Sunday, February 25, 2024

Arts and Architecture

Ritual Arts

Teyyam Teyyam is a 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. It is the worship of spirits by invoking them to the mortal body of the dancer who impersonates them and gives blessing to the believers. Teyyam evolves from Kaliyattam practiced by aboriginal tribes of northern regions of the state. Kaliyattam is an annual festival attached to the shrines known by the names like muchilod, kavu, palliyara, mundya, tanam, madhapura all in the districts of Cannanore. 

The performer belongs to Mannan, Velan and Malayan communities.  The landlords and chieftains encouraged these artists and introduced many improvements by initiating new themes into its fold and classified them to appropriate communities for their propagation. Titles like Peruvanaan, Perumalayan were the best among them. These spirits continue to be propitiated through generations. They belong to different categories based on their appearance and character. 

During epidemics, the whole community join hands in making the offering of the ritual to the presiding spirit of such calamities and appease them. There are several presiding goddesses like Kali, Chamundi, Bhagavati all manifestations of Shakti or supreme power and gods like Bhairavan, Gulikan, Vishnumurthy, Pottan representing the Shaivite and Vaishnavate concepts and animal spirits form another class comprising Bali, Hanuman, Puli. Teyyam dance is done as an offering for begetting children, winning of law suits, warding of evils, getting rid of epidemics and for similar successful culmination of individual and social desires. 

Teyyam is essentially a human creation. It has absolute relationship with man in giving vent to his strong feelings against injustice and wickedness and his desire to maintain the well-being of society. It shows how the primitive man transforms his life experience into metaphysical thoughts through rites and rituals and identifies his abstract visions in a concrete design, attributing multiple forms to them.  

The headgear or the mask made of materials from nature and painted with natural colours in Teyyam assumes a grotesque and archetypal image with the blending of highly artistic and emotive display. Man willingly offers himself to be subdued by his mystic attainments. It is his own re-creation of the abstract experiences handed down to him by generations, the secular side gives him the rationale based on practice and observations. 

A socially known theme of love, like one depicted in the famous Teyyam 'Katiranur Viran' gives a very concrete picture of an extremely abstract emotional content. The theme is recreated with its mythical and ritualistic imagination and the dancer went to the moods through his body postures, movements and articulation. The performer becomes possessed in this act of impersonation of the dead hero or the godly spirit, it does not leave him in totally unconscious state, on the contrary he would meticulously cling on to the rhythm a technique of mechanical perfection even when he is out of his normal mood.