Theyyam, an ancient tradition of North Malabar, is a captivating blend of folk art, religious ritual, and profound spirituality. Gods Dancing Among Men: The Mystical World of Theyyams of North Malabar delves deep into the rich history of theyyam, exploring its roots and relevance in contemporary belief and worship. This book sheds light on both the luminous and shadowy facets of this tradition as well as the enigmatic grey areas that define it.
Every aspect of the theyyam cult, from the vibrant and intricate costumes to the wild and transcendent dances, is fascinating. The practitioners of theyyam display astonishing abilities, including clairvoyance, prophecy, and the power to fulfil wishes. The pantheon of theyyam includes Shaivite and Vaishnavite manifestations alongside a diverse array of Bhagvathy theyyams. Popular deities such as Muthappan, Muchilot Bhagavathi, Thee Chamundi, Gulikan, Kuttichathan, and Pottan Deiyvam hold a special place in the hearts of the people. Additionally, the theyyam tradition incorporates animals into its repertoire with performances featuring monkeys, tigers, buffaloes, crocodiles, bees, and snakes. One of the most astonishing aspects of theyyam is the fearless interaction with fire. Performers nonchalantly walk on embers and even hurl themselves onto immense mounds of fire, known as meleri, repeatedly. Despite the influence of Aryanization, the sanitizing impact of British colonial rule, the teachings of social reformers, the remarkable literacy rates, and the prevalent communist ideology in the region, the sanctity of the theyyam tradition remains unblemished. Theyyams are living gods, cherished and revered by the people of North Malabar, and their blessings hold immense significance.