task every year. Our hearts were full of respect for the artists. Once the Theyyams had all performed, they opened the food pandal. It is similar to Punjabi langar except that you sit on tables and the food is served on Banana leaves. The sweet is served first, followed by rice, sambar, chutney achar and various other vegetarian curries. The staff managing the pandal was very polite and accommodating. We found this very helpful especially since we couldn’t understand their local language and customs. Overall watching Theyyam and having food with everyone was a very heartwarming experience. After Theyyam we travelled back to the home stay and then the taxi disaster unfolded. The guy asked for an amount, which was double that what we had come to expect in Kerala. Overall it was an ugly scene and left us feeling very uncomfortable. We will talk about this experience in another post after we have had a chance to let it rest for a while. But this was the single blot on our entire trip in Kerala.

After 4 lovely days in Wayanad, we hit our beachside homestay in Kannur. The day started at 6am for us and we headed towards the beach, which was just 50 meters from our homestay in Kunnur. It was very peaceful at that time with some fishermen boats at the other end ready for the journey. There were few folks of birds playing with waves and waiting for their food to hit the beach. They were continuously looking for baby crabs and always trying to avoid the water to touch their feet.


I remember we had some trouble getting to the village where Theyyam was being performed. We had to change cabs and when we reached there, the prayers hadn't really started. We happened to chance upon some artists getting their makeup done for their performances. VJ took full advantage of this rare opportunity and clicked away to his heart's content.
Priests chanting stories of Theyyams

I remember we had some trouble getting to the village where Theyyam was being performed. We had to change cabs and when we reached there, the prayers hadn't really started. We happened to chance upon some artists getting their makeup done for their performances. 

The day started at 6am for us and we headed towards the beach, which was just 50 meters from our homestay in Kunnur. It was very peaceful at that time with some fishermen boats at the other end ready for the journey. There were few folks of birds playing with waves and waiting for their food to hit the beach. They were continuously looking for baby crabs and always trying to avoid the water to touch their feet.We had morning tea at the dining area. Our home stay didn’t serve anything in rooms, so if you need anything go to dining area and grab the stuff you want. You can’t really see the sea from dining area but listen to the sound created by sea waves.Came back to our room, packed our stuff for Theyyam Festival and got ready. Plan was to hire an auto and go for Theyyam festival happening in one the villages around Kannur. After breakfast, we left for the Theyyam. We realized that our host had arranged a tata nano instead of an auto. This turned out to be a big trouble later on, but let’s not go there right now. So we started our ride from home stay to the temple where Theyyam was happening. We were going through some narrow streets surrounded by beautiful houses with lots of coconut trees and backwater streams.The distance from our home stay to the temple where Theyyam was happening was just 15-20 kilometers away and after driving for 45 minutes our driver realized that he is completely on other route :). He made approximately 15 calls to other folks to find out the route and we took 1.5 hours to reach the place. Finally he had to ask an auto driver to come to a place and take us from there to the temple. Unfortunately we couldn’t understand any of the conversations he had with other folks on the phone, because they were all talking in local language.We left at 9:15 to ensure that we don’t miss the early part of the festival and also wanted to witness the preparations. But we couldn’t :(. I was pretty uncomfortable with the whole situation but my wife asked me to relax and enjoy rest of the day. Most of the Theyyams were ready by the time we reached there, but managed to find few who were still preparing. One temple priest helped in locating these folks. It was quite friendly environment at the temple. Many times, I am conservative in taking out my camera at temples or especially for such activities. Temple around a tourist place can be a bigger issue, but this was completely opposite. There were no restrictions on walking around the temple compound with your camera. I managed to catch the Theyyams from many angles and there were other people too with cameras doing the same. But even the photographers were very disciplined and were taking care not to come in the way of the festivities. Vibha made some friends there, who told about the Theyyam stories, different names of Theyyams & their character etc. I was busy clicking photographs and making videos of things happening there. I will be sharing some of the videos in a separate post.Every Theyyam has a different dress and varied methods of worships. Every Theyyam is accompanied by a priest who guides them through the worship areas and route they have to take inside temple compound. It was very interesting to see a detailed oriented approach in all these worships and Theyyam movements. After completion of the workshop, every Theyyam used to take a round and giving yellow rice powder to everyone. Folks were supposed to make tilak of this powder & put some of it in the mouth. The artists, once they wear the dress of a Theyyam, are considered Gods themselves. Some of these dresses were really uncomfortable and the artists had to wear them for around 2 hours each. Only unwavering faith and devotion can make them accomplish such a daunting task every year. Our hearts were full of respect for the artists. Once the Theyyams had all performed, they opened the food pandal. It is similar to Punjabi langar except that you sit on tables and the food is served on Banana leaves. The sweet is served first, followed by rice, sambar, chutney achar and various other vegetarian curries. The staff managing the pandal was very polite and accommodating. We found this very helpful especially since we couldn’t understand their local language and customs. Overall watching Theyyam and having food with everyone was a very heartwarming experience. After Theyyam we travelled back to the home stay and then the taxi disaster unfolded. The guy asked for an amount, which was double that what we had come to expect in Kerala. Overall it was an ugly scene and left us feeling very uncomfortable. We will talk about this experience in another post after we have had a chance to let it rest for a while. But this was the single blot on our entire trip in Kerala.

