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The ritualistic Bhuta theatre of Kerala is known as Teyyam or Teyyattam. The word Teyyam is derivative of Sanskrit Daivam meaning God. The Teyyams are the representations of folk and tribal deities worshipped in various forms. Any object inspiring reverence, awe and fear was made into Teyyam by the folk and tribal communities and worshipped with appropriate rituals which included dance, drama, music and poetry.

It is not merely a dance but a cult, which is inseparable from the Hindu practices of the region. It is widely agreed that Teyyam existed before the arrival of the Aryans. Elaborate descriptions of such rituals are found in the Tamil literature of the Sangam period (500 BC - 500 AD). In the 8th century, Shakti-pooja was an extremely popular ritual which, towards the late 13th century, was influenced by the Vaishnavite movement. Prior to the Shakti-pooja, there existed a fertility cult of worshipping the mother goddess, and its association with Teyyam is well known.

Most Teyyam performances are public and are performed at temple festivals to honour the spirits as well as for the general well being of all present. When the entire village commissions a performance, it is known as Otta Kolam. Apart from the costume, the performer wears profusion of ornaments and, in most cases, a distinctive crown. Every Teyyam presentation has two parts, the Tottam or Vellattam, which involves preliminary ceremonies, and the spirited calling upon the deity for inspiration, and the dance proper. The accompanied instruments include drums, pipes and cymbals. The Teyyam stories are sung and danced, dramatised and enacted in various colourful festivals associated with various village shrines. In Ayappan Tiyatta, a ritual performance in Kerala, the story of god receives special elaboration through a form of visual story telling prior to the visitation of the deity.




This is a colourful dramatic form based on the Krishna legend, which emerged around the mid-17th century. Krishna Attam is a cycle of eight plays which are performed for eight consecutive nights to unfold the entire story of Lord Krishna. The style is almost similar to Kathakali. The Krishna Geethi, written in 1684 by Prince Manaveda, the Zamorin of Calicut, serves as the dramatic text of this dance-drama.


Kakkarissi Natakam is one of the most interesting folk dramatic forms of entertainment in Kerala. Satirical in nature, it uses for expression the age-old formula of Indian folk theatre - song, music and dance.


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