Theyyam

The Theyyam lifestyle dates back centuries. the Hindu rite of pirouetting incarnations is local to Malabar, a forest and wetland-soaked territory of India’s Kerala state, jutting right up in opposition to the Indian Ocean.

The gods of Malabar, India come out in December, and they gyrate among villages till the establishing of spring. In long, ornate dances, these sunset-orange apparitions swirl and sing and prophesy and condemn the wrongs of worldly rulers. This is Theyyam — and its days might also very nicely be numbered.


In the normal ceremony, the human oracle dons an complex costume of top notch oranges, reds, and golds. This chenda, as it is called, can weigh around 90 kilos and stands nearly twelve feet tall when mounted on the shoulders of the performer. After prayers from holy men and different minor rituals, the oracle emerges earlier than the crowds who have assembled and, flanked by drummers, starts the thottam, the sacred song.

One of the most interesting things about the Theyyam subculture is the way it inverts the social hierarchy — at least on the surface. Only the low castes, inclusive of the Dalit or untouchables, have the right to be oracles. The priestly Brahmin caste is excluded. Instead, Brahmin queue up to pay attention to the inspired advice and prophecy provided via the divine incarnations. The Brahmins even kiss the oracles’ feet. The holier-than-thou bow earlier than the untouchable.