Our country was blessed with traditional folk art forms. Many art forms were also based on ritual theory. Unfortunately, today many art forms that were filled with ritual, entertainment, celebration, and martial arts have fallen into oblivion.
These ritual and entertainment art forms are performed with the help of folk decorations, folk musical instruments, folk songs, narrations, dances, and sayings, connecting regional, social, religious, faith, and worship perspectives. Theyyam, Chozhikali, Uduk Kottipat, Padayani, Mudiyate (Mudipech), Komarathullal, Pulluvanpat, Kummatti, Padakalitthallu, Poorakali, Kanyarkali, Kannerupat, Poocharikali, Kyatham kali, Chathirangam, Parachikali, Alamikali, Brahminipatt, Marathukali, Thidambu Nrutham, Mudiyattalam enna Thalayattam, , Sanghakali, Margamkali, Shlamakali, Annakali, Arabanamutt, Villadichan Pattu, Arjuna Nrutham, Kakassery Nadakam, Velakali, Poratu Nadakam, Desathu kali, Ivarkali, Kothanmuriyattam, Kettukurathatam, Ezhamathuthamkali, Oppana, Kummi, Kurathiyattam, Kalamezhuth, Kalam Pattam, Kavadiyattam, Panar Pattu Ayani Pattu, Annavi Pattu, Pana, Gaddika, Maan kali, Koorankali, Kambara Nrutham, Kadar Nrutham(Kadar Dance), Chattu Pattu, Kurumbalam, Karadi Nrutham, Malamkooth, Malakari Thira and Kumbha Paattu, Kannoku Pattu, Kani Paattu, Naykkar kali, Paliya Nrutham, Malapulayattam, Eruthukali, Aandikali, Kongan Pada, Mlaweli Vaayana, Malamakkali, Palumvellari, Paranet, Thalayattam, Chappa Kett, Chathankali, Chootukali, Garuda Parava etc like faintly blessed art forms survived for a long time. Some are still visible. There are other areas like Kooth, Kathakali, Ottenthullal, Krishnanattam, Thiruvathira, Mohiniyattam, etc.
There are many legendary art forms in history such as the very old Malankuravakooth, Kaikotti dance (not a game), Kudamutnattam, Petiyattam, Poikaalattam, Katachiyattam, Vettuvarattam, Kumarikolam, and Velan Veriyattam.
Perhaps the most important of these is Theyyam, which is found mainly in North Malabar but also in South Malabar. The area between Korapuzha and Chandragirippuzha is filled with Theyym art forms. Later, Theyyam gained popularity in many nearby areas and many characters and stories came. Theyyam, Thira, and Kolam may appear to be essentially the same, but there are marked differences in the above rituals and tying. Theyyam is a Lasya-Tandava drama concept. Theyyam is commonly known in North Kerala as Kaliyattam to the north of the “old” Pashiangadipuzhha and as Theyam to the south. In South Malabar, there is a kolam Kollal called Thirayattam. In some areas of Kozhikode, there are also Kalamezhut and Kolam Kollal called Balikala.
Bhuthakolam (God’s Kolam) ritual in southern and south-western regions of Karnataka is similar to Theyyam. The movie Kantara and its Panchurulikolam and Gulikakolam (read as done with ritual) have helped Bhuthakola artists above 60 years of age get a government allowance of Rs 2000 per month.
Similarity can also be seen in the Aadivedan of North Malabar, the Mudiyate found in southern Kerala, the now rare Kale Kola of Tulunad, and the Padayani of central Kerala. Also, rituals like Theiyat, Ninabali, Puthan and Thira, Karinkali, Titamba dance, Arjuna dance, etc. also have Theyyam similarities.
Acting in Theiyat is known as – Theiyattam and acting as – Kolam. Many Theiyakolams require rituals, Thantras, mantras, Vratas (there are areas where an entire panchayat takes Vratas), faith rites, kolans, and dharmas. Although there are 450 tea kolams outside, around 100 kolams are being built these days. Each Theyyam has specific karmas, ceremonies, and results. An article like this is not enough to write about all the practices of Theyyam, worship idols, Veshabhushadis, Thotam Pattu that are Theyyam Pattu, and the childhood Vellatam of many Theiyas.
Worshiped through Theyyas can be mother deities, war deities, Roga Peeda-Hari deities, yaksi-preta-Bhootha, tree-mountains, martial heroes, historical characters, bewitched characters, maidens, snake-animal figures, It could be murtis, it could be social revolutionaries, it could be male and female characters who had to give their lives for causes, it could be Shakti-Saiva-Vaishnava worship that came later. There are Mapila Theiyams as well as Hindu Theiyams. Above all this, there are social issues.
Theiyas are held around deity places, Tharavads, and Theiya places. In the early days, trees like Arayal, Peral, Chembakam, Ilanji, Pala, etc. were in the steps, but later they were in Kav, Ara, Palliara, Mundya, Mandakam, Kulom, Thanam, Kotam, Chima, Madam, Door Madam, Madapura, Gopuram, Kannikotil, and West. Many of these names and positions are now foreign. Except for the Devakuth Theiyam, all the Theiyams are tied by men.
