Friday, May 1, 2009


According to the legendary Keralolpathi, Parasurama sanctioned festivals like Kaliyattam, Puravela and Daivattam or Theyyattam to the people of the Malabar region. He also assigned the responsibility of performing the Theyyam dance to the indigenous tribal communities like Malayar, Panan, Vannan and Velan. To some, these traditions explain how indigenous cults like Theyyam were incorporated into and metamorphosed under the religious supremacy of Brahminism. In the long historical process a social system evolved in Kerala in which the culture of Theyyam belonged to the depressed castes and classes whereas the temple-oriented culture belonged to the dominant Brahmin and Kshatriya castes and classes. There were no violent confrontations between these two cultures and so the culture of the former was saved from destruction. "There can be no doubt", say Bridget and Raymond Alchin, "that a very large part of this modern folk religion is extremely ancient and contains traits which originated ruing the earliest periods of Neolithic, Chalcolithic settlement and expression" (The Birth of Indian Civilization 1968 p.3039).

Theyyam is performed by people of the lower castes such as Shudras, Vaishyas etc. The lower castes were denied entry to the temples and were not allowed to even come close to people belonging to the Brahmin and Kshatriya castes. This led to the lower castes creating their own temples in afforested areas that were known as Kavus.

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