Theyyam is a traditional ritual art form dating back more than eight centuries. The dance uses unique and often grotesque make-up and costumes, lively foot work, gymnastic fervour and ritualistic vitality to narrate the many myths of gods and celestial spirits in Kerala mythology. Its performers are vigilant and committed to guarding the purity of the art form and preserving its ritualistic heritage.
Theyyam is based on the belief that immortal spirits enter into mortal bodies to perform a ritual dance of divine revelation. The souls of the dead heroes and the gods and goddesses are supposed to come in our midst through the medium of the possessed dancers and converse with us on matters of contemporary significance. The dance involves invoking the spirits to the mortal body of the dancer who impersonates them and gives blessing to the believers. Theyyam evolves from Kaliyattam practiced by aboriginal tribes of northern regions of the state.
The spectacular Theyyam performances use elaborate facial make-up, captivating headgear, special costumes and unique ornaments. Theyyams are regularly staged in temples of the Malabar coast, usually in front of the village shrine. As performances are on an “open stage” they can also be showcased in traditional Malabar households during festive or special occasions.