Legend has it that Theiyattam, Bharanivela, Aarat, Kaliyattam, Pooravela, Daivattam, Theiyattu, Daivamattu, Thanniramrita, Thalapoli, Paiavishagam, Mahamakha, and Mamangavela were created by Parasurama. Theyam weaving is also believed to have originated with the Panan, Velan and Vannan castes. Later caste groups like Munnootan, Kopalar, Pambatar, Malayan, Pulayar, Chingathan, Kalanadi, Mavilan, Peruvannan, Malavettuvar, Paraiyar, Anjutan, etc. also entered Theiyat.
Theyyam is a region where the caste system still exists. Responsibilities such as the caste of the Kolam, caste-wise Theiya positions, caste groups to prepare the materials, the Kalasha of the Theiya section, and the kanalkunda called Maleri, which is prepared with tamarind wood prepared by the Theiyas themselves in most places, exist with distinction but with hereditary rights without any major problems.
The Mapila Theiyas are examples of the integrated social system found in the “Theiya” lands. Alitheyam, Mukri Theiyam, Ummachi Theiyam (Yoggar Nambadi Theiyam), Mappila Chamundi, Bapiriyan Theiyam, Poker Theiyam and Koikal Mammad Theiyam are held by Mavilans and Kopals, but the important Theiya posts are held by the Muslim faithful.
There is a legend that Karivellur Manakkadan Gurus tied 39 theyas in one day following the order of King Kolathiri. In Theiyas, even numbers are generally used, so instead of saying 39, one less forty is said. 29 Theiyams with knots, 6 Theyams with Sankhap Peetha without knots, Wayanattu Kulavan, Kurathi, Kundora Chamundi and Cheerma Bhagavathy are 39.
The Manakadan Gurus are reformers of the ritual system called Theyyam. The most beautiful Muchilotu Bhagavathy Theyyam was first tied by the Gurus. His samadhi is in the Cherar hut east of the Shiva temple near Muchilot Kavi in Karivellur. Chalail Perumalayan is known as Theyaguru Theiyat. He was also the first to tie up Kuttichathan Theyyam. Details are still murky. There are two sides to the argument. Theyyam, on the one hand, should not be played out of position, on the other hand, it can be performed anywhere if the ritual is followed properly. It has been seen in some reports that playing Theiyam outside the Theiyasthana is likely to get banned. But now the Theiyas are performed in South Kerala, other parts of India, and abroad.
Those who were called Savarnas in the olden days were reluctant to enter other positions, including kavs where theiyam were held, except for Illam, Tharavad and Tharavad-related Theiya positions. Even in 1996, there was an incident in Payyannur where Koima and Melkoima hesitated to go to Theiyakkav in connection with Kapat Kazhakam. Tharanallur Tantri solved it. This is a story from 26 years ago. But it is a good thing that there are no such problems these days.
An important Theiya Potan Theiyat’s Thotam song (arranged by Kurmalelethuttachchan).
നീങ്കളെ കൊത്ത്യാലുമൊന്നല്ലേ ചോര
നാങ്കളെ കൊത്ത്യാലുമൊന്നല്ലേ ചോര?
നാങ്കളെ കുപ്പയിൽ നട്ടോരു വാഴ
പ്പഴമല്ലോ നീങ്കടെ തേവനു പൂജ!
നാങ്കളെ കുപ്പയിൽ നട്ടോരു തൃത്താരു-
പ്പൂവല്ലേ നീങ്കടെ തേവനു മാല!
നാങ്കളെ തോണി കടന്നില്ലെ നീങ്കൾ
നാങ്കളെ തേങ്ങയുടച്ചില്ലേ നീങ്കൾ
ചന്ദനം ചാർത്തി നടപ്പുണ്ട് ചൊവ്വറ്
ചേറുമണിഞ്ഞ് നടപ്പുണ്ട് നാങ്കൾ,
വെറ്റില തിന്ന് നടപ്പുണ്ട് ചൊവ്വറ്
അല്ലിക്ക തിന്ന് നടപ്പുണ്ട് നാങ്കൾ
ആനപ്പുറത്തേറി ചൊവ്വറ് വരുമ്പം
പോത്തിൻ പുറത്തേറി നാങ്കൾ വരുവൻ
പെരിയോന്റെ കോയിക്കലെല്ലാരും ചെല്ലുമ്പം
അവിടേക്ക് നീങ്കളും നാങ്കളുമൊപ്പമല്ലേ?
Theiya and Thotam have very complex structures, rules, and rituals. It is a disservice to the greatness of this ritualistic art to tie theiya kolams, which are full of marked differences according to the region, the weaving community, the kolam, and the legend, only for commercial interest and curiosity. It is true that when any art is commercialized, the value of that art will depreciate.
Fifteen castes are the Theiya ritual dancers. Most of them are in this field due to traditional appointment. Their lives depend on the meager income they earn by tying theyam for about seven months. Only a handful of people can earn a decent income in Theiyam. They who do not know other jobs are half-starved even when they are doing karma and attaining dharma. Those responsible should be prepared to give them a fair Dakshina without branding them as poor artists in the future. Everyone should be prepared to think that there is a man inside that coal and that he has a family, even when a four-person tall coal jumps into Maleri. If you get even a fraction of the amount that celebrities and firecrackers get, Theyakar can also have a decent family.