Theyyam, mirror of Gods

The Theyyam ceremony is an ancestral form of worship from North Kerala (India) consisting of rituals, colorful costumes and dance through which the gods are appeased and honored. It is the most spectacular art form of Kerala, associated with myths and legends. Originally a tribal folk-art, it became closely connected to Hinduism, as the Theyyams (more than 600) are considered to be few of the innumerable Hindu Gods. During his performance, the Theyyam artist is wearing elaborate make-up and costume which are specific to the Theyyam/Deity he is depicting. Once the Theyyam artist is ready and before entering the stage, he stares at his own image into a small hand-held mirror, invoking the Deity. This moment called "mukhadarshanam" is, according to the belief, the point of fusion with the Deity, the moment when the Man in trance becomes a God on Earth... Once in trance the Theyyam artist dances and acts as the Deity itself, some of them performing such things as walking through fire. Theyyam season begins in november and ends in May. During this time, Theyyam ceremonies will be performed in more than thousand temples (Kavu) spread over Kannur and Kasargod districts of Kerala. Theyyam artists belong to one of the Hindu communities. Each caste has the right to perform certain deities and all performers must pose a wide range of extraordinary skills. They must know the ritual and character of every deity. They have the inherited right to perform, know-how to sing, dance with the drum, do the complicated make-up and dress their costumes. Theyyam artists usually belong to the lower castes of Hinduism, and these ceremonies are an opportunity for them to rise above the society of which even the highest members stand in line to receive their blessings.