Most of the Theyyams were ready by the time we reached there, but managed to find few who were still preparing. One temple priest helped in locating these folks. It was quite friendly environment at the temple. Many times, I am conservative in taking out my camera at temples or especially for such activities. Temple around a tourist place can be a bigger issue, but this was completely opposite. There were no restrictions on walking around the temple compound with your camera. I managed to catch the Theyyams from many angles and there were other people too with cameras doing the same. But even the photographers were very disciplined and were taking care not to come in the way of the festivities.


While VJ clicked pictures, I went and sat on the benches around the temple's boundary. By this time, the chanting had started. The intonations of the two priests who were chanting sounded mournful and full of foreboding to us, but a young girl sitting next to me explained that the priests were singing about the Theyyam who was about to perform next.
Pulimaran performing in the temple complex

Two priests, clad in a white dhoti with a red border, were singing in the courtyard of the shrine. Their loud voices easily dominated the beats of chenda, the traditional percussion instruments they were playing, and the cacophony of all other voices around the shrine. To us outsiders who didn't understand the language, the tone sounded plaintive. Only later did I find out that these priests are also considered Theyyams and they were telling the story of the Theyyam who was about to perform next.

While Vijay clicked pictures, I went and sat on the benches around the temple's boundary. By this time, the chanting had started. The intonations of the two priests who were chanting sounded mournful and full of foreboding to us, but a young girl sitting next to me explained that the priests were singing about the Theyyam who was about to perform next. 


If you think that the Theyyams came in soon after the chanting began, you cannot be more wrong. They made us wait, those Theyyams. They made us wait for what seemed like hours. But when they did come in, it was nothing short of magical. Their feet danced to the percussions and they looked magnificient with their grand headdresses and the otherworldly makeup.
This was the Theyyam of Naginiamma - one of the toughest to represent. The costume is very restrictive and did not allow for any arm or neck movement. The arms stuck out at a very uncomfortable angle. 

If you think that the Theyyams came in soon after the chanting began, you cannot be more wrong. They made us wait, those Theyyams. They made us wait for what seemed like hours. But when they did come in, it was nothing short of magical. Their feet danced to the percussions and they looked magnificient with their grand headdresses and the otherworldly makeup. 



A lot of people confuse Theyyams with Kathakali, and there are good reasons for that. There is considerable similarity in the makeup, getup and some dance moves. But the fact is that there are fundamental differences between both the art forms, in terms of both purpose and artists. While Kathakali has evolved as an art form and is often used to depict epics like Ramayan and Mahabharat, Theyyam is mostly used to propagate and sustain deity worship. Most of the performers in Kathakali are Brahmins, whereas most people who perform Theyyams belong to the castes that society terms as "low".
Intricate patterns being painted on an artist's face. This man isn't a Theyyam till he is in his full attire

The first Theyyam to perform was pulimaran, a reincarnation of Vishnu. This Theyyam had a large but manageable headdress, but looked fierce with his kohl-lined eyes that were like marbles in the sockets. Pulimaran danced and performed prayers at the main temple and then went around temple complex blessing people and distributing Prasadam.

