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KERALA TOURISM NEWSLETTER

ISSUE: 235

MARCH 2013

Book Review: Theyyam - The Other Gods

Welcome to the colourful and fantasy world of Theyyam, where awe-inspiring phantoms trespass the dark contours of our unconsciousness, where shamans and men metamorphose to Gods. 'Theyyam - The Other Gods', a coffee-table book opens to the socio-cultural experiences of this ritualistic art form in the Malabar region of Kerala.

A performing art form that is quite popular in the northern districts of Kerala, Theyyam is a ritual dance that embraces myth, dance, drama, music, art and architecture. The word Theyyam comes from Deivam which literally means God in Malayalam. 'Theyyam - The Other Gods', is a coffee-table publication of Stark World Publication, authored by media-person Bhawani Cheerath-Rajagopalan and Rajesh Komath. It is a journey through the social, cultural and historical nuances of Theyyam.

The book acquaints us with very many varieties of Theyyams, the performers who keep alive the tradition and the communities that have their identities rooted deep in this ritualistic art form. The book documents hundreds of Theyyams with rich and colourful photographs captured by the renowned photographers of Kerala. We have the awing Muchilottu Bhagavathi, the demonic Vishnumurthi Theyyam, the aggressive Puthiya Bhagawati, fascinating Kuttichathan, Kaitha Chamundi... the list goes on. The photographs taken in natural light truly transport us to those grounds where these Theyyams dance in its full majesty and fury.

Not just this, the book also enlightens us about the preparations including the make-up and the rituals associated with this art form. The predefined performance space contoured by the venerating faces of the audience is captured in all its beauty and originality. The book also has a Theyyam calendar that gives information regarding various Theyyam performances in Kerala with details including time and location.

Photos of Chamundi Theyyam amid leaping flames and darkness, Lakshmikutty the only women Theyyam performer putting on her make-up, Gandakarnan Theyyam with his towering headgear and leaping flames, Kathivannur Veeran performing Veeranattam before Chemmarathi Thara lit with numerous lighted torches, Muchilottu Bhagavathi with her fiery metallic eyes and fangs, Uchitta - a fire walking female Theyyam and the oracles of Muchilottu Bhagavathi with their sword are some of the arresting images from the book.

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