Context: Theyyam dance is performed annually during the Malayalam months of Thulam (Mid-October-mid-November).
- Theyyam, also referred to as Kaliyattom, is a traditional folk-dance ritual that is practiced in northern Kerala and certain parts of Karnataka.
- A similar practice known as Bhuta Kola is followed in the Tulunadu region of neighbouring Karnataka.
- Over time, it has evolved into a socio-religious ceremony with its roots in the worship of divinities and heroes.
- Villages were obligated to organize Theyyam as an act of appeasement towards gods, goddesses, and the spirits of departed heroes. As a result, it was also known as Thirayattom, signifying the dance of the village.
- Notably, a significant number of Theyyam deities originated from individuals belonging to the lower castes of Kerala’s caste system.
- Theyyam is performed by individuals from castes and tribes such as Pulayar, Vannan, Malayan, Velan, and Kalanaadi.
- There are approximately 456 documented types of Theyyams, and it is primarily a male performance tradition, except for the Devakkoothu Theyyam, which is the only Theyyam ritual performed by women.
- The first segment of the performance is commonly referred to as Vellattam or Thottam.
- This ceremonial dance is accompanied by a chorus and the use of musical instruments like Chenda, Elathalam, Kurumkuzal, and Veekkuchenda.