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How artists are keeping the ancient practice of Theyyam alive

How artists are keeping the ancient practice of Theyyam alive
By Euronews

<p>In Kerala, a state in South India, the tradition of Theyyam is still alive. </p> <p>The ritual form of worship involves customs that some say date back as far as neolithic times.</p> <p>These rituals, practised across North Kerala’s Malabar region, are rooted in the natural world.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Theyyam, a ritualistic folk art popular in north Malabar incorporating dance, mime and music.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/culture?src=hash">#culture</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Kerala?src=hash">#Kerala</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/India?src=hash">#India</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/travel?src=hash">#travel</a> <a href="https://t.co/SfpS8tO613">pic.twitter.com/SfpS8tO613</a></p>— <span class="caps">VAYU</span> (@vayutravels) <a href="https://twitter.com/vayutravels/status/856757443686092805">April 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>Over 400 performances depict gods and goddesses, spirits and ancestors, animals and trees.</p> <p>Annooran Balan Nenikkem, a senior Theyyam artist, said: “Every community has its own unique rituals. </p> <p>“When these rituals are performed, after lots of preparation, they believe this is a God – this is the truth.”</p> <p>Balan has performed Theyyam rituals since he was 12, and today he passes on the knowledge to his grandson.</p> <p>“There are no schools to teach Theyyam,” he added.</p> <p>“The training begins in a traditional sense. When the elders perform, the students watch how it’s done and learn through observation and repetition.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Please RT if you like!! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Travel?src=hash">#Travel</a> Theyyam | Tewfic El-Sawy <a href="https://t.co/B2gCxYd755">https://t.co/B2gCxYd755</a> <a href="https://t.co/8pvVSK3Ji1">pic.twitter.com/8pvVSK3Ji1</a></p>— Trips 4 World (@trips4world) <a href="https://twitter.com/trips4world/status/860055026231898112">May 4, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tr" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Kerala?src=hash">#Kerala</a> >>Theyyam/Kaliyattam <a href="https://t.co/k6FLichD44">pic.twitter.com/k6FLichD44</a></p>— Indrajith Chandran (@_indran_) <a href="https://twitter.com/_indran_/status/854949881906999297">April 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>His grandson Annooran Karthik said: “Before I used to go with my father to watch Theyyam performances. After watching it a lot, I came to like it. </p> <p>“When I got older, I went to help performers. Then I asked to be a part of the performance.”</p> <p>For over 300 years, the Krishnan family has organised the annual performance at their family estate. </p> <p>Krishnan said: “My great-grandfather, grandfather, father – for three generations our family has a tradition of Theyyam rituals at our ancestral home.</p> <p>“People come from far and wide. Their happiness is our happiness. </p> <p>“If their prayers bring them a child, for example, they will pray for us.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The North Kerala Ritual of Theyyam {} Cocooned in blissful isolation between the verdurous Ghat mountains in the e… <a href="https://t.co/n50FuJ28WI">https://t.co/n50FuJ28WI</a> <a href="https://t.co/kGT4APXZNG">pic.twitter.com/kGT4APXZNG</a></p>— #marco carestia (@marcocarestia) <a href="https://twitter.com/marcocarestia/status/858446723395571712">April 29, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>“God will bless them. And their blessing will be ours too.”</p> <p>Preparations begin hours before the performance with artists creating elaborate costumes made from palm leaves. </p> <p>Breaking from traditional roles, Theyyam performers are from the lower castes of Hindu society. </p> <p>Upper caste Brahmin priests like Krishnan invite them to perform the Theyyam rituals. </p> <p>Krishnan added: “They might be from the lower caste. But the moment the performer transforms into the deity, he becomes even higher than us.”</p> <p>Late into the night, the drums beat in rhythm as the performance gives way to a trance that can last until daybreak.</p> <p>It is believed at this point the performers are no longer men, but have transformed into Gods and the crowds are eager to seek their blessings.</p>