February 17, 2016
9:00 pm
Theyyam Ground
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Excerpts from two stories

Duration: 60 mins
Artistic Direction: Ravi Gopalan Nair
Performers: K. Lakshmanan Peruvannan & Troupe
Performed in Malayalam

The word ‘Theyyam’ evolved from the Sanskrit word ‘Daivam’, meaning God. It is a performance form where the ritual, theatre, dance and music come together to celebrate the ‘state’ that evolved out of the human need for connection to the divine at a time when prevalent caste practices were controlling and exclusive.

The two Theyyams performed in Tantidhatri echo those themes of caste exclusivity and celebrate female heroes who became divine through living their truth and their connection to the divine at any cost.

I. Tottinkara Bhagavati (Theyyam)

Once upon a time in the Nambiar Community lived a young generous woman. She gave birth to 12 children and then gave them away to those who didn’t have children. To ease the immense pain due to separation from her children, she started to read the Ramayana. Soon, she was called by the local king, who punished her severely for reading the sacred text. To demonstrate her loneliness and pain; she picked up a handful of paddy grains and held them close to her breasts. Within moments, they had cooked into rice.

The king gave her only a small cloth to cover her lower body and wrapped her cloth on her head and burnt her. Both her hands were tied, and she was thrown into the river on the side where Muslim boatmen lived. She walked up to the Kakatotto riverside, and her burnt body fell in front of the Muslim boatman, who witnessed her turning into a celestial goddess and becoming one with the sky. Since then, she is called Tottinkara Bhagavati.

II. Muchilottu Bhagavati (Theyyam)

Once upon a time in the Nambiar Community lived a young girl, who was a great scholar. Jealous of her authority in each sacred text, the Brahmins conspired to accuse her of impurity, and she was thrown out of her community. She walked into the forest and started to pray. Lord Shiva appeared before her and declared her divinity by granting her a boon. She asked only for two fire-torches, set fire to herself and became one with the flame.
During her appearance in the Theyyam performance, her eyes are covered with silver eye masks that would protect the universe from her burning gaze.

The traditional Muchilottu Bhagavati performance lasts for four days, with the story on the first three days and the appearance of the goddess on the fourth day. She stays with her devotees for sixteen hours.