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People, Customs, Ceremonies & Rituals


Velans

 
The Velans as well as Vannans and Malayars of Cannanore district were the original dancers of 'Theyyam' or 'Kaliyattam', which is a highly ritualistic dance with its rare and grotesque make-up and costume, lively foot work, gymnastic fervour and ritualistic vitality. 'Teyyam' represents a glorious period of folk life in Kerala and the souls of the dead heroes of the land 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 even, contemporary significance.

The Malayans or the people of Mala (mountain) were the early Teyyam dancers. The tribal communities that were the custodians of the art of dancing were known by different names like Mavelon, Velan, Koppalan. Some of them belong to the Tulu country of the present South Karnataka which once formed the contiguous area belonging to the same cultural heritage.

Ezhavas form a major community known as Chovas. In the northern districts Tiyyas also come under this community. They are found all over Kerala basically as a cultivating class. Traditionally they are connected with growing and tapping of coconut trees. The term Chovan is believed generally as a corruption of Sevaka or servant. Ezhavas belong to the working class and they were treated as untouchables. Ezhavas are now a fast improving, gaining strength economically, culturally and politically.


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