The day started at 6am for us and we headed towards the beach, which was just 50 meters from our homestay in Kunnur. It was very peaceful at that time with some fishermen boats at the other end ready for the journey. There were few folks of birds playing with waves and waiting for their food to hit the beach. They were continuously looking for baby crabs and always trying to avoid the water to touch their feet.We had morning tea at the dining area. Our home stay didn’t serve anything in rooms, so if you need anything go to dining area and grab the stuff you want. You can’t really see the sea from dining area but listen to the sound created by sea waves.Came back to our room, packed our stuff for Theyyam Festival and got ready. Plan was to hire an auto and go for Theyyam festival happening in one the villages around Kannur. After breakfast, we left for the Theyyam. We realized that our host had arranged a tata nano instead of an auto. This turned out to be a big trouble later on, but let’s not go there right now. So we started our ride from home stay to the temple where Theyyam was happening. We were going through some narrow streets surrounded by beautiful houses with lots of coconut trees and backwater streams.The distance from our home stay to the temple where Theyyam was happening was just 15-20 kilometers away and after driving for 45 minutes our driver realized that he is completely on other route :). He made approximately 15 calls to other folks to find out the route and we took 1.5 hours to reach the place. Finally he had to ask an auto driver to come to a place and take us from there to the temple. Unfortunately we couldn’t understand any of the conversations he had with other folks on the phone, because they were all talking in local language.We left at 9:15 to ensure that we don’t miss the early part of the festival and also wanted to witness the preparations. But we couldn’t :(. I was pretty uncomfortable with the whole situation but my wife asked me to relax and enjoy rest of the day. Most of the Theyyams were ready by the time we reached there, but managed to find few who were still preparing. One temple priest helped in locating these folks. It was quite friendly environment at the temple. Many times, I am conservative in taking out my camera at temples or especially for such activities. Temple around a tourist place can be a bigger issue, but this was completely opposite. There were no restrictions on walking around the temple compound with your camera. I managed to catch the Theyyams from many angles and there were other people too with cameras doing the same. But even the photographers were very disciplined and were taking care not to come in the way of the festivities. Vibha made some friends there, who told about the Theyyam stories, different names of Theyyams & their character etc. I was busy clicking photographs and making videos of things happening there. I will be sharing some of the videos in a separate post.Every Theyyam has a different dress and varied methods of worships. Every Theyyam is accompanied by a priest who guides them through the worship areas and route they have to take inside temple compound. It was very interesting to see a detailed oriented approach in all these worships and Theyyam movements. After completion of the workshop, every Theyyam used to take a round and giving yellow rice powder to everyone. Folks were supposed to make tilak of this powder & put some of it in the mouth. The artists, once they wear the dress of a Theyyam, are considered Gods themselves. Some of these dresses were really uncomfortable and the artists had to wear them for around 2 hours each. Only unwavering faith and devotion can make them accomplish such a daunting task every year. Our hearts were full of respect for the artists. Once the Theyyams had all performed, they opened the food pandal. It is similar to Punjabi langar except that you sit on tables and the food is served on Banana leaves. The sweet is served first, followed by rice, sambar, chutney achar and various other vegetarian curries. The staff managing the pandal was very polite and accommodating. We found this very helpful especially since we couldn’t understand their local language and customs. Overall watching Theyyam and having food with everyone was a very heartwarming experience. After Theyyam we travelled back to the home stay and then the taxi disaster unfolded. The guy asked for an amount, which was double that what we had come to expect in Kerala. Overall it was an ugly scene and left us feeling very uncomfortable. We will talk about this experience in another post after we have had a chance to let it rest for a while. But this was the single blot on our entire trip in Kerala.

Every Theyyam has a different dress and varied methods of worships. Every Theyyam is accompanied by a priest who guides them through the worship areas and route they have to take inside temple compound. It was very interesting to see a detailed oriented approach in all these worships and Theyyam movements. After completion of the workshop, every Theyyam used to take a round and giving yellow rice powder to everyone. Folks were supposed to make tilak of this powder & put some of it in the mouth. The artists, once they wear the dress of a Theyyam, are considered Gods themselves. Some of these dresses were really uncomfortable and the artists had to wear them for around 2 hours each. Only unwavering faith and devotion can make them accomplish such a daunting task every year. Our hearts were full of respect for the artists. 


