Theyyam Introduction

Theyyam is basically a form of dance, at once artistic as well as sacred. At present in form and content Theyyam is an inseparable part of Hinduism. As a cult, its origin can be traced back to rituals and practices of primitive society. It has an historical continuity of over 1500 years and it passed through several stages of evolution. The cult of theyyam has hundreds of deities and many of them now belong to the greater tradition of Hindu trinity. The classical Hindu mythology had greatly influenced in shaping many Gods and Goddesses of the Theyyam cult. Several ancient pictures of worship relating to the mother Goddess, hero and hero stones, village Goddess, serpant Goddess and animal God and Goddess continue in the Theyyam cult. The God Sakthi, the prototype of Godess Parvathi, the wife of Lord Shiva, or the God of Destruction, dominate the cult of Theyyam. Some of such Theyyams Gods and Goddesses had only legends and myths that they were originated from Shiva and Parvathi. A Few deities are associated with Vishnu or Vaishnavism. The themes of Theyyam reveal a whole world of colourful fantasy offering much new insight in to social relations, family feuds and superstitions of the medieval period among the village folks. Though the heroes and heroines are apparently semi-divine characters, the human element and the historical core of the plot were all too clearly discernible. The Theyyams are essentially forms of hero worship when the dead heroes and martyrs are invoked through song and dance and magical symbols, and the main episodes from their lives are enacted in an attempt to propitiate their spirit though there are also Theyyams of deities from Puranic lore. These heroes and martyrs of Theyyam are certainly of the medieval type, but the beliefs and practices behind the ritual must naturally stretch backward to pre historic times.