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Theyyam, of Kerala include Muslim characters

Written by: Staff

Kasaragod (Kochi), Mar 6: Theyyam is one of the most exceptional and popular ritual dance form of north Kerala particularly performed by Hindus in temples or shrines. It is also a reflection of the communal harmony as in some Theyyams, few Muslim characters are included while performing.

Theyyam is considered very important and communal event in various parts of Kasaragod and Kannur districts of Kerala.

Villagers of different castes, recently witnessed one such event, named Mokri Pokker Theyyam held at Mallom Kollom Temple at Vellikundh near Kasaragod district in Kerala.

In this ritual form, a Hindu performer dresses as a Muslim character, adorns cap and artificial beard, who after washing his hands and feet, reads out some verses of Holy Quran and performs niskara rituals sitting on a green carpet as per Muslim tradition. Later he becomes one of the characters with the main cult for the entire event. He speaks to the local villagers and solves their issues by providing different solutions and villagers obey him believing it as God's version.

The term Theyyam is a corrupt form of God and Goddesses from the Hindu mythology. It is a rare combination of dance and music and reflects important features of a tribal and local culture of the Kerala villages.

Some of the mappila or muslim characters like Ali Chamundi, Mokri Poker, Kallandha Mokri and Bapuran Theyyam are popular. Different myths and legends are associated with Muslim Theyyam as in the Mokri Pokker Theyyam. It is believed that a Muslim man came to the village centuries ago and fell in love with a Hindu girl. He was killed, after which the family had suffered a lot and had to adopt a child. Since then to resemble it, the art is performed every year by Mallom Kolloth family shrine. And there are few like the N. Krishan, a senior of the village, who believes that the Mokri Pokker came to the village as a caretaker to a Hindu family. While cutting down a tree he got hurt and was not dying. Then he himself revealed that a magical thread on his waist had to be taken out only then he would die. Later people did the same to relieve him of his pain. Since then he is considered as a God in the village and the ritual is performed along with Manadalath Chamundi.

The Theyyam dance is generally performed in front of the village or family shrines. There is no stage or curtain and it is performed in an open theatre.

The expenditure is shared by the members of the family shrine by way of donations and out of the offerings made by the devotees and villagers. There is no compulsion for any kind of donation from other caste, said Mr. Kunjamba Nambiar, a senior authority of the Mallom Kollom Temple.

All dancers take a shield and sword in their hands as continuation of the cult of weapon. Then the dancer circumambulates the shrine, runs in the courtyard and dances.

The entire village folk attend the Theyyam festival in the village shrines. Dfferent castes and communities participate in such festivals.

The Theyyam ritual dance is exclusively performed by the male members of the traditional caste like Vannan, Malayan, Velan, Mavilan, Pulayan and Koppalan. These sections belong to scheduled caste and tribes. They are the sole custodians of Theyyam dance.


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