The next Theyyam made a grand entrance. He wore an enormous headgear than Pulimaran. It was while watching this Theyyam that the true hardship of being a Theyyam really struck me. With the heavy headgear and elaborate costume, this Theyyam performed for a long time, never once showing any sign of fatigue. The realization about the kind of hardwork that goes into performing a Theyyam was overwhelming. Full of respect for the professionals behind the customs, I watched rest of the Theyyams in awe.
Pulimaran distributing Prasadam

The next Theyyam made a grand entrance. He wore a much bigger headgear than Pulimaran. It was while watching this Theyyam that the true hardship of being a Theyyam really struck me. With the heavy headgear and elaborate costume, this Theyyam performed for a long time, never once showing any sign of fatigue. The realization about the kind of hardwork that goes into performing a Theyyam was overwhelming. Full of respect for the professionals behind the customs, I watched rest of the Theyyams in awe.


Another memory I still carry of that day is oranges. We were there almost the entire day and were very hungry. Only a couple of hawkers were in sight and we bought a dozen oranges and ate them through the day. They were tiny oranges, but were incredibly sweet. Around the evening we discovered that the temple had organized community meals for everyone. We wanted to taste the meal, but the queue was huge. Some organizers however spotted us in the queue and gave us a back door entry. They probably noticed that we were ready to pass out because of humidity and hunger. I have no particular memories of the meal itself though.
Naginiamma performing Pooja. It must have been painful to move the arms as the costume didn't allow for that. Moreover, the fact that these Theyyams don't sweat wearing this costume in sweltering heat is no less than a miracle. 

Another memory I still carry of that day is oranges. We were there almost the entire day and were very hungry. Only a couple of hawkers were in sight and we bought a dozen oranges and ate them through the day. They were tiny oranges, but were incredibly sweet. Around the evening we discovered that the temple had organized community meals for everyone. We wanted to taste the meal, but the queue was huge. Some organizers however spotted us in the queue and gave us a back door entry. They probably noticed that we were ready to pass out because of humidity and hunger. I have no particular memories of the meal itself though. 


We headed back after that looking forward to another evening on the beach. While we were in the village, it felt like another world altogether and though we liked it there, we wanted to be back in the world we recognized. Today when I think of it, while the Theyyam experience was memorable, I probably won't go out of my way to watch it again because of the sheer torture of sitting in the humid heat without any shelter. But everyone should experience it once at least.
Anklets worn by Theyyams - these ornaments made a metallic sound when Theyyams danced to the percussion instruments.

We headed back after that looking forward to another evening on the beach. While we were in the village, it felt like another world altogether and though we liked it there, we wanted to be back in the world we recognized. Today when I think of it, while the Theyyam experience was memorable, I probably won't go out of my way to watch it again because of the sheer torture of sitting in the humid heat without any shelter. But everyone should experience it once at least. 

Above photograph shows the entry gate of a local temple where Theyyam is celebrated every year. Most of the decoration around the temple is done with natural things like bunch of coconuts, Areca nuts, leaves, flowers etc.  The temples, or kavus, where these Theyyams perform usually do not have idols. The only worship that happens here is when Theyyams come and perform and at that time it is believed that the gods themselves have come to the courtyard and are performing a worship there. This is the only time that one can seek blessings in this temple. The worship ceases as soon as the Theyyams leave and resume when they return.


Above photograph shows the entry gate of a local temple where Theyyam is celebrated every year. Most of the decoration around the temple is done with natural things like bunch of coconuts, Areca nuts, leaves, flowers etc.

In Theyyam, the dancer/god along with the drummers recites the particular ritual song, which describes the myths and legends, of the deity of the shrine or the folk deity. Above photograph shows the kind of drums used in Theyyam celebration and their sound makes the whole environment very special. There are multiple drummers surrounding the Theyyam and keep changing the beat as per recitation of the story.

