Theyyam: Turning the World Upside Down.
by Gloria Kurnik
It's hard to find Theyyams. They don't walk bustling streets of the ever-growing cities, they don't sell tickets for their acts next to the landmarks frequented by tourists. Instead, one has to undertake a long wearing journey pass the remote villages to the sacred forest shrines. In these quiet settings, for few months in a year, the sacred meets the profane as the unthinkable happens - commoners and peasants transform into gods.
In the Indian society, once so strongly rooted in the caste system, the religious rites performed by the lowliest are actually unprecedented. Brahmins - the high-born priestly clans are the ones to guard, teach and conduct the religious service. And here we have a god himself or herself entering the body of a well-digger or a potter, blind to the social protocols and rules of the nobility. Theyyams descend on earth to meet their beloved people, to answer their cries and listen to their plights.
In Kerala Theyyam's relevance to everyday problems and mistreatments of the common people appeals to the masses. And even nowadays its only locally known venues protect it from the hordes of sightseers. But the one who searches will find it.
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