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Theyyam, Kannur Overview

Bringing life to intriguing myths and exciting legends, the Theyyam festival is one of the most eagerly awaited festivals of the vibrant city of Kannur. Drawing the attention of thousands of people every year from across the country, this festival is renowned as the most remarkable and riveting art form of Malabar, the northern part of Kerala. This joyous celebration includes performances of over four hundred different traditional folk dances and is celebrated to appease the many local deities, gods, goddesses and heroes of the gripping ancient legends. Performers are dressed in attractive traditional costumes, captivating headgear and alluring ornaments with colourful face paints and creative face masks on.

It is usually celebrated in the premises of a local shrine or an open space with a temporarily built sanctuary called 'Pathi'. The concept of the festival is quite a different yet beautiful one - after performing the due rituals and chanting the right shlokas, the resident deity of the shrine temporarily manifests itself into the body of a worthy man, the performer, and enlightens him with a divine experience. The performer and the viewers immensely respect this dance and are dedicated to preserving its ritualistic heritage. Witnessing the alluring magic and irresistible charm of this festival in action is sure to make you fall in love with the rich and vibrant culture of South India and will definitely leave you yearning for more. Theyyam is celebrated at more than 100 locations across the entire state of Kerala, however, Kannur is one of the most popular and frequently visited destinations when it comes to witnessing the celebration of this auspicious and awaited festival.

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Origin & History of Theyyam Festival

Theyyam is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Daivam' which means 'God' and is based on the belief that the immortal spirit of the holy deities enters the mortal body of the performer and performs a ritual dance with immense divine significance. The origin of the art of Theyyam is attributed to Manakkadan Gurukkal, the great artist and renowned magician.

The King of Chirakkal came to know about Manakkadan's powers and decided to test them. The king invited him over and tried many different ways to challenge and humiliate him by creating many obstacles in his way. However, Manakaddan emerged victorious and stronger after defeating the king in all his pursuits. Finally, the king gave in and acknowledged his greatness and bestowed upon him the prestigious title of 'Gurukkal', which means 'the Master'. The king asked Manakkadan Gurukkal to design the Theyyams that were to be performed in the night, and he delivered. Manakkadan Gurukkal designed over 35 Gurkukkals overnight! To this day, it is the same designs and same manner in which Theyyams are performed and celebrated.

How Is Theyyam Celebrated?

Celebrating Theyyam is a pompous and joyful affair in Kerala. The mythological significance of this festival gives its celebration a unique and intriguing twist. The principal and most enjoyable part of this fest is the ostentatious presentation of over 400 different cultural dances! Each of these dances is performed in their peculiar way- the performers are bedecked as deities, and they dress according to the role or myth in their part during the play. Everything, right from costumes to makeup, is unique to each performer and they are adorned with flowers, masks and vibrant colours.

The celebration is carried out in three stages- First where each performer dresses up as a deity and enacts their role in a play that elaborates the mythological stories associated with the festival. Then there is a brief stage of self-torture which is followed by the celebration and merriment where performers and onlookers dance joyfully to the soulful rhythm and lose themselves in the trance of being with God.

When Is Theyyam Celebrated?

Theyyam is celebrated in Kerala at different dates and places from 16 December to 12 February. for more details visit the official website of Kerala Tourism.
The climate in December ranges between a low of 13 degrees Celsius and a high of 23 degrees Celsius. This festival is conducted at more than 100 locations across Kerala at dates and timings decided according to their religious calendar. Most tourists visit Kerala at this time of the month to witness the glorious Theyyam Festival and take advantage of the pleasant weather when they visit the popular attractions of the state.

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