The temples, or kavus, where these Theyyams perform usually do not have idols. The only worship that happens here is when Theyyams come and perform and at that time it is believed that the gods themselves have come to the courtyard and are performing a worship there. This is the only time that one can seek blessings in this temple. The worship ceases as soon as the Theyyams leave and resume when they return. 

During the Theyyam celebration and worship, many of the local and natural fruits are used. Above photograph shows freshly peeled out coconuts and the photograph shows another fruit from Kerala.

During the Theyyam celebration and worship, many of the local and natural fruits are used. Above photograph shows freshly peeled out coconuts and the photograph shows another fruit from Kerala.   

Can you guess which fruit you are seeing in above photograph. These were placed on a side of the temple and we were wondering what is it? Try to guess and check the answer in photograph below.

Can you guess which fruit you are seeing in above photograph. These were placed on a side of the temple and we were wondering what is it? Try to guess and check the answer in photograph below. 

While Theyyams were getting ready, priests had their own duties to prepare worship material. Apart from coconuts, many other natural things are collected and put together for final worship rituals. Above photograph shows a priest taking out the Areca nuts from their shells. The photograph above also shows fresh Areca nuts.
 
While Theyyams were getting ready, priests had their own duties to prepare worship material. Apart from coconuts, many other natural things are collected and put together for final worship rituals. Above photograph shows a priest taking out the Areca nuts from their shells. The photograph above also shows fresh Areca nuts. 

In Theyyam, the dancer/god along with the drummers recites the particular ritual song, which describes the myths and legends, of the deity of the shrine or the folk deity. Above photograph shows the kind of drums used in Theyyam celebration and their sound makes the whole environment very special. There are multiple drummers surrounding the Theyyam and keep changing the beat as per recitation of the story.

In Theyyam, the dancer/god along with the drummers recites the particular ritual song, which describes the myths and legends, of the deity of the shrine or the folk deity. Above photograph shows the kind of drums used in Theyyam celebration and their sound makes the whole environment very special. There are multiple drummers surrounding the Theyyam and keep changing the beat as per recitation of the story.  

After finishing this primary ritualistic part of the invocation, the dancer returns to the green room. Again after a short interval he appears with proper make-up and costumes. There are different patterns of face-painting. Some of these patterns are called vairadelam, kattaram, kozhipuspam, kottumpurikam, and prakkezhuthu. Mostly primary and secondary colours are applied with contrast for face painting. It helps in effecting certain stylization in the dances.

After finishing this primary ritualistic part of the invocation, the dancer returns to the green room. Again after a short interval he appears with proper make-up and costumes. There are different patterns of face-painting. Some of these patterns are called vairadelam, kattaram, kozhipuspam, kottumpurikam, and prakkezhuthu. Mostly primary and secondary colours are applied with contrast for face painting. It helps in effecting certain stylization in the dances.

Theyyams are also classified in different categories and mainly influenced by religious beliefs. Theyyams are not only about dance and music. Lot of them are very good actors and mime artists. Their facial expressions are very special and the way those expressions change is hard to explain in words or express through photographs. While typing this, I realised that I haven't shot even a single video of Theyyams.

Theyyams are also classified in different categories and mainly influenced by religious beliefs. Theyyams are not only about dance and music. Lot of them are very good actors and mime artists. Their facial expressions are very special and the way those expressions change is hard to explain in words or express through photographs. While typing this, I realised that I haven't shot even a single video of Theyyams. 


Once the Theyyams had all performed, they opened the food pandal. It is similar to Punjabi langar except that you sit on tables and the food is served on Banana leaves. The sweet is served first, followed by rice, sambar, chutney achar and various other vegetarian curries. The staff managing the pandal was very polite and accommodating. We found this very helpful especially since we couldn’t understand their local language and customs. Overall watching Theyyam and having food with everyone was a very heartwarming experience.

Once the Theyyams had all performed, they opened the food pandal. It is similar to Punjabi langar except that you sit on tables and the food is served on Banana leaves. The sweet is served first, followed by rice, sambar, chutney achar and various other vegetarian curries. The staff managing the pandal was very polite and accommodating. We found this very helpful especially since we couldn’t understand their local language and customs. Overall watching Theyyam and having food with everyone was a very heartwarming experience.

