History

Keralolpathi a hystorical document talks about the origin of the ritual art of Theyyam. Parasurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu who stemmed the advancing sea to save the land of Kerala sanctioned festivals like Kaliyattam, Puravela and Daivattam or Theyyattam to the people of the North Malabar region. Theyyam originated from Kaliyattam. The indigenous tribal communities were handed over the responsibility to perform the Theyyam. These tribes included Malayar, Pana, Vannan and Velan. Velan one of the Theyyam dancers is referred to in the sangam literature. The Sangam traditions say that Velan was employed by the mothers of love lorn girls to exorcise the malignant spirits from their daughters. All rituals described in the sangam works and their commentaries are being observed by Velan and other dancing communities. The dance of Velan community had taken new forms and developed into the present day cult of Theyyam over a period of 1500 years. This uninterrupted continuity of sangam traditions makes theyyam a prominent religious system of north Kerala.

There are evidences that stand testimony to the fact that this folk religion contains traits that might have originated during the earliest periods of Neolithic, Chalcolithic settlement and expression. Theyyam is representative of a form of Hinduism practiced by the tribal communities since time immemorial. The Satvic rituals practiced by the Namboodiri Brahmins in temples co-existed with this tribal form of worship which involves liquor and meat as offerings to god.

Though Theyyam was sponsored by members of the upper class and ruling class families included it was essentially a Dravidian art form. And it has a revolutionary concept behind it since the Theyyam artists are from low-caste communities such as Malayan or Vanaan. Even the high-caste people will have to worship the Gods who come in the form of Theyyam, showing traits of anti-racial activates.

As a religious and social institution, it has a significant place in the cultural history of the region.  Under the impact of Aryans the cult of Theyyam had changed substantially incorporating new trends and sub cults along with its tribal character. In short it can be stated that all prominent characteristics of primitive tribal religious worship had widened the stream of Theyyam cult and made it a deep-rooted folk religion of the millions.



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