The following is the blog version of Theyyam Experience by renowned Theyyam Photographer and Author of the book ‘Theyyam: Merging with the Divine‘. Read Interview with Indu Chinta on her book, Theyyam tour in Kerala and more.
It was a very last-minute decision to make a trip to Trikaripur in North Kerala. I quickly packed some lunch and cadged a ride from Kannur with my husband. We zoomed past the changing coastal landscape – sometimes along the sea, sometimes along the backwater, coconut trees, and several tiny little towns bustling with people and activity.
As we entered Trikaripur in Kasaragod, Google took us through meandering lanes, no longer highways. It was more like narrow alleys packed with houses. We realized we were getting closer to the temple when we saw groups of people walking away, dressed to the nines in the scorching March heat. I got myself prepared for the Theyyam experience.
To be honest, we were expecting a small Kavu sort of an atmosphere and just a sizeable crowd. Much to our surprise, the entire town was there and probably people from other places nearby too. It was getting harder for our driver to manoeuvre the car through the crowd but, such was his expertise, he drove on unfazed and craftily got me to the entrance.
Amidst all this chaos, I spotted the Thirumudi of the Theyyam, towering above everything else, from the centre of the compound. While most such tall headdresses are red or in some cases, green, if made from coconut leaf, this one was black – all black with a few motifs. And, it was massive.
I was late! I missed the performance of the Theyyam dance. I couldn’t manage to have the best of this Theyyam experience. However, I was not too late to miss it all. Kshetrapalakan Theyyam was ensconced under a green tent, giving him just enough shade and air to breathe. Yet, a slim ray of light was falling on one side of his face and making it glow.
Kshetrapalakan Theyyam was giving blessings to his countless devotees. He was beautiful. He had a long black beard and fangs, which are usually attached to the mouth, were dangling in the middle of it. He also sported a thick moustache. And his mighty headgear was being hoisted with bamboos that were held the whole time by two men on either side.
Kshetrapalakan is considered to be the ruler of the land between Chirakkal and Kanhangad, known as ‘Allada Swaroopam‘. In addition, this Theyyam dance is performed in only two or three places. In Trikaripur, it is performed once in three years. Come to think of it, until that morning, there was no plan to go anywhere! But I was meant to go and have this unique Theyyam experience!
Kshetrapalakan is a Shaivite Theyyam. Once upon a time, the gods were engaged in a fierce battle with an asura (demon) named Dhamukan. When they lost hope of winning the battle, they went to Lord Shiva for help. Shiva sent Parasurama, but the latter too lost the battle. That was when Shiva created Kalarathri from his third eye. Kalarathri fought a fierce war and vanquished the demon. And, even after the war, she was seething with anger. In order to calm her down, the Lord danced for her. The goddess calmed down and embraced Shiva. From this embrace was born Kshetrapalakan.
Shiva sent Kshetrapalakan, Vettakkorumakan and Vairajathan to Earth, to check the evil. To this date, the villagers consider these gods as their protectors. Every year, the festival falls during March month according to the Theyyam Calendar. This Theyyam festival is the occasion for them to live pure devotion as it is believed to bring prosperity and well-being to the village.
Photos by Indu Chinta and Adwaith Sooraj
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