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Theyyam Gods, Heroes and Ancestors

The depth, vitality, mystery, and pageantry of a Theyyam ceremony are breathtaking and spectacular. Few Westerners have captured its beauty and power.

Theyyam is a unique and ineffable amalgam of myth, religion, ritual and folklore, mimes and chants that for thousands of years has had an enormous influence on the society and culture of Kerala, a state in southern-most India on the Malabar Coast.

To see a Theyyam ceremony is to believe it. That is the only way to begin to approach, or at least attempt to imagine, the transcendent state that its players and participants are able to achieve. To merely read about Theyyam is to miss its true import. Words alone are woefully insufficient to bring such a vibrant and living ceremony to life.

The Theyyam rituals, once deemed as spirit worship or pagan feasts by colonialists, are deeply rooted in folk tales of the villages. When Sanskrit came into these remote regions of South India and Hinduism became the main religion, the original spirits of the dead took the forms of some of the most powerful Gods in the Hindu pantheon, mostly Shiva, Kali and Vishnu.

Through these associations and re incarnations, the marginalized and low castes classes managed and succeeded in claiming a space for themselves, without ceasing asserting their social links with the land of their ancestors.

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