The day started at 6am for us and we headed towards the beach, which was just 50 meters from our homestay in Kunnur. It was very peaceful at that time with some fishermen boats at the other end ready for the journey. There were few folks of birds playing with waves and waiting for their food to hit the beach. They were continuously looking for baby crabs and always trying to avoid the water to touch their feet.We had morning tea at the dining area. Our home stay didn’t serve anything in rooms, so if you need anything go to dining area and grab the stuff you want. You can’t really see the sea from dining area but listen to the sound created by sea waves.Came back to our room, packed our stuff for Theyyam Festival and got ready. Plan was to hire an auto and go for Theyyam festival happening in one the villages around Kannur. After breakfast, we left for the Theyyam. We realized that our host had arranged a tata nano instead of an auto. This turned out to be a big trouble later on, but let’s not go there right now. So we started our ride from home stay to the temple where Theyyam was happening. We were going through some narrow streets surrounded by beautiful houses with lots of coconut trees and backwater streams.The distance from our home stay to the temple where Theyyam was happening was just 15-20 kilometers away and after driving for 45 minutes our driver realized that he is completely on other route :). He made approximately 15 calls to other folks to find out the route and we took 1.5 hours to reach the place. Finally he had to ask an auto driver to come to a place and take us from there to the temple. Unfortunately we couldn’t understand any of the conversations he had with other folks on the phone, because they were all talking in local language.We left at 9:15 to ensure that we don’t miss the early part of the festival and also wanted to witness the preparations. But we couldn’t :(. I was pretty uncomfortable with the whole situation but my wife asked me to relax and enjoy rest of the day. Most of the Theyyams were ready by the time we reached there, but managed to find few who were still preparing. One temple priest helped in locating these folks. It was quite friendly environment at the temple. Many times, I am conservative in taking out my camera at temples or especially for such activities. Temple around a tourist place can be a bigger issue, but this was completely opposite. There were no restrictions on walking around the temple compound with your camera. I managed to catch the Theyyams from many angles and there were other people too with cameras doing the same. But even the photographers were very disciplined and were taking care not to come in the way of the festivities. Vibha made some friends there, who told about the Theyyam stories, different names of Theyyams & their character etc. I was busy clicking photographs and making videos of things happening there. I will be sharing some of the videos in a separate post.Every Theyyam has a different dress and varied methods of worships. Every Theyyam is accompanied by a priest who guides them through the worship areas and route they have to take inside temple compound. It was very interesting to see a detailed oriented approach in all these worships and Theyyam movements. After completion of the workshop, every Theyyam used to take a round and giving yellow rice powder to everyone. Folks were supposed to make tilak of this powder & put some of it in the mouth. The artists, once they wear the dress of a Theyyam, are considered Gods themselves. Some of these dresses were really uncomfortable and the artists had to wear them for around 2 hours each. Only unwavering faith and devotion can make them accomplish such a daunting task every year. Our hearts were full of respect for the artists. Once the Theyyams had all performed, they opened the food pandal. It is similar to Punjabi langar except that you sit on tables and the food is served on Banana leaves. The sweet is served first, followed by rice, sambar, chutney achar and various other vegetarian curries. The staff managing the pandal was very polite and accommodating. We found this very helpful especially since we couldn’t understand their local language and customs. Overall watching Theyyam and having food with everyone was a very heartwarming experience. After Theyyam we travelled back to the home stay and then the taxi disaster unfolded. The guy asked for an amount, which was double that what we had come to expect in Kerala. Overall it was an ugly scene and left us feeling very uncomfortable. We will talk about this experience in another post after we have had a chance to let it rest for a while. But this was the single blot on our entire trip in Kerala.

If you liked this post and found it helpful, I would request you to follow these things when traveling - 

1. Manage your waste well and don’t litter Use dustbins.
2. Tell us if you went to a place and found it hard to locate a dustbin. 
3. Avoid bottle waters in hills. Usually you get clean water in hills and water bottles create lot of mess in our ecosystem. 
4. Say big no to plastic and avoid those unhealthy snacks packed in plastic bags. Rather buy fruits. 
5. Don't play loud blaring music in forests of jungle camps. You are a guest in that ecosystem and disturbing the locals (humans and animals) is